Jim Harbaugh Makes Gutsy Move to Stick with David Akers

By Travis Chan
James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Despite coming out with a 28-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game, the San Francisco 49ers cannot feel confident about their kicker, David Akers.

In the third quarter, his lone 38-yard attempt clanked off the left goal post, which would have tied the game. Walking back to the sidelines, the 38-year-old kicker was seen sitting alone with his head down. That image clearly shows that he has lost what was left of his confidence.

The 49ers have a complete team entering Super Bowl XLVII. They have a dual-threat quarterback, a dominant rushing attack, talented receivers and a hard-hitting defense. To top it off, Andy Lee remains one of the top punters in the league.

But the lone question mark circles back to the struggling Akers. What if the 49ers’ hopes rest on the left leg of Akers? Whether it’s a 35-yard or a 50-yard field-goal attempt, there is no reliable distance for him to come through. Players and coaches within the organization should support their kicker, but having confidence in him is another story.

Looking at Akers’ career statistics, he’s actually worse indoors than he is outdoors. Kicking outside, Akers sports a 82.6 field goal percentage. But kicking under a roof, his accuracy plummets to 67.4.

This year Akers is 0-3 when kicking from 40 or more yards indoors. That generally spells trouble, but with the nature of football, anything can happen.

Analyzing the kicking situation from another standpoint, should Jim Harbaugh have signed another kicker before the Super Bowl, would karma come back to haunt his cold-blooded decision? With the kickers sitting out there in the free-agent market, questions arise as to how they will react in the sporting world’s biggest stage with little to no regular-season action.

Last year, Bill Belichick cut wide receiver Tiquan Underwood the night before the Super Bowl to make room for Alex Silvestro, a defensive end. That move probably did not have any bearing on the outcome, but you never want to anger the football gods.

Up to this point, Jim Harbaugh has been loyal to Akers through thick and thin. When fans and the media pleaded for a change, the second-year head coach stuck with his kicker.

Harbaugh has made a number of bold moves during his brief tenure as an NFL head coach. However, his decision to start Akers in the Super Bowl could sit atop that checklist if they walk out with the Vince Lombardi Trophy in hand.


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