Cody Parkey
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The latest to join an exclusive but dreaded club, Cody Parkey showcases the unfair consequences that await kickers in the NFL playoffs.

Geoff Magliocchetti

If you’re reading this, you had a better weekend than Cody Parkey.

The Chicago Bears kicker capped off a tough season in the most brutal and heartbreaking of fashions. A 12-4 campaign went for naught in a 16-15 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles, one whose coda was written to the tune of a missed Parkey field goal.

The aftermath of Parkey’s miss from 43 yards out showcased on the truly disgusting side of NFL fandom. Parkey was subjected to relentless criticism, condemnation that even featured death threats. Armchair athletes who wouldn’t last five minutes in the NFL, never mind the five seasons Parkey has under his belt, went on the warpath.

With the memorable miss, Parkey joins one of the most exclusive but undesirable clubs in football history. Prior membership includes Scott Norwood, Gary Anderson, Mike Vanderjagt and Blair Walsh. Uniting the group is the fact they each missed a crucial field goal to conclude a playoff defeat.

In what is no coincidence, they’re the biggest scapegoats in NFL history.

It’s true that Parkey and his new brethren played a part in their respective losses. The final miss of the 2018-19 season capped off a tough year for him, as his 77 percent success rate ranked 28th in the league. Headlines and retrospectives on Sunday’s loss will undoubtedly bare his name. Bears fans gathered at Soldier Field gave Parkey a parting gift of jeers, booing the Auburn alum as he left the field.

Countless other suspects in the death of the Bears’ 2018-19 season escaped a similar fate. Chicago, the surprise winners of the NFC North, won as a team. They lost the same exact way.

Those who bid Parkey farewell are hypocrites if they didn’t do the same to the Bears offense, one that went into full conservative mode after they got the ball back with a 15-10 lead with circa seven minutes to go. The ensuing punt, two plays after Mitchell Trubisky was sacked for a seven-yard loss, gave the Eagles the ball back, allowing them to commence their game-winning drive. Also rendered innocent is a supposed shutdown defense, one that broke at the worst possible time: fourth down and goal from the two-yard line.

The Eagles’ 10-point tally up to that point was only possible thanks to their only previous touchdown, a seven-play, 83-yard trek early in the second half. That drive carried only carried on thanks to an unnecessary roughness penalty from safety Adrian Amos on a third down back at the Philadelphia 21.

Yet, Amos escapes persecution from Chicago faithful, as does a rushing unit that picked up 36 yards on 13 carries. Even Parkey’s misfire was somewhat alleviated by the fact that Eagles defensive lineman Treyvon Hester managed to slightly tip the field goal. Yet, no boos were bestowed to the blockers.

The Bears offense as a whole struggled, as three drives in Philadelphia territory ended in field goal attempts, all of which converted by Parkey. Contributing nine points to the Chicago cause helped keep the Bears in the game. Former divisional rival Walsh can relate, as accounting for all of Minnesota’s points in a 10-9 wild-card loss to Seattle three years ago was offset by his chip shot miss in the final minute. An Adrian Peterson fumble deep in Viking territory, one that led to Seattle’s go-ahead field goal, was likewise erased from memory.

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Kickers, often lampooned for not taking the typical hits and blows of a typical football workday, live in a roller-coaster spectrum. Kick it through the uprights, and you’re allowed to stay employed for another week. Anything but, and you’re the subject of endless memes. Prior accomplishments are quickly cast aside, even forgotten. Norwood, for example, passed up O.J. Simpson as Buffalo’s all-time leading scorer, but his unsuccessful Super Bowl try instead defines his career.

Buffalo fans at least had the decency to be more understanding, recognizing it was a team effort that commenced a four-game Super Bowl losing streak. In that game, a 20-19 defeat, the Bills surrendered the ball to the New York Giants for over 40 minutes of game time, letting MVP Otis Anderson break loose for 102 yards.

But, in the end, football is a team sport. The kickers go out and work with the team from training camp’s first stretch to winter’s final gun. They’re members of the team, putting in the work like the rest of the squad. The best teams realize this and go about trying to improve. More often than not, the guilty kicker is cast off as the team tries to make improvements. Time will only tell if Parkey, carrying a fully guaranteed contract, suffers a similar fate.

But even if he is sent away, the tragedy of the Chicago Bears’ 2019 playoff visit should not be attributed to the kicker alone. It’s dealt to the offense, the defense, the penalties, heck, even the management that didn’t look into replacing Parkey sooner. And, of course, Parkey gets his own share of the blame as well, a portion he humbly accepted and make no excuses for.

“There’s really no answer to it. I didn’t make it. I take that loss on me,” Parkey said, per ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson. “The sun is going to shine tomorrow, but unfortunately this one is going to sting for a while.”

The Bears won as a team in 2018-19. Their playoff visit over all too soon, they lost as one as well.

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