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Is There Room For Loyalty In The NFL?

Steve Shoup

The Chicago Bears’ decision to axe record-setting kicker Robbie Gould on the eve of the 2016 season was greeted with much criticism from fans – but is there really room for loyalty in the fight to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy?’s Leigh Copson answers that question.

When the Bears picked up Gould off the street in October 2005 they could not have known they were signing a man that would go on to score more points for the franchise than any other player in history – an impressive feat when you consider some of the legendary figures that have appeared for the team since it was first founded in 1919.

Undrafted and having failed to make an impact with the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, Gould had been working in the construction industry when he got the call from Chicago, who had lost starting kicker Doug Brien to injury. The former Penn State kicker scored his first points for the franchise by converting a field goal in the 20-10 defeat to the Cleveland Browns on October 9, 2005, and he went on to score 1,207 points in Chicago colours before the decision was made to cut him.

The decision to axe the 34-year-old was a huge surprise and the Bears came in for immediate criticism. The word ‘loyalty’ was thrown around in comments sections across social media, while others used it as yet another excuse to criticise quarterback Jay Cutler, and many felt the kicker deserved better than to be kicked to the curb so brutally. After all, he is the ninth most accurate kicker in NFL history and has scored more points for the team than anybody else.

However, when it comes to competitive sport it is a case of “what have you done for me lately”, and the simple fact is Gould has not delivered over the past 12 months. Last season he missed two routine field goals – one of which would have won the game – against the San Francisco 49ers, and he also failed to convert what would have been a game-winner against the Washington Redskins.

He missed six field goals in total and an extra point during the 2015 campaign, and during this past pre-season he missed another couple of extra points. So was Gould really worth the $3.5million he was due to make if he made the roster? The Bears clearly felt he was not and in return they were accused of lacking loyalty – but was the criticism unfair?

I have to say yes. I am a big fan of Gould – he has been a fantastic servant to the franchise over the years and he has won plenty of ball games for Chicago. He was paid handsomely for doing it! But the facts suggest he is on a downward turn at this time and no longer warrants being one of the highest paid kickers in the league. Last season he failed to deliver at crucial moments and it is moments like those that can determine whether or not a team wins championships. And boy, do we Bears fans crave a championship!

As harsh as it sounds, you do not win Super Bowls by hanging onto players when they are past their prime. And you do not pay them top dollar to come up short at the key moments. Gould has insisted he is not bitter about being given the boot and it is time for the critics to take a page out of his book. Like Brian Urlacher and Charles Tillman before him – and other players across the National Football League – Gould is not the first long-serving player to be cut and he will not be the last.

This is a ruthless business with a very fine line between success and failure. Only one team can be crowned champions at the end of the season and when the other 31 look at why they failed, not one of them will be sat wishing they had been more loyal to a player they cut.



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