Lost amidst the 49ers' dominant defense and their all-star platoon of skill position players has been the finest performance we have seen from a 49ers punter in over a decade. Not since Andy Lee’s first team, all-pro selection in 2012, have the 49ers had as dominant of a season from the punter position as what we’ve seen from Mitch Wishnowsky this season.
That’s right, the punter from down under, the man who John Lynch and Co. believed in enough to invest a fourth-round pick in, is proving that perhaps the front office wasn’t as off base as many made them out to be when they selected the Australian back in 2019.
Being a punter is ever going to be glamorous. It oftentimes will be shrugged off as nothing more than humorous fodder amongst football fans who couldn’t be bothered with the specialist player who is only called upon when the offense fails to stay on the field.
Please make no mistake about it, though, what Wishnowsky has brought to the table for the 49ers in the third phase of the game this season has been invaluable. Time and time again, the Aussie has pinned opposing teams deep in their territory, amplifying the already daunting task of attempting to score on the 49ers' vaunted defense.
Not only is Wishnowsky delivering his patented knuckle balls deep into enemy territory, but he is also doing so in a way that has limited the ability to oppose teams to flip field position in their favor with punt return opportunities.
Opponents have registered a return on just 26.9 percent of Wishnowsky’s punts this season, which ranks first among all punters in the league. This has been, in large part, a direct result of Wishnowsky’s ability to pin opponents inside their own twenty-yard line repeatedly, something he has done at a higher rate than all but one punter in the NFL this season.
Fifty-one percent of Wishnowsky’s punts have pinned opponents inside their own twenty-yard line, trailing only Green Bay’s Pat O’Donnell, who has a slight edge while doing it at a 52 percent clip.
Wishnowsky’s ability to get an incredibly unique spin on the ball has created an even larger opportunity for the coverage unit to shine as well, as Wishnowsky also leads the league in punts that resulted in being downed with 15 thus far this season.
The unfortunate thing about special teams is that it is seldom discussed until something catastrophic ends up happening. It’s written off a business as usual until disaster strikes, and a punt is blocked or a game-winning field goal sails wide right. So let’s buck that trend and give Wishnowsky some love while things are going well.