By Jerrell Richardson
Last year, David Akers was Mr. Reliable, setting the NFL record with 44 field goals. This season he has not been himself, despite hitting a NFL record 64-yard field goal in the first game of the season. It seems as though it has fallen apart as of late, with Akers missing 4 out of his last 8 attempts, but in fact, he has been off track all year. San Francisco is a team that wins and loses together, but one thing has been consistent in all of the teams defeats (or ties) this season. Akers has missed a field goal, well within his range. This is not something the team can continue to ignore as they can’t afford to leave points off the board in the playoffs.
Team Looking Elsewhere
Akers confidence is shaken, and the veteran kicker was clearly frustrated after missing his second attempt in last week. Coach Harbaugh continued to show faith in Akers by putting him back in the game in the second half, and Akers was able to connect on his two attempts, but he can’t be confident. Not helping his mindset is the team auditioning replacements, and Akers, like Alex Smith, could find himself watching from the sidelines, or even from home, if the team decides to go in another direction. Harbaugh was pretty clear when asked about Akers’ status, saying that as it’s the kickers job to make field goals. The team will need to evaluate their options moving forward.
No Reliable Option
The two favorites are Billy Cundiff and Justin Medlock. However, there is a reason that both are not currently on a NFL roster after starting the season with Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers respectively. Cundiff has the more established resume of the two kickers, but has had a bad season and also has two major points working against him. One is that he does not have a strong leg. In his career he has made less then a quarter of his kicks over 50 yards, and the 49er offense would need to work a little harder to get into his range. However, with Akers missing from anywhere over 40 yards, Cundiff could still be a upgrade. The real problem with Cundiff though is his track record. Just last year he missed a 32-yard field goal in the AFC Championship game that could have sent his team to the Super Bowl, and when cut by the Redskins had the lowest field goal percentage in the NFL.
Medlock Is Better Option Then Cundiff
If the team is to go with anyone over Akers it has to be Justin Medlock. Unlike Akers, Medlock has not proven his worth to NFL teams, and was cut this season, after a few rough games. He started the season 7 for 7, and had a game in which he made 5 field goals and another game in which he hit 5 extra points so he is capable. For Medlock it all started to go downhill against Washington where he had a kick blocked, then after two more misses over the next two games, Medlock, was waived. He is not proven, and could suffer from confidence issues as well, not making the decision easy.
To Stick With Akers Or Not
The problem the 49ers face is they have no clear cut winner in their kicker race. They can stick with Akers, and hope that they reliable kicker can get back on track, or decide to go with a new face. The problem is that all of them have issues with accuracy and distance, and the team could face a lot of criticism no matter what if a field goal is the reason for a post season defeat. By bringing in other players, the team has at least sent the message that they won’t close their eyes and hope for the best in the playoffs. They have until January 12th to figure out their kicking situation and it will be smart for them to take as long as they need to make such an important decision.
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.