By Dave Spadaro
Lost in the hype of Monday Night Football and a showdown for mid-season supremacy in the NFC East between the Eagles and the Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field was a halftime ceremony inducting David Akers into the team’s Hall of Fame. Akers, who had a remarkable 12-year run with the franchise from 1999–2010, became the first placekicker inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame.
Kickers are flaky chaps, capable of going off the rails at any time. Akers was a model of consistency in his time with the Eagles, and his performance was recognized with five Pro Bowl nods, five All-Pro seasons and a spot on the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
Great stuff. What a kicker. Ice in his veins and all of that.
The irony of Akers’ induction was that it came on a night when the current Eagles placekicker, Jake Elliott, entered the game with 10 consecutive field goals made, averaging 45.4 yards per kick. Elliott, no doubt, has helped key the Eagles’ outstanding first seven games of the season.
But to think that Elliott is The Next Great One is to forget that Alex Henery once made 22 straight field goals (in 2012), and that Caleb Sturgis had a streak of 18 straight field goals made (2016) and that Cody Parkey nailed 17 straight field goals in his Pro Bowl season of 2014.
Akers, in his 12 seasons here, had five different streaks of at least 13 consecutive field goals made.
Consistency, indeed, is key in the NFL placekicking game.
“You have to be able to forget anything you’ve done before your next kick,” Akers said. “Make it, miss it, it doesn’t matter. You can’t let anything linger. You’re only as good as your next kick. For me, I feel like being in the league as long as I was (Akers began his career with a one-game stint in Washington in 1998 and ended in Detroit In 2013) was my greatest accomplishment.
“You’re always fighting for you job. You just want to keep making kicks.”
Akers made 81 percent of his kicks in his NFL career. He’s one of the greatest of all time. The Eagles were fortunate to have him.
Since Akers left, the Eagles have sifted through Henery, then Parkey and then Sturgis before he suffered a hip flexor injury and gave way to the revelation that has been Jake Elliott.
How long will it last?
“I understand what this job is all about,” said Elliott, well aware of the unpredictable nature of the profession. “It’s a kick-by-kick thing. You just hope to find your groove and stay in it for as long as you can. That’s what I’m doing. I’m approaching every kick the same way and looking for solid contact.”
It’s a lonely life, being an NFL kicker. You make a 61-yarder, as Elliott did to beat the New York Giants earlier in the season, and everyone wants a piece of you. Miss a couple of kicks, blow one at the end of a game, and everybody leaves you alone.
Akers is the model of what Elliott wants to be. He’s just starting a long and extremely uncertain journey. Enjoy him for however long he keeps his groove.