Debunking the Myths About Green Bay Packers Kicker Mason Crosby
I really didn’t want to write about Mason Crosby again. Most of you know how I feel and I’ve handled the topic before. I’ve railed on the Packers coddling of Crosby. I’ve presented some stats that questioned Crosby being rewarded with a 100% raise in 201o.
Yet, some of you still believe (or have convinced yourselves) that the Packers are lucky to have Crosby. You have a ready set of excuses.
- He kicks in the cold weather.
- He’s has to kick a lot of long field goals.
- He went five for six during the Packers playoff run.
- He does a great job with kickoffs.
- He’s not great, but he’s an above-average NFL kicker.
- There is nobody available that would be any better.
The first three of those statements are true but are not valid excuses, as I will show. The last three items are just outright untrue. If you believe them, you also believe in unicorns and pots of gold at the end of rainbows. I am going to dispel all of these myths with something that can not be disputed – cold hard facts.
I don’t dislike Mason Crosby – really, I don’t. I even gave him a “B” in our end-of-year player evaluations for 2010 (mostly because of his performance during the playoff run). But what I do dislike is the plethora of fans who pay no attention to the facts. They create their own reality and support their stance with throw-away one liners that have little substance.
So, consider this my “Mason Manifesto.” I am going to present to you the real facts and debunk each of those myths mentioned above.
First, some background facts:
Crosby’s overall field goal percentages from High School to the NFL:
HS Y4 63.6%
COL Y1 77.8%
COL Y2 82.6%
COL Y3 75.0%
COL Y4 67.9%
NFL Y1 79.5%
NFL Y2 79.4%
NFL Y3 75.0%
NFL Y4 78.6%
In the last four years, here’s how many NFL kickers (with 20 or more attempts) had a FG% of 80% or higher and where Crosby ranked overall.
2007 23 – Crosby ranked 23rd of 28 kickers with 20 or more attempts (lower 19th percentile)
2008 25 - Crosby ranked 26th of 29 kickers with 20 or more attempts (lower 11th percentile)
2009 18 - Crosby ranked 23rd of 28 kickers with 20 or more attempts (lower 17th percentile)
2010 17 – Crosby ranked 19th of 25 kickers with 20 or more attempts (lower 24th percentile)
1. Mason Crosby Has to Kick in Cold Weather
Yes, he does. But so do other kickers. The argument goes that Crosby’s FG percentage would be higher if this weren’t the case. Well, of course, but is he the only kicker this applies to? Of course not. For a dose of reality, one would have to look at how he compares to other kickers that kick in cold weather. Well, allow me:
I chose teams from 9 other cold weather cities with dome-less stadiums (PHIL, NYJ, NYG, CHI, CLE, BUF, CIN, PIT, NE). Where did Crosby’s FG % rank when compared to these kickers?
2007: 9th out of 10
2008: 9th out of 10
2009: Tied for 9th/10th
2010: 6th out of 10
So, when compared to other kickers playing in cold weather, he still comes out near the bottom. We can now say, whatever the typical weather conditions, Crosby is ALWAYS near the bottom in FG %.
Bonus Fact: Last season, 4 of these cold-weather kickers had as many or more attempts from 50+ yards as Mason Crosby.
Another thing to consider: In how many games did Crosby really have to kick in cold weather? I went back and looked at the Packers schedule the last four years and games from mid-November on. Taking into account road games in domes and warm weather cities, Crosby did not have to kick in very many cold weather games at all:
2007 – 1
2008 – 2
2009 – 2
2010 – 3
So lets just put the whole cold weather theory where it belongs – buried under a big snowdrift.
Mason Crosby has to kick a lot of long field goals.
In the last four years, Crosby has taken 21 attempts from 50+ yards and made 10 of them. A respectable average from that distance, I would guess at first. Lets look at his numbers each season:
2007 - 3 of 5 7 other kickers with at least 5 attempts from 50+ yds - Crosby tied tied for 3-4 position out of 8.
2008 - 3 of 6 6 other kickers with at least 6 attempts from 50+ yds - Crosby tied for 5-6 position out of 7.
2009 - 2 of 6 4 other kickers with at least 6 attempts from 50+ yds - Crosby was last out of 5.
2010 - 2 of 4 12 other kickers with at least 6 attempts from 50+ yds - Crosby tied tied for 8-9-10 position out of 13.
So it seems that while Crosby does take a good number of attempts from 50+ yards, his success rate is not up to par compared to his peers. Sorry, but you can’t use this as an excuse when other players are doing the same thing Crosby is, but are just being more successful at it. Taking long kicks influences Crosby’s average not because he has to take them, but because he’s not that successful at it. The blame falls squarely on Crosby’s shoulders.
Mason Crosby does a very good job with kickoffs.
Lets look right at Crosby’s numbers and where he ranked: (Among kickers with at least 30 kickoff attempts)
2007 – 63.0 avg. Ranked 14th, 82.8% returned, Ranked 7th.
2008 – 63.7 avg. Ranked 21st, 78.3% returned, Ranked 8th.
2009 – 63.0 avg. Ranked 27th 81.9% returned, Ranked 16th.
2010 – 61.6 avg. Ranked 32nd 90.5% returned, Ranked 29th.
See a pattern here? Crosby has dropped in the rankings every season as compared to other NFL kickers.
Oh, you want to use the cold weather excuse here too? Let’s compare his kickoffs to other cold weather kickers:
2007 – 63.0 avg. Ranked 3rd of 10, 82.8% returned, Ranked 1st of 10.
2008 – 63.7 avg. Ranked 4th of 10, 78.3% returned, Ranked 1st of 10.
2009 – 63.0 avg. Ranked 9th of 10, 81.9% returned, Ranked 5th of 10.
2010 – 61.6 avg. Ranked 9th of 10, 90.5% returned, Ranked 9th of 10.
The only excuse Crosby apologists could try to use with regards to kickoffs is this one: In 2010, Crosby was asked to use more positional kicking techniques in certain games to help shrink the field against dangerous returners. Certainly, this affected his overall average. But even if we raise Crosby to a 63.0 average (same as in 2009), he would still rank in the 20s. Not the desired location for a “great”, “very good” or even “above average” kicker.
He’s not great, but he’s an above-average NFL kicker.
Well this one’s easy. If you’ve been following along, the numbers above are all you need to see. Crosby has never ranked in the upper half of field goal kickers. Never. In fact, he’s never been ranked higher than the lower 25%.
There is nobody available that would be any better than Mason Crosby.
I’ll tackle this one from two separate angles.
1) How do you know if you don’t look? The biggest problem I’ve had with the Packers’ handling of Mason Crosby is the coddling he has received. For the last three seasons, Crosby has had no competition in camp. It was his job. There were no other kickers brought in to give Crosby a little extra incentive. While I’m not saying that he did, Crosby could have just coasted through camp, without having to work extra hard to ensure his job.
Plenty of NFL kickers have beat out the incumbents to win a job in training camp. The example most of you will know is Ryan Longwell. He was brought in as a training camp leg despite the Packers having used a 3rd round draft pick on Penn State’s Brett Conway. When Conway struggled, Longwell stole the job away.
The NFL is all about competition for jobs. Every player knows that. Why should kicker be any different? And what exactly about the stats above would make you want to hand Crosby the job and not have a fall-back option? This might be the only thing about Ted Thompson’s regime that I just don’t understand.
2) When your kicker is always ranked in the bottom 25% of the league, there are ALWAYS better options. Looking at the last two seasons, there were two free agents that would have been a certain upgrade over Crosby:
2010, Jay Feely, 82.3% lifetime average, kicked 88.9% in 2010 season
2010, Shayne Graham, 86% lifetime average, kicked 100% in 2010 season (12 for 12 in 8 games)
2009, Rob Bironis, 85.6% lifetime average, kicked 84.4% in 2009
2009, Shayne Graham, 86% lifetime average, kicked 82.1% in 2009 season
At the time, I rationalized Thompson’s lack of interest to his not wanting to spend much money at the kicker position (I guess that’s out the window now). He was certainly looking to save that money to help re-sign some of the Packers’ own players. And I didn’t have a problem with that. I never really expected Thompson to sign a free agent kicker. But don’t say there were no better options -there were.
Crosby went five for six during the Packers playoff run.
Yes he sure did. First of all, does six games a career make? Do we throw out his past history and base everything on his last six games? No you don’t, although I know some of you are. So lets take this a step further. Let’s take a closer look at those six attempts:
vs. NY Giants: Crosby make a 31-yarder in the third quarter with the Packers ahead by a touchdown.
vs. Chicago: Crosby makes a 23 yd. chip shot to tie the game at 3 in the third quarter.
vs. Philly: no attempts.
vs. Atlanta: Hits a 32-yarder, a 43-yarder and bonks the upright on a 50 yarder. All come in the meaningless 4th quarter after the Packers are already ahead 42-14.
vs. Chicago: no attempts.
vs. Pitt: Hits a 23 yd. chip shot to put the Packers up by 6.
Crosby took one field goal attempt in the playoffs that actually meant something. The longest kick he made during the final six games was 43 yards, and it was meaningless. The five field goals he made were from 23yds, 23yds, 32yds, 32yds and 43 yds. Three of those five were taken in a dome.
Does anyone find this impressive? He didn’t blow easy field goals, which is certainly a positive, but is this enough to hang your “Crosby is a good kicker” hat on? Hardly…
So, what is the end result of this analysis? Simple…
Mason Crosby has been a below-average NFL kicker for the last four seasons.
I don’t come to bury Mason Crosby, I merely would like to put an end to the polluted mindset that praises him without a real reason to do so. If you like Crosby because he’s a good guy, that’s fine. If you like Crosby because he signed your favorite jersey (cough… Alex…cough…), well that’s fine also. But just don’t gloss over the truth and make up excuses for his performance. They don’t wash. The numbers above don’t lie.
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.