No. 3: How reliable will the 49ers kicking unit be?
As mentioned in the introduction, the 49ers signed Robbie Gould to a four-year deal heading into 2019. The deal itself came after an impasse where the Niners franchise-tagged Gould, only for him to request a trade from the team. While it was all resolved, that made fan tensions towards Gould much higher than usual.
Trials and tribulations of the 49ers kicking game
And then once the season started, multiple issues began with the 49ers kicking unit. For starters, long-snapper Kyle Nelson had to serve the final six games on a ten-game suspension he received for taking PEDs the year before. Without that continuity, and with the addition of a new holder in Mitch Wishnowsky, things were shaping up for disaster.
And disaster it was, relatively. Naturally, the animosity towards Gould for his trade request made his struggles seem much worse than they actually were, but he did struggle significantly. Missing seven kicks in his first six games was not the production the Niners had paid for. After those six games, Gould’s injury caused him to miss three games, which were filled in by kicker Chase McLaughlin.
Now McLaughlin didn’t have many issues in his three games, in fact he was quite productive. But like I mentioned in the introduction, a single spectacular mistake can be all people remember. And with a chance to keep the 49ers undefeated and beat the Seattle Seahawks, this happened:
Gould was healthy after that game, and McLaughlin was given the boot.
The 49ers future is bright?
It wasn’t until Gould was finally healthy that things began to settle down. Post-injury, Gould missed only two kicks in 43 attempts (h/t Niners Nation), much more like the player the 49ers had signed to a four-year extension. Kyle Nelson was there, and continuity was found.
The main question the 49ers need to ask is which unit they’re going to get for 2020. Chances are it’s the second one.