By Chris Emma–
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — Moments after meeting Connor Barth at Halas Hall and signing a new kicker to the Bears organization, general manager Ryan Pace came downstairs to the media room Monday and detailed the surprising release of Robbie Gould.
In his second year as a GM and not afraid to be bold, Pace made sure to express his gratitude for Gould.
“I want to emphasize the respect we have for Robbie Gould and what he has done for this franchise,” Pace said of the Bears’ all-time points leader.
Of course, respect would’ve been viewed as true if they released Gould long before the final night of the preseason. For as good as Gould has been in his 11-year NFL career — he’s the ninth-most accurate kicker in league history — he will struggle to find work for this season. His best case is to be called in for a pinch. The Bears did Gould no favors by releasing him so late.
But on Sunday night, with Week 1 preparation awaiting the next day, Pace and coach John Fox called in Gould and dismissed him from the team.
“It’s never easy,” Fox said. “It’s probably the lousiest part of our jobs.”
Welcome to the cruel world of the NFL.
Players are constantly moving around from team to team, trying to stick on a roster. The game itself is punishing, taking quite the toll on its players. The business side is cruel, too, creating uncertainty each day.
“The NFL stands for ‘Not for long’ for me,” said Barth, tasked with replacing Gould.
Gould finished his career with the Bears by tallying 1,207 points for the franchise. He came through with so many clutch kicks that delivered big wins and will be remembered fondly for his time in Chicago. Heck, even Barth raved about how good Gould was for the Bears.
None of that matters to an NFL executive. Pace acknowledged Gould’s contributions to the franchise, but when a kicker misses two extra points in a preseason game as Gould did last Thursday — continuing a trend of recent inaccuracy — it becomes time to move on.
In short time, Gould went from gold to rusty. Finally, he became a liability the Bears couldn’t keep.
Uncertainty is all too common in the NFL. This weekend, hundreds of players were released from their teams and are looking for work. Families are uprooted, lives change. Safety Chris Prosinski knows it. A year ago Sunday, he was released by the Eagles, forced to find another team.
“It’s tough,” Prosinski said. “A lot of people don’t see that. Some people think we show up on Sunday and play. There’s a lot more to it.”
New Bears guard Josh Sitton understands the business side, too. He was an eight-year veteran with the Packers’ offensive line up until Saturday’s stunning release. Sitton was a Pro Bowl player the last two seasons. Suddenly, he was looking for work. It didn’t take long for him to drive two-and-a-half hours south down I-94 to Lake Forest.
The Bears’ brass hasn’t been afraid to cut loose even the most popular players. They let Matt Forte walk this offseason, then released Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson. But the cut of Gould was the most stunning of them all, simply because of the timing.
It was Gould’s inconsistency that became too much. In a recent practice, he missed four straight field goals. The energy got sucked away from the field, and eyebrows were certainly raised. Pace was watching from the sidelines.
Pace is the man to break the bad news to each player. He understands the difficulty of his role.
“Honestly, this time of year, there’s mixed emotions,” Pace said. “These decisions are difficult. There’s a lot of good people we’re dealing with and there’s a human side to it. These decisions are never easy. As a young general manager, that’s tough. You’re talking to these guys, I understand the personal side of it, and I take that very seriously.”
In the end, Pace and Fox didn’t owe Gould anything more than a handshake and well wishes. Bears chairman George McCaskey can place him back into the franchise’s presence when the time is right. NFL personnel people don’t have time for honoring legacies.
To Pace’s credit, he has only pretended to care about what players have done in the past, but his job is to look toward the future. Gould goes to the transaction wire as just another cut.
Sunday marked the end of an era for the Bears. Monday brought business as usual at Halas Hall, part of the unforgiving NFL.