The 49ers have a kicker problem
Although it has remained mostly unspoken, I’ll state the obvious: The 49ers’ front office made a significant personnel mistake over the 2019 offseason, and they’ve paid for this mistake dearly in both of their two losses. Shanahan and the 49ers’ coaching staff do not currently have a kicker they can rely on to convert field-goal attempts in important game-defining situations.
Kicker Robbie Gould made it clear to the Niners’ brass he wanted out of San Francisco over the offseason, but given his stellar production during his tenure with the team, the 49ers’ front office didn’t listen, and instead placed the franchise tag on the veteran kicker. The two sides eventually compromised on an expensive deal which made Gould the highest-paid kicker in the NFL.
Shanahan and 49ers general manager John Lynch soon learned a valuable lesson, which was similar to the one the Chicago Bears learned in 2016: Kickers are often volatile, and thus can easily transition from being “Good as Gould” one season to wild and inconsistent the next.
San Francisco has suffered from sub par kicker play throughout the 2019 season. After leading the NFL with a 97.1 percent field goal conversion rate last year, Gould has fallen off a cliff in 2019, converting just 63.6 percent of his kicks.
When Gould was sidelined due to injury, San Francisco turned to kicker Chase McLaughlin, who promptly shanked a potential game-winner against the Seahawks in epic fashion. Gould soon returned for the Ravens matchup, where he missed his first try, and then remained on the sidelines when the 49ers were in position for a potential game-winning FG attempt in the closing minutes of the contest.
San Francisco lost both games by a three-point margin, while both opposing kickers nailed each of their two field goal attempts. There will be a point this year where victory will depend on whether the 49ers’ expensive kicker — who made it clear he’d rather be somewhere else — can handle the pressure and split the uprights in a key situation.