That they took their time making the move doesn't lessen the impact that San Francisco has changed from a shaky veteran to an untested rookie just in time for the stretch run of a season in which the Niners will be attempting to position themselves for the Super Bowl during these next six weeks.
As difficult as it might be to believe for a public that cried for Cortez's head, the Niners needed an extra few days this week to mull over their options because they still were considering keeping Cortez as their kicker. In truth, the guy hasn't performed that badly. There are worse kickers out there in the NFL. There are no guarantees that Chandler – or anyone else the Niners could have brought in at this point – will do any better.
But the Niners had to make this move. What kind of message would it have sent to the team if they hadn't?
"Everybody on this team gets evaluated on by performance," Niners coach Steve Mariucci said while announcing that the team was sitting down Cortez in favor of Chandler.
And that's the whole point. Cortez hadn't been getting the job done. And – unlike players at other positions – kickers can't be given chances over and over again to perform when their perfomance is … uh … lacking.
Cortez was cruising along just fine, having made 13 field goals in a row, before the going started getting a little rougher earlier this month against the Raiders. With the pressure on, he hooked a gimme 27-yarder that would have won that game in regulation. He got a reprieve when he made a 23-yarder to win the game in overtime.
But when he missed that 41-yarder against San Diego last week, it cost the Niners a game that would have gained them the best record in the NFL and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff race.
Those are the kicks that kickers get paid to make. When they don't, it's time to give someone else a try.
For whatever reasons, Cortez clearly has problems with the pressure kicks. It was obvious he suddenly is mired in another slump like he fell into last season. While he has the NFL experience Chandler doesn't, he couldn't be counted on. The Niners and several players can say all they want that they still have confidence in Cortez, but the reality of the situation is, how possibly could they?
We don't necessarily feel a whole lot better with Chandler in the role. He hasn't exactly distinguished himself in practice during his time with the team. But the Niners have invested a lot of time and money in him, and they believe he's capable. They've been keeping him on the roster all season exactly for this scenario. The time has come to use him, for better or worse.
And, if nothing else, to show the rest of the Niners that losing performance simply won't be tolerated. Especially by a kicker who'd be doing his part simply by making routine kicks.