The Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year traded up in the second round of the draft to select kicker Robert Aguayo.
It was a move that has been widely criticized, and rightfully so, yet Bucs GM Jason Licht referred to his time with the Patriots and Bill Belichick when defending his decision to draft Aguayo.
While with the Pats, Belichick had each of his scouts rank New England's roster in order of value.
"None of us had the kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, in our top 10 -- even though he was an excellent kicker," Licht explained, via PewterReport.com. "After we were done, Bill said, 'Nobody wants to put Gostkowski in our top 10? Why, just because he's a kicker?' Bill made us 'rethink that' and he got his point across. He said, 'You tell me 10 other players that are more important than him.'"
Those words resonated with Licht, which compelled him to make the move for Aguayo.
Robbie Gould has been the Chicago Bears kicker since 2005. For the past 11 seasons, he's been one of the most consistent kickers in the league. In fact, his career field goal percentage of 85.4 is ninth best in NFL history.
The Bears are content with Gould, so much so that they will not execute a kicker competition in training camp this year. Gould is the only kicker on the roster and it appears that will be the case throughout the 2016 campaign.
On the surface, their confidence in Gould is warranted. He's earned the right to be the club's place kicker, or has he?
In 2006, the Seahawks made Shaun Alexander the highest paid running back in league history. Alexander was coming off a stellar 2005 campaign in which he led the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, which earned him NFL MVP honors.
Yet Alexander was 29 when he signed that massive contract, for which the Seahawks would come to regret. His next two seasons were loaded with injuries and his career ended midway through the 2008 campaign, less than three years after signing that cap-crippling deal.
The moral of the story: You don't pay aging players huge money for what they did in the past.
So here we have 34-year-old Robbie Gould, whose $4.1 million cap hit in 2016 is the second highest at his position, yet he's coming off the worst two seasons of his career.
In 2014, his 75.0 FG percentage was second worst in the NFL. In 2015, his 84.6 FG percentage was 19th in the league.
Gould also struggled in clutch situations last year. He missed a field goal in Week 8 and the Bears lost 20-23. He went 0-for-2 the next week, which forced the Bears to rally late for a 22-19 win over the Chargers. He missed two field goals in the 20-26 loss to the 49ers in Week 13, then went 0-for-1 the following week in a 21-24 loss to the Redskins.
To be fair, the NFL is a team game and no one player wins or loses a contest by himself, but Gould's last two seasons are clearly trending in the wrong direction. Additionally, he missed multiple kicks in a single game twice last year, something he had never before done in his career.
His issues go beyond just field goals. Over the last three seasons, Gould has ranked dead last in kickoff average amongst kickers with 20 or more kicks. The Bears led the league in kickoff TDs allowed last year, all of which could have been avoided had Gould been able to force touchbacks.
Those are facts. From his salary to his age to his numbers, nothing here is subjective. What the Bears have is an aging player coming off two bad seasons, who is the worst in the NFL on kickoffs, yet is being paid more than all but one other kicker in the league.
Does that add up to you?
Gould has been a rock for the Bears for most of his career but, as with Alexander in Seattle, the past doesn't guarantee you anything. What harm would it do to have at least one kicker in camp to compete with Gould?
At the end of the day, Gould would very likely win out that competition, as he's done the past few camps. Personally, I'm not worried about Gould as a field goal kicker. I think he'll be just fine. His 2014 season was an outlier, as he attempted just 12 kicks that year, converting nine, and his FG percentage last year, while 19th in the league, was on par with his career average.
On top of that, I really like Robbie as a person and would be elated for him if he kicked in Chicago for the next decade. This is by no means personal.
Yet how can Bears brass - who have confessed repeatedly their desire to get younger, as well as shown no qualms about dumping overpaid and underperforming veterans - be so confident in Gould that they aren't even willing to bring in another camp kicker?
Throughout his career, Gould has averaged roughly 30 percent of the team's scoring each year. So he's responsible for one out of every three points the Bears score, which is substantial to say the least. Wouldn't a prudent front office and coaching staff at least force a 34-year-old to earn his job, just like they would with any other player his age? Why is Robbie the exception to that rule?
If Belichick were in charge of the Bears, that surely would not be the case.
Many NFL kickers perform at a high level well into their 40s. The Colts' Adam Vinatieri converted 92.6 percent of his field goals last year and he's 43. If Gould bounces back this season, then we can sweep all of this under the rug.
But if Gould continues to trend downward and again costs the Bears two-plus wins next season - while career journeymen like Chris Boswell are converting field goals at a 6-percent better rate, all at a fraction of the cost - then we're going to look back and wonder why the Bears were so confident in a player who was clearly showing signs of decline.null