By Jerrell Richardson
Unless the team can get enough separation on the scoreboard to coast to a win, eventually they will need an important field goal. During the regular season, the usual reliable David Akers, was anything but dependable. He had some good moments, but was inconsistent for the most part. After missing two field goals in the team’s regular season finale, (although he did make his final two) there was some doubt as to if the 15 year veteran could be counted on. The team brought in some kickers to compete for the kicking job, and ultimately signed Billy Cundiff, but he never even attempted a kick in a game, and was released right before the team boarded the plane to head to Atlanta. Although some will question the decision to go with Akers, the timing is perfect, and all in all the decision seems to be the right one, especially after playing Akers last week.
Only Jim Harbaugh knows if the team was really considering making a switch to Cundiff. It certainly made sense, as Akers’ shaken confidence is evident, and in the playoffs it’s almost certain that a pressure kick will be needed. He did connect from 35 yards against the Packers, but that is well within any professional kickers range, and was not really under any pressure. Then again, was it? If he missed that kick, the team would have still won the game, but moving forward they would have had to really consider going with Cundiff. The only alternative would be to stick with Akers, and risk a ton of criticism for playing the struggling kicker, especially with another kicker on the roster. Thankfully Akers made it. The only problem is that the kick was too easy, and he was not called upon again in the game. His problem this season has been from 40+ yards and his performance last week was far from telling if he has corrected his problem.
The Right Call At the Right Time
Akers may not have done enough to completely regain faith in him, but regardless, releasing Cundiff was the right decision. Even if Akers misses a kick in Atlanta, Harbaugh had already committed by playing Akers the week before. It would be foolish to take him out now, as Cundiff has proved to be just as inaccurate, and if he also misses then what would be the right call? The only right move, is to stick with Akers, and if Harbaugh’s gut is telling him Akers is the guy, then there is no reason to question the move. The hope is that Akers has figured it out, he enters the NFC Championship game with his mechanics and confidence both clicking, making him the automatic kicker he was just a year ago. His confidence has to be the highest it has been since early in the season. He has made his last 3 kicks, and not missed in two games, one of them a playoff game. The team let go of his only competition and they have said that they believe in him, with the team just one win away from a Super Bowl.
Akers Future In the Balance
There is of course the chance that this decision does not even come into play. But the likelihood is that Akers will be asked to attempt a field goal at some point, and this is the playoffs were every single point counts. He has not missed as of late, but who knows how we will fair in a game where the outcome hangs in the balance. Only time will tell if the move to play Akers was the right one or not, but based on the veteran kickers career, and recent improvement, this is the right call. If something does go wrong in the kicking game, then Akers career will most likely be over, and the coach will be questioned why he played the struggling kicker in the first place.
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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.