When Baltimore Ravens fans hear Billy Cundiff’s name, they cringe. Now, that fate might just come upon the San Francisco 49ers, who signed the inconsistent kicker.
David Akers made 29 of his 42 field goals in 2012 after a career year in 2011, and he has 49ers fans worried sick about their kicker. He has missed a field goal in his last three games and five of the 49ers’ last six games, and even Cundiff, who made seven of 12 field goals with the Redskins this year, could be considered an upgrade.
Cundiff made 26 of 29 field goals in 2010, and he made the Pro Bowl that year. However, he isn’t a good long-distance kicker, while Akers made tons of long kicks last year, and he made a 54-yarder in Seattle in Week 16.
Akers was incredible in 2011. He made 43 of his 51 attempts in 2011, and he was 4-for-4 in the postseason. He has lots of postseason experience in his long career withPhiladelphia, and he won’t be fazed by the big stage, even through his struggles.
Cundiff, on the other hand, may have trouble with that. His horrid 32-yard kick against the Patriots in the AFC Championship planted a seed of infamy in Baltimore and for Patriot haters everywhere, and he doesn’t seem too confident when stepping up to make a crucial kick. Throwing him right into the fire could prove costly for the 49ers, even though Akers has been struggling.
Don’t get me wrong: Akers has frustrated me a lot with his kicks. He cost the 49ers two games (both against the Rams), and he lost the touch he had in 2011. But Harbaugh needs to do the opposite of what he did with the team’s quarterback situation: stick with the proven player.
San Francisco had some other options on the market, such as Jeff Reed, who made nine of 10 field goals with the team in 2010 while filling in for an injured Joe Nedney. The former Steeler kicker is experienced, and he isn’t afraid of the playoffs.
When Akers started struggling, I immediately thought of the inconsistent Cundiff and was really hoping that they wouldn’t talk to him. However, Akers has been so poor that the 49ers didn’t have much of an option, and they needed to sign a kicker. Unfortunately, they chose Cundiff.
Redskins fans were scared to death every time he trotted out to make a kick, and he didn’t help them win any games (he had a game-winning kick, but after missing three field goals in the same game). Cundiff can’t make long field goals at all, and he has much less power than Akers, who can definitely make a kick from 50 yards or longer. Alternating kickers won’t work, so there’s no reason why not to stick with Akers.
It’s tough to jump on a team and play your first game for it in the playoffs, especially with an experienced veteran who dominated last year and did well before a rough patch this year on the roster. It would be a big switch for the 49ers, and it could prove costly for sure.
Harbaugh proved that he wants to give the 49ers the best chance to win no matter what when he benched Smith for Kaepernick, so if he’s seeing something in practice that we aren’t seeing and he starts Cundiff because of that, it will be understandable. But if I were Harbaugh, it would take Cundiff looking like Sebastian Janikowski and Akers looking like a college kicker to make the switch. Akers is proven, and while Cundiff is a veteran, he isn’t really proven in the NFL or anywhere.
San Francisco has two veteran kickers, but one gives them a much better chance to win. We’ve seen how much field goals and kickers can change a game, and it can cost the 49ers their season, so it’s important they get this decision right.
And the only way to get the decision right is by sticking with Akers.