Don't Count on Brien from Downtown

The Bears acted quickly to make it known that Doug Brien is their placekicker. However, will the decision come back to hurt the team in multiple ways.

Brien had just three kickoffs last year, as the Jets opted to use punter Toby Gowin in the role. Over the course of his career, Brien has 41 touchbacks, but just three on his last 120 attempts.

Although Paul Edinger has never been one to boom kickoffs, his touchback percentage is slightly better than Brien's over the past five years.

The quick hook on Edinger is understandable because the Bears expect to play a lot of close games and coming away without three points when the opportunity presents itself would be crippling.

Over the last 24 games, Edinger connected on just 24-of-43 field goal tries and lost the confidence of his head coach and general manager.

However, to choose an older player over a younger player is an unfamiliar role for Lovie Smith.

All things being equal, Smith has always gone with youth over experience. A year ago the Bears released Bryan Robinson to open up playing time for a crop of young defensive tackles.

Brien's leg strength has faded over the course of his career. After hitting on 14-of-21 to open his career, he's connected on just 1-7 on field goals of 50 yards or longer since 2000. Over the same stretch Edinger hit on 13-of-19 tries from 50 yards and beyond.

Edinger has had to overcome the harsh conditions of kicking in Chicago, while calling three different stadiums home in five seasons.

Brien has spent 9 of his 11-year career kicking in warm weather climates or dome stadiums.

With Edinger now going to the comfort of the Metrodome, his field goal accuracy will have a better chance to return, while his kickoff numbers could also improve.

Does anyone doubt Edinger will be called upon for a game winning field goal try against his old team sometime during the '05 campaign?

Brien has spent the last two seasons in New York, which is not an easy place to kick. He converted 51-of-61 with the Jets, but two missed attempts against the Pittsburgh Steelers that cost the team a chance to play in the AFC Championship game.

There's no telling if that will have an impact on Brien. One could estimate that a veteran would be able to shake it off and move on. Still, Edinger's season and a half slump came out of nowhere.

Although Brien may prove to be the better kicker for one season, at 34, the Bears will be looking for a replacement in the next year or two. Edinger is young enough to turn his career around and be in the league for another decade.


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