There is something wrong with David Akers, an All-Pro kicker last year who has struggled since tying the all-time record with a 63-yard field goal at Lambeau. The question is whether Akers’ main problem is physical or mental, and in this case we’re left to guess. After missing a potential game-winning 41-yarder yesterday in overtime, Akers left the locker room without speaking to the media.
Akers can’t similarly avoid his coaches, because it’s getting close to decision time. If Akers can’t deliver when the 49ers need him the most, what’s the point of keeping him around? Look at his FG stats from Week 3 on (but only if you have a strong stomach):
Total: 15-for-21 (71.4% — 30th in the NFL)
When it comes to kickoffs, Akers has been … okay. The Niners are 9th in the NFL in touchbacks, but
opponents’ starting field position (28.8 yard line) on kickoffs opponents are averaging 28.8 yards per kickoff return, which is second worst in league.
The problem is Akers picked a bad time to lose his ability to kick field goals accurately — for the 49ers, anyway. Who’s available? They could go with Ryan Longwell, a Cal grad who’s about the same age as Akers, but how much of an upgrade would he be? Guys like Graham Gano and Olindo Mare are available … blech. Giorgio Tavecchio is a left-footer like Akers, but he wasn’t even all that great at Cal before the 49ers brought him in for a tryout. The Niners would be better off keeping Akers than throwing an inexperienced rookie while the 49ers look to improve their playoff seed.
If the 49ers decide to make a change, the best option is probably Nate Kaeding, who the San Diego Chargers recently released. Kaeding had a groin injury that led San Diego to put him on IR, but he passed a physical at the end of October before the Chargers let him go. Kaeding only played in one game in 2011 due to a torn left ACL, but he is the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history (87%) among those who have played longer than two seasons.
Would releasing a kicker who was named first-team All-Pro last year be harsh? Yes, but that’s the nature of the NFL. Akers was released by the Philadelphia Eagles to open up cap space after they drafted Alex Henery in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Missing field goals from 34 and 41 yards in a 21-16 Wild Card Round loss to the Packers didn’t help, either. A missed 41-yard field goal, huh? Sounds familiar.