9

January

Kudos to Crosby: Packers Kicker Answers the Critics and Naysayers

Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby

Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby

It’s all I ever wanted from him, and after seven years, I finally got it. Mason Crosby finished a season in the upper half of the kicker rankings and reliably made big kicks when they were most needed.

2013 was Crosby’s finest season as a Packer and his best field goal percentage ever, going all the way back to High School.

Compared to other kickers with at least 25 attempts, Crosby finished 12th in overall field goal percentage in 2013. That’s actually a fairly amazing stat, if you think about it. Crosby made 33 of 37 field goal attempts (89.2%) and there were still 11 kickers better than him.

That speaks to the new science of placekicking. Guys now get specialized training at an early age and advanced training in HS, college and the pros. Percentages will just continue to rise, but that’s another topic.

And before you throw the cold weather argument at me, that’s been a myth in past years (as I proved in my Mason Manifesto).

Admittedly though, the argument holds absolutely true THIS season. Since the start of November, Crosby made 18 of 20 field goals. He hadn’t missed a field goal since the Eagles game, making 18 in a row over the last 8 games, including Sunday’s playoff loss to the 49ers.

More importantly, though, he came through when the team needed it most. Without Aaron Rodgers, every point was precious. If Crosby misses just a single field goal in the Minnesota, Atlanta and Dallas games, two wins and a tie become three losses and the Chicago Bears are the NFC North Division Champs.

I’ve written plenty about Mason Crosby over the years. Because of that, and because a lot of people just don’t take the time to read carefully, I’ve been labeled as being anti-Crosby. That’s a big stretch from the truth.

Mostly, there were two things that always bothered me.

1) I never understood those fans that would say he was one of the better kickers in the NFL (not even close – read my manifesto linked above, if you haven’t before).

2) I never understood the Packers treating him like he was a top kicker, with generous raises and handing him the job every year with no competition, even after some pretty bad years (See my Mediocrity Rewarded post).

25

May

Interview With New Packers Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio

Packers Giorgio Tavecchio

Forza Tavecchio!

Here’s an interview with Packers kicker Giorgio Tavecchio I’m pretty sure you haven’t read – unless you’re a Packers fan in Italy.  Journalist  Giovanni Marino, a fan of American football from the Italian newspaper site La Repubblica, had a conversation with Giorgio recently, to talk about his early experiences as a Green Bay Packer.

As an added bonus, I’m going to translate it into English for you! Isn’t that nice?

You won’t have to go use Google translate, which composed a bunch of strange sounding English sentences when I gave it a try on the original article on LaRepublica.it. If you can read Italian, by all means, read it there.

Here goes:

The second part of Giorgio Tavecchio’s dream has just begun. “And I don’t want to wake up,” he jokes with his usual good humor and an admirable calmness. The young Italian is in Green Bay, and has just started a few days of  long preseason workouts, which will prove decisive for his future. He is looking to steal the spot of Mason Crosby, Packers kicker and owner of  a disappointing season last year. A chance at a spot in the NFL is so close, yet still so far away for the young hopeful from Milan. “My experience in San Francisco was important, I know what to do and I will. Then we will see what will happen,” he says with hope but with a great sense of realism. Here is the story of his early days with the most successful team in the United States.

Chatting with Aaron Rodgers, the tranquil champion who loves to kid around:

In Green Bay, Tavecchio has found a renowned college compatriot: Aaron Rodgers, just a few days after he became the new record holder of the largest contract in NFL history. Having both played at Cal, although in different years,  has  triggered an unlikely, but not negligible kinship (Aaron is one of the best quarterbacks ever and above all is the undisputed leader of GB). “Rodgers, in addition to being a champion, but this is known, is really a quiet person like maybe you never thought. Aaron is an absolute star, and yet his actions do not convey any of this. You can feel his leadership in the team, but at the same time, also feel that he exercises that leadership with a human and professional quality, never imposing himself  on anyone with arrogance,” says Giorgio. “I spoke with him and we speak often about Cal coach Tedford and we both greatly appreciate and cherish fondly the experiences of those college times. Aaron encourages me and this makes me proud.  He also loves to joke around, for example the other day he turned me around because I looked all uncoordinated during a  stretching exercise. ”

11

October

Mason Crosby Earning Paycheck, Proving Doubters Wrong

Kicker Mason Crosby celebrates with teammates after nailing a 56-yard FG in Atlanta.

When Green Bay Packers placekicker Mason Crosby signed a new 5-year contract with the team back at the end of July, it came with some trepidation on the part of fans. Many people questioned the value of his brand new raise, while some criticized the re-signing all together. Throughout the first five games of the season, however, Crosby has performed to near perfection.

With Sunday night’s game against Atlanta in the books, Mason Crosby is now 9-for-9 on the year in field goal attempts and 20-for-20 in extra points, giving him a total of 47 points scored. For some comparison, he was only 7-for-10 in field goals after five games last year, and he is currently on par to break his personal best 141 points scored in his 2007 rookie season.

Crosby’s 56-yard field goal also ties his (and the franchise) record for longest completion, going back to the 2010 opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Packers kicker has been under some intense scrutiny the past few years, though. Our own “Jersey” Al Bracco has written on this topic numerous times, but his most recent post – made just after Crosby signed his new contract – really broke through the misconceptions about his abilities.

In short, the numbers proved he has been an average kicker at best.

With such a strong start to his season, could we finally be seeing the Mason Crosby we’ve wanted and waited for? Yes, there are many more games to be played and plenty of field goals to be attempted in the coming weeks; still, it’s hard not to get excited.

Crosby owes part of his success to the offense being able to get close to the endzone.

Of his nine field goal attempts, two have been less than 30 yards, six have been between 30 and 40 yards, and only one has been from more than 50 yards out. In addition to this, he wasn’t even called on to attempt a field goal in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints or in Week 4 against the Denver Broncos.

Finally, I would be remiss to leave out the job Mason Crosby has done on kickoffs.

13

March

Green Bay Packers’ Mason Crosby: Mediocrity Rewarded

It would be difficult to dispute that Mason Crosby had a bad year kicking field goals for the Green Bay Packers. Among kickers with at least 15 attempts, his 75% average field goal percentage (FG%)  was better than only 6 other kickers in the NFL. Towards the end of the season, Crosby collected “votes of confidence” from Packers coaches like Ted Thompson collects wide receivers (more than should be necessary).

Despite his less than eventful 2009, Crosby somehow triggered incentives in his contract that has doubled his salary for 2010, from $500K to 1M. As Don King loves to say, God Bless America!  And from Mason’s perspective, God Bless his agent. What a great contract he negotiated. His client can have a bad year and still manage to earn a 100% raise.

I can only sit and wonder what those incentives were? Did he have to…

Finish higher than 30th in the league?
Hit 90% of his kicks into the practice net on the sideline?
Hit 95% of the footballs he swung his leg at?
Kick the ball with his right leg 95% of the time?
Never put his pants on backwards?

In all seriousness, when compared to the rest of the kickers in the league, Crosby is in the lower 20th percentile. In his 3 years with the Packers, he has never made more than 79.5% of his field goals. For a quick comparison, Ryan Longwell averaged 80%, 88%, 83% and 87% in his first four years with the Packers.

I’ve always considered 80% to be the lowest field goal percentage an NFL team should tolerate. In my book, a FG% of less than 80% is like a batting average below .250 in baseball.  Anyone can have a bad year, but 3 years in a row makes a bad career.

And yet, Crosby has his defenders. Mason Crosby will be fine, I hear over and over. He just has to work on the mental side, just has to straighten out the right hashmark issue, just needs a better holder, etc. My question for those people is, what evidence do you have that Mason Crosby is capable of being better than he has been? When has he shown that he can be an 85% kicker? NEVER, is the answer.

In the last three years, here’s how many NFL kickers had a FG% of 85% or higher: