The Eagles lost their only playoff game last year by two points. Their kicker, maligned by the public but generally accurate throughout his career, missed a 47-yarder in the loss.
As Andy Reid once famously said, you can do the math.
But as they enter Year 2 under Chip Kelly and have expectations of going beyond the first round — way, way beyond — it’s significant to note that their new kicker has never, ever, not once attempted an NFL field goal outside of a meaningless preseason game.
Kelly clearly sought to upgrade from Alex Henery, a once-promising fourth-round pick who never fulfilled his potential although also never fell flat on his face. So staunchly did Kelly feel that Henery couldn’t do the job that he handed it over to Cody Parkey, a rookie from Auburn who nailed a pair of pressure-packed kicks from 53 and 54 yards Thursday night against the Jets in his Eagles debut.
It seems fair to call Kelly’s cutting of Henery a seismic leap of faith that the big leg Parkey showcased Thursday night will carry into the regular season. And that Parkey will not only go on to convert 86 percent of his career attempts, as Henery has, but also sink the big ones in the clutch moments that Henery hasn’t.
After all, the sample size on Parkey compared to Henery is exceedingly small. But that’s not the sentiment echoed by general manager Howie Roseman.
“Well, that would be discounting also his college career,” Roseman said Saturday. “I think when you look at that you also have a body of work there. All that goes into the equation.”
So far, Parkey’s body of work consists of five made field goals in five preseason attempts, two with the Colts and all three in his Eagles debut against the Jets. At Auburn, Parkey’s 69 touchbacks led the NCAA last year. He converted 15 of 21 attempts, a 71-percent clip. He made just one of his four kicks of 50 yards but — and this is big — made five of his six (83.3 percent) attempts between 40 and 49 yards.
If he nails 83 percent of his NFL kicks between 40 and 49 yards, then he’ll almost be as good as … Alex Henery, who has made 84.5 percent of his career attempts from 40 to 49 yards.
“He's got a tremendous leg,” Roseman said. “He’s kicked in big games. He’s built really stoutly. He’s strong. And then you go back and look he was the No. 1 kicker coming out of high school, the Rivals No. 1 kicker. So this isn’t a guy who is just kind of out of nowhere and all the sudden ... he’s been a big-time kicker for a long time.”
Of course, Carey Spear was also a big-time college kicker with a reputation for having a leg of steel. Spear made 81 percent of his kicks at Vanderbilt over his junior and senior seasons, with longs of 54 and 52 yards.
The Eagles signed him as a rookie free agent to challenge Henery for the job in camp. Henery sat back and watched Spear launch one misfire after another in practice. Spear never got the chance to kick in a preseason game and was among the first round of cuts.
Like Spear, Parkey comes from a Southeastern Conference school where cold weather or driving snowstorms aren’t part of the occupational hazards.
So nobody can really say for sure if Parkey is ready to be a full-time NFL kicker, but the Eagles are willing to find out. They watched Henery miss two of three attempts, including a 31-yarder against the Steelers, and ultimately decided that they’d seen enough.
Or did they?
Roseman was asked if the team felt Henery’s confidence was shaken, if the coaches believed Henery had wilted under the competition. It would be out of character for Roseman to throw any of his former players under the bus, but he almost sounded like Henery’s defense attorney.
“Donnie [Jones] made a great point this week when he said … there have been times in his career where he's had a rough stretch,” Roseman said. ”It's like anything else. It's hard to be great every day for a 10-year career or 12-year career. People go into down stretches.
“You see how many times you watch a great baseball player who for a six- or seven-game stretch is hitting .190, but I think you look for the consistency over the course of it and I think those numbers start to even out from a bad game or a bad week.”
Roseman went on to say Henery would find an NFL job again soon and “be successful.”
But they’re moving onto Parkey, at least for a few weeks. If the Eagles are eyeing a veteran on the market, they won’t sign him until after the season has started. That way, they wouldn’t have to guarantee the contract.
Roseman insisted that the Eagles surveyed the entire landscape of kickers after last season, including free agents and scrap-heap veterans. At the time, nobody stood out.
“We looked at everything,” he said. “We looked at everyone who was available. And we looked at Alex. When you look at Alex versus the guys that you're talking about, guys that have been cut a bunch of times, there is really no comparison in his career field-goal percentage and their percentage.”