Bears GM Ryan Pace and coach John Fox met with kicker Robbie Gould in person Sunday night to break the news that would later shock Bears fans: that they were going to release their all-time leading scorer.
One day later, Pace said Monday that the move was made because Connor Barth had become available. Barth, who signed Monday morning, was one of the kickers on other teams the Bears had circled for an upgrade.
Pace did not try to trade Gould before cutting him.
“Every decision we make is about improving our team,” he said. “These are all carefully discussed. This decisions never just happen on a whim. But when a player becomes available that we feel good about, we have to consider it. And ultimately then sometimes we have to make the hard decision.
“But what I want to emphasize is the respect we have for Robbie Gould and everything he’s done for this franchise. But I also want to challenge ourselves — and challenge our organization, our scouts and our coaches — to always be looking to improve.”
Pace said the quality at the position was on other teams — not players on the street that could have challenged Gould during Bears training camp. Pace and Fox didn’t bring a competing kicker to camp in either of the last two preseasons.
Pace said Barth had familiarity with the Bears’ coaches from their shared time with the Broncos.
“He’s an experienced kicker, he’s kicked in big games,” Pace said. “If you look at, especially under 40 yards, he’s extremely accurate.”
Barth is 39-of-43 career from 30-39 yards, good for a 90.3 percentage. Gould has gone 90-for-101, an 89.1 percent mark, in his career. Recently, though, he’s been less impressive; Gould missed two of 12 last year and one of three in 2014. Barth is 13-for-13 from 30-39 yards during that span.
“He’s extremely accurate,” coach John Fox said. “We had him in Denver, brought him in in a similar situation. The key is, we call it points team, when you get those opportunities, you’ve got to get those points.”
It was those numbers that overrode any sense of sentimentality to keep Gould.
“When we knew this guy would be available for us, it made the switch a possibility,” Pace said.