The Chicago Bears have a long history of good special teams play. Everybody remembers Devin Hester and Robbie Gould. Kevin Butler and Glyn Milburn. One area that has really gotten lots of love over the years is the punter position. This isn’t because they haven’t had good ones either. Brad Maynard and Todd Sauerbrun were both quality players at that position in their times. Yet neither were able to crack the Pro Bowl voting during those periods.
In fact, no Bears punter has successfully done this in the past 49 years. That honor belonged to Bobby Joe Greene way back in 1970. That he punted 83 times on an average of 40.9 yards per punt. That may seem laughably bad today, but back then it was a strong average. Now Chicago may finally see that drought come to an end. This courtesy of current punter Pat O’Donnell. The man affectionately known as “Clark Kent” to teammates is off to the best start of his pro career.
Through two games he has a 45.5 net punt average with four downed inside the 20-yard line without a touchback. This ranks him 7th overall in the NFL, putting him firmly in the hunt for a Pro Bowl nod. Something no fans thought would’ve been possible just a few years ago.
Chicago Bears look wise for keeping O’Donnell
Former Bears GM Phil Emery made a ton of mistakes during his brief run with the team. However, his 2014 draft class has rapidly turned into by far the best of his tenure. Kyle Fuller (1st round) is an All-Pro cornerback. Charles Leno Jr. is one of the better left tackles in the NFL. Now O’Donnell is coming into his own as a top 10 punter. Emery’s replacement Ryan Pace deserves lots of credit for recognizing the talent those men had and keeping them around long enough to bring it out.
His first year in the NFL, O’Donnell averaged 43.8 yards per punt. Some wondered if he’d ever lived up to the 6th round pick the team spent on him. Fast forward to this year and he’s averaging 48.3 yards per punt. The 75-yard bomb he delivered in Denver last Sunday was a career-high and another in a string of strong boots that began showing up in the preseason. Special teams coach Chris Tabor deserves credit here. He has a long history of great work with punters.
O’Donnell really started to emerge after his arrival. The Bears are that much more formidable because of it.