18

April

Should Packers Add Competition for Crosby?

Mason Crosby

Crosby bounced back in 2013. Will his success continue into 2014?

Green Bay Packers placekicker Mason Crosby is coming off of his best season in 2013, in terms of field goal percentage.  After facing the worst year of his career and posting the worst mark for a starting kicker in the NFL in 2012 (63.6%), Crosby finished 2013 at 89.2%.

He converted on 33 of 37 tries, seven of which were 50 yards or longer.  Crosby also made all 42 of his extra point attempts.

Still, let’s not forget some of the circumstances that Crosby faced to reach that success.

Entering the 2013 season, one had to search long and hard to find any amount of confidence that Crosby would bounce back from the horror that was 2012.  Towards the end of that year and any time Crosby lined up to kick a field goal, fans and media alike held their collective breath, hoping that the ball was at least somewhere near the crossbars.

That season, during a game against the Indianapolis Colts, Crosby kicked a ball so far off base that some wondered if he had hurt himself on the kick.

After the 2012 season, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy immediately began fielding questions about Crosby and his future with the team.  The head coach expressed frustration about the output from his kicker but seemed to be supporting Crosby throughout the offseason and preseason.  McCarthy has had a tendency to remain loyal to “his guys” and players that he is familiar with, even when those players are sometimes not performing to acceptable standards.

This appeared to be the case as Crosby entered training camp the lone placekicker on the roster.  Shortly after it seemed that Crosby was still struggling to find his groove, the team signed Giorgio Tavecchio to come in and compete with Crosby.

The left-footed Tavecchio actually out-kicked Crosby in terms of field goals made during practice and preseason games, but lacked the ideal leg strength to offer the complete package the Packers would have needed to move in another direction.

Tavecchio was cut (much to the chagrin of our own Jersey Al) and McCarthy seemed ready to ride or die with Crosby in 2013.  Crosby didn’t let his coach down.

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).

30

August

Packers News: Kickalicious works out for Green Bay

Havard Rugland was in Green Bay for a workout on Friday morning, according to his Twitter account.

Havard Rugland was in Green Bay for a workout on Friday morning, according to his Twitter account.

According to Havard Rugland’s official Twitter account, the Green Bay Packers worked out the YouTube sensation known as “Kickalicious” on Friday morning.

Rugland spent the summer as a member of the Detroit Lions, but he was cut after being beaten out by established veteran David Akers. Akers, 38, will fill in for 43-year-old Jason Hanson who recently retired after 21 seasons in the NFL.

The workout seems surprising, considering the team just restructured kicker Mason Crosby’s contract this week. After bringing in Giorgio Tavecchio and Zach Ramirez to challenge Crosby for the job, the Packers turned to financial motivation for their placekicker.

The team bringing Rugland in for a workout could mean trouble for Crosby, especially if the Packers ever have an opportunity to punt the ball through the uprights from 90 yards away. Or kick a ball to a dude standing in a boat on the Fox River.

In all likelihood, the Packers are likely seeing what else is on the free-agent market in case Crosby struggles to start the 2013 season. It’s highly unlikely that the team would replace Crosby after restructuring to an incentive-based deal Thursday.

Through four preseason games, Crosby was a perfect 6-for-6, including a long of 48 yards. After a thoroughly unimpressive Family Night scrimmage, Crosby separated himself from Tavecchio and Ramirez late in training camp.

For now, it would be a surprise if anyone not named Crosby was the kicker to start the season. But again, the Packers appear to be preparing themselves for a backup plan should Crosby falter early in the season.

In three preseason games with the Lions, Kickalicious was three-for-three on field goals with a long of 50 yards. He also converted both of his extra point attempts.

One additional interesting fact: Every NFL team is allowed to add one international player to their practice squad, as a ninth member. However, that international player can not be signed to an NFL contract with any team while on a practice squad. here are the full rules:

Section 1. Practice Squads:

  • (a) The League may elect in any League Year in accordance with this Article to establish Practice Squads not to exceed eight (8) players per Club. The League’s election in any one season shall not determine or affect its election in any subsequent season.
29

August

Talking to Tavecchio: Interview with Giorgio on Being Cut by the Packers

Giorgio Tavecchio talks about being cut by the Packers

Giorgio Tavecchio talks about being cut by the Packers

Giorgio Tavecchio speaks to Italian reporter Giovanni Marino, writer/blogger at Republicca.it about being cut by the Packers and what the future holds for him. Once again, only at ALLGBP.com, we translate this for you into English (free of charge, of course). You can find the original interview in Italian here.

The Interview:

NFL, Giorgio Tavecchio and hope for the Packers still burns.

It’s over. Indeed. Maybe. But not quite. You are cut, you’re out. But they may call you. AT any moment. Or never.

It would surely drive you mad, if you were directly involved in listening to the chaotic swirl of words and ability related to making an NFL roster. It touches all who engage in the quest to be part of the select group  of super athletes who will compete in the National football league.

And that is exactly what Giorgio Tavecchio, the man from Milan, is experiencing is experiencing after five months of genuine competition with the incumbent kicker kicker of the Green Bay Packers, Mason Crosby. The Italian American did pretty well by showing a better overall percentage over Crosby, but in the end, the coaching staff chose the veteran.

Technically, Giorgio, was cut. But never like this with so many perplexities. And not just from the Packer fans, which Tavecchio conquered with his dedication, his respect for others, his skills and his desire to always improve, but also of the coach, which, in essence hinted not to exclude the possibility of Tavecchio returning. It depends at this point, only on the performance of Crosby. If Crosby’s play does not instill confidence in the coaching staff, Tavecchio could return to the team.

These are complicated  days for Tavecchio, it would be for anyone who pursues a dream destination, and sees the finish line without being able to cut through it. Giorgio, however, once again, does not hide, and as he had previously promised (“I will always be ready to share with my Italian supporters every step of my experience in this world”) he speaks to  ”Playbook” with his usual clarity and authenticity.

Giovanni:  Georgio, compared to your experience with the San Francisco 49ers, you did much better. In kicking percentages, you actually beat Crosby. Still you didn’t get it done. Make a self-criticism: where do you think you went wrong?

6

August

Packers’ Tavecchio a Class Act, Says to fans: Respect Crosby

Mason Crosby & Giorgio Tavecchio

Mason Crosby & Giorgio Tavecchio

Giorgio Tavecchio speaks with Italian writer Giovanni (John) Marino of the LaRepubblica.It  ”Playbook” blog, where he talks about his Family Night performance and his outlook on competing with Mason Crosby.

Evidently, he’s a real class act.

Here’s the interview, translated from Italian by yours truly because, as I’ve discovered, most online translators just do a bad job. If you can read Italian and wish to see the original (and test my translation abilities), you can find it here.

NFL, Green Bay, crazy about Tavecchio but he shows class and asks fans to “Respect Crosby”

In this summer where Italy and Italians look more foolish than usual (see the chronicles of the pseudo political happenings in Italy) you can find in Wisconsin a pure breath of fresh air and Italian pride. A boy from Milan, regardless of how the story finishes, is conquering the skeptical (to say the least…) great American football audience with some NFL-level performances. But, above all, and this really makes us proud, with an attitude and sportsmanship that are difficult to find.

We’re talking about Giorgio Tavecchio who in his first experience at Lambeau Field, the Temple of american football, has done well, very well. And better, much better than his direct rival for a place in the NFL: Mason Crosby. His performance triggered, on the one hand, the enthusiasm of the people of Green Bay for him and, on the other hand, fierce criticism of Packers fans against the veteran.

The Interview:

Giovanni: Hi George, you won the challenge with Crosby in the family night event that saw about 65 thousand spectators, yes,  I said 65 thousand at Lambeau Field.

Giorgio: “It was the first time I played a match in that field and I have enjoyed every single moment. The crowd. The extraordinary cheering. The atmosphere. I’m a lucky guy to be able to experience those sensations. Thank you all, of course. ”

Giovanni: Explain what this match was.

Giorgio: “Basically a friendly competition between all players currently on the roster of the Packers. It works like this: the offense plays against the second team of defense and vice versa, so that everyone has an opportunity to play. ”

Giovanni: And for the kickers?  ”

Giorgio: We were divided into two teams but they have planned some kick offs and field goals during the game, allowing us kickers to alternate.

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. ”

26

March

Mama Mia, Packers Signing an Italian Kicker?

Packers Giorgio Tavecchio

Forza Tavecchio?

According to an Italian Web site and a tweet from current Packer Jeremy Ross, the Packers have signed former Cal kicker Giorgio Tavecchio. The left-footed Tavecchio was in camp with the 49ers last year, but was cut in favor of David Akers. Additional sources have reported the same news.

As a California Golden Bear, Tavechhio made 48 of 64 field goals (75%) and also missed 9 extra points (six in his Senior year).

According to the article (I can read Italian, but you can use google translate), Giorgo got a call from the Packers a week ago and went to Lambeau Field for a workout. He impressed there and then participated in what was described as a “Pro day” in Boca Raton (could have been the FAU Pro Day on March 19th?). He said he didn’t have his best day there, but still received positive comments from NFL coaches and scouts in attendance.

Tavecchio, born in Milan, Italy, claims to have signed a three-year contract, but tells his interviewer how there are no guarantees and he could easily be cut. He vows to give his all and ends the interview with a “Go Packers!”

My Reaction: In a word, disappointment. I’ve been waiting (and screaming) the last five years for the Packers to bring in some competition for Mason Crosby. Now that they finally bite the bullet and do so, it’s not exactly what I had in mind.

The overly cynical part of me wonders if this move is just a thinly veiled attempt to make Crosby look better in camp by comparison. My hope this year was that they would bring in a kicker with a real chance of winning the job, perhaps someone like Phil Dawson, who the 49ers just signed to replace David Akers. Dawson made the Pro Bowl in 2012 after hitting on 93.5% of his field goal attempts, including 7 of 7 from 50+ yards (7 of 8 the year before). Dawson signed a one-year contract for less than what Crosby makes.

But I digress. We all know that wasn’t going to happen. Still, Tavecchio was the best Ted Thompson could find? Hopefully, my pessimism is mis-placed and  since being cut last year in the 49ers camp, he’s worked on his game and ironed out his past issues. He does look decent in the video below, taken back in January.