Mason Crosby must continue to be consistent in 2014. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Packers prove critics wrong by sticking with Mason Crosby

Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby kicks a field goal against the Minnesota Vikings. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

It was about a year ago this time that Green Bay Packers place kicker Mason Crosby was in the biggest slump of his career.

Crosby was struggling to perform both mentally and physically, and was on the brink of being released by the organization. Crosby finished the 2012 season connecting on just 12-of-20 attempts and it appeared his time in Green Bay was coming to a close.

The Packers decided to stay with Crosby, but this time around, make him work for his starting job in the offseason.

They brought in a pair of place kickers at different times during training camp. First, it was Giorgio Tavecchio, who is not known for a big leg, like Crosby, but rather accuracy and his unusual kicking style. Tavecchio was impressive for the Packers hitting on 86.4 percent of his kicks this summer, compared to Crosby’s 80 percent, but would eventually be released in late August in favor of Crosby.

Our hope is that Mason Crosby starts a new string of made field goals. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Our hope is that Mason Crosby starts a new string of made field goals. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

The difference between Tavecchio and Crosby came down to cold weather kicking. Tavecchio is a California guy, he went to the University of California and was born in Italy, where the conditions don’t get anywhere close to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Crosby went to school at the University of Colorado and is used to kicking in inclement weather giving him the edge over Tavecchio.

Second, the Packers brought in unknown kicker, Zach Ramirez, who lasted only a handful of days after going 6-for-16 during training camp, and again it was Crosby’s job.

The Packers decided to make Crosby the opening day kicker when they traveled west to San Francisco to open the season — it turned out to be one of the best offseason moves the Packers made in 2013.

After Crosby took a significant pay cut to stay in Green Bay (roughly losing $1.6 million), he regained his focus and has been lights-out for the Packers. Thus far in 2013, Crosby has connected on 29-of-33 attempts (87.9 percent) including a booming 57-yard field goal at New York a few weeks back. He is also a perfect 31-of-31 in kicking extra points, and hasn’t had a kick blocked all season.

With the Packers red zone troubles in 2013, one could argue Crosby has been the offensive MVP for the Packers, though Eddie Lacy would argue that statement. Coming into 2013, Crosby had a lackluster career field goal percentage of 76, due to his 21-of-33 (63 percent) performance in 2012; now his career percentage has risen to 79 percent and Crosby appears to be locked in.

Special Teams coach Shawn Slocum recently had this to say about Crosby’s turn around season:

“Mason’s always had good talent, that’s why he is in the NFL, that’s why he’s on the same team he came into.”

Slocum credits the turnaround to Crosby’s career to his work ethic and attitude. Amidst a career-worst slump last year Crosby was hanging on by a thread in Green Bay. “The easy thing to do is change personnel,” Slocum said when asked why the change wasn’t made last year. “That’s not always the right thing to do. He’s having a good year, that’s a credit to him and his work ethic.”

At the end of the day, the Packers have needed every one of Crosby’s 29 made field goals, especially during their current 1-4-1 record over the past six games without quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Credit Slocum and head coach Mike McCarthy for not falling victim to the moment, and making the right decision to bring Crosby back.

 

 

 

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