What If Cortez Wins?
August 15 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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The place kicking battle this summer was supposed to be a heated duel. Jose Cortez, the former XFL star, who had a great start to the season last year with the 49ers only to have it tail off towards the end versus rookie Jeff Chandler, the fourth round draft pick who signed a contract with a huge bonus this off-season. The battle however, has been anything but a heated duel.
This off-season in mini-camp the two kickers were matching each other kick for kick, but this summer Cortez has pulled away. In both pre-season action and in training camp Cortez seems to be winning the competition. Heís connecting more kicks, and is handling the pressure better.
Cortez salary this season is less than the bonus that Jeff Chandler signed this off-season, so what if Cortez wins the roster spot? Will the 49ers be able to save face after shelling out over three hundred grand for a player who didnít even make the roster? What about the fourth round pick that inherently was wasted?
The way I see it, even if Cortez is the 49ers kicker come opening day, the 49ers will not have wasted their pick or their money. By bringing in Chandler they were able to challenge Cortez to the point where he had to produce. The money and the pick may end up lost, but if Cortez comes through, than the team really hasnít lost out.
The only way the 49ers can really get the bad end of this, is if they decide to keep Chandler even if he doesnít outshine Cortez this summer in the hopes that they can save some of the Ďembarrassmentí that many will proclaim exists.
Still I believe that drafting Chandler was a good pick. The 49ers recognized they needed to improve their kicking, and in drafting Chandler they got what they saw as the best possible competition for Cortez. And regardless of who ends up kicking, the team will have improved the position - which is essentially what they were after.
Yes, people will second guess whether the pick would have been better spent on an offensive lineman, defensive lineman, or one of many other positions. But if either kicker wins a few games for the team this season, or even if they donít lose any games for us this season, the fourth round pick will have been well spent.