After the San Francisco 49ers released David Akers, I wrote this:
Now the 49ers will set out to find another kicker. They could draft one, but don’t be surprised if they go after 38-year-old Phil Dawson. Dawson was not franchised by the Cleveland Browns after getting tagged for the previous two seasons, and he kicked for Cleveland when 49ers special teams coach Brad Seely coached there in 2009-10 (Billy Cundiff, who the 49ers signed and released late this past season, also kicked for the Browns in 2009). Dawson has experience kicking in rugged conditions, and made 29-of-31 field goals (93.5%), making 6-for-6 from 40-49 yards and 7-for-7 from 50+ in 2012.
I wasn’t the only one, as Eric Branch had the same idea. It appears our master plan (insert evil laugh here) has come to fruition.
It’s not like this move was all that difficult to predict. Seely runs the special teams, and the 49ers have only trusted seasoned kickers for a decade now.
In 2003, Jeff Chandler (age 24) was replaced by Owen Pochman (26). Pochman was replaced by Todd Peterson (33). Peterson stuck around until 2005, when Mike Nolan took over the team and they signed Joe Nedney (32). Nedney served as the 49ers’ kicker for six years, save for a couple games each for Jeff Reed (31) in 2010 and Shane Andrus (29, 30) in 2009-10, as well as a one-game return for Jose Cortez (30) in 2005. Nedney retired after the 2010 season, and new head coach Jim Harbaugh brought in Akers (37).
Including Dawson, the average age of the 49ers’ starting kicker from 2003-13 is 35.2 years old.
Dawson’s arrival is also the latest sign of just how disappointed the 49ers were in their kicking game last season. The last two signings, LB Dan Skuta and S Craig Dahl, were made with an eye toward kickoffs.
Akers’ kickoffs weren’t bad last season. Actually, his touchback percentage (46%) was higher than Dawson’s (39%) and Akers never kicked it out of bounds once. Dawson did … once.
However, Dawson wasn’t just a far better field goal kicker than the undependable Akers last season, he had the upper hand in a pretty important kickoff category, too. I’m going to come clean: I have no idea how good the Browns’ kickoff coverage unit was last year. Or the year before. If I did, I would probably deserve to be committed to the highest-security mental institution within 500 miles. But while the 49ers were the second-worst team in terms of yards allowed per kickoff return (26.9), the Browns were second-best (19.8).
The 49ers could probably find a rookie with a huge leg to succeed on kickoffs, though. This signing happened mostly because Akers made 69% of his field goals and the 49ers don’t trust a rookie to come close to what Dawson did in 2012 with three points available for the taking.
He also did this in the Pro Bowl, which I’d LOVE to see in a game. Dawson’s a regular Ronaldhino (h/t MadSports8):