26

August

Packers News: Tavecchio released, team down to two kickers

Ciao, Giorgio. The Packers have cut ties with Tavecchio.

Ciao, Giorgio. The Packers have cut ties with Tavecchio.

Just one day after signing street free agent Zach Ramirez, the Green Bay Packers have released kicker Giorgio Tavecchio.

Incumbent kicker Mason Crosby has, again, had an up-and-down, left-and-right summer, and it seems the Packers are determined to provide some competition for Crosby all the way up to the regular season. Still, despite his inconsistency, it looks like the job is Crosby’s to lose.

Crosby certainly had a rough season in 2012, missing 12 of 33 regular-season field goal attempts. But believe it or not, his challenger this summer, Tavecchio, has missed kicks in his life, as well. As a senior at California, Tavecchio failed to connect on six extra points.

Now, it’s down to Crosby and Ramirez–another Internet-sensation-turned-NFL-kicker-hopeful. The Detroit Lions signed Havard “Kickalicious” Rugland to compete with David Akers this summer, and the Packers turn to Ramirez–a young kicker with some pretty impressive YouTube highlights.

Obviously, kicking field goals with the wind at your back in an empty stadium in front of one person holding a camera is much different than kicking in front of 80,000 in a packed NFL stadium. But we’ll see how this kicking competition shakes itself out.

During the Family Night Scrimmage, Tavecchio got the better of Crosby, connecting on five of six field goal attempts. Crosby, on the other hand, had an awful night, missing four of six.

At that point, just a week into training camp, Twitter exploded with fans calling for Crosby’s release. However, due to the Tavecchio’s limitations in terms of leg strength, the concept of Crosby being cut in favor of Tavecchio seemed farfetched–at least to me.

I’m not saying Crosby is God’s gift to kicking field goals, but if he’s going to be beaten out for the job, it wasn’t going to be by Tavecchio. You can’t make fun of me for that prediction; however, feel free to point and laugh at my suggestion that Graham Harrell would be a “pleasant surprise” this summer.

In my opinion, Crosby will win the job. He’ll be the Week 1 kicker, although it wouldn’t at all be surprising if the Packers made a change in the regular season, should Crosby’s struggles continue.

13

August

Are Packers Ready To Retire Longwell?

Ryan Longwell

Longwell will retire as a Green Bay Packer

We learned, today, that Ryan Longwell will retire as a member of the Green Bay Packers.  Players sometimes will sign a symbolic one-day contract with the team that they started with and so that they can finish up where the started.  Longwell spent his first nine NFL seasons with the Packers before joining the Minnesota Vikings for his final six.

Longwell holds many Packers records that still stand today.  The most notable is most points scored in Packers history, with 1,054.  While Longwell’s former teammate and former Packers quarterback Brett Favre was known for his consecutive games played streak, it is Longwell who holds the record for most consecutive games with a score, at 144.  Favre recently began to hint that he was getting closer to a return, of some sort, to the Packers and Longwell has decided to do the same.

While this is a “feel good” story and it’s always good to see a former standout member of the Packers return home to Green Bay, I have to wonder if the Packers feel the same way?  Not because there was any real bad blood between the team and Longwell.  Well, OK, there were a few interviews in support of Favre when he joined the Vikings in 2009.  I have always believed that kickers should never speak to the media and after those episodes, I really believe that.  And there was also the time he said that Applebee’s was “as good as it got” in Green Bay as far as restaurants, but I digress.  Is there an opportunity knocking (or kicking) here?

The state of the place kicking position in Green Bay has been shaky, at best, for the past year.  After a superb 2011 season, Packers kicker Mason Crosby has hit a wall, a brick wall, and can’t seem to shake what is ailing his kicking ability.  He posted the lowest conversion of any kicker last season and even caused Packers head coach Mike McCarthy to take more chances on fourth down instead of trying a reasonable field goal attempt.

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.

27

July

Mason Crosby to Sign 5-Year Deal with Green Bay Packers

Mason Crosby

Fans could have split feelings on Mason Crosby's new 5-year deal with the Packers.

According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Online, placekicker and unrestricted free agent Mason Crosby has agreed to a new 5-year contract with the Green Bay Packers. The deal is reportedly worth $14.75 million, which includes $3 million in guaranteed money.

“The contract puts Crosby in the upper echelon of kickers in the National Football League,” noted Silverstein, “just below top-paid kicker Sebastian Janikowski of the Oakland Raiders.”

Silverstein also reminds fans that post-lockout rules prevent teams from signing unrestricted free agents until Friday a 6 p.m. Teams are, however, able to negotiate terms with free agents prior to that time.

This news will probably be received differently depending on which Packers fans you talk to.

Mason Crosby has spent his entire 4-year NFL career in Green Bay. Taken in the sixth round of the 2007 draft, he was widely considered the best college kicker that year. His main selling point has always been his strong leg, having a reputation for forcing touchbacks against his collegiate opponents.

The past few years with the Packers, however, have left something to be desired. Though some still consider his kickoff skills an essential part of his abilities, he has yet to break an 80% success rate in field goal attempts. His first two seasons in the NFL were his best in regards to his accuracy, but they have since dipped, with 2009 being Crosby’s worst season at only a 75% success rate.

This past season also saw a significant drop in the number of touchbacks by Crosby and the Packers; however, it’s unclear how much of that was due to special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum’s play calls.

It’s no secret that the Packers like what they have in Crosby despite the sometimes-overwhelming criticism from fans. They haven’t given him much (if any) competition in training camp outside of his first season, and their current lack of undrafted free agent signings at the position this year will seem to continue that trend.

Some had hoped Ted Thompson would try to sign placekicker Kai Forbath from UCLA, but a report indicates Forbath won’t be signing until healthy. Besides, it’s likely Thompson had planned to re-sign Crosby since the lockout began.