Green Bay Packers’ Mason Crosby: Mediocrity Rewarded

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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:

2007    16
2008    17
2009    11

Looking back at Crosby’s career as a place kicker, starting with his senior year in High School, here are Crosby’s FG%s:.

HSY4    63.6%
CY1    77.8%
CY2    82.6%
CY3    75.0%
CY4    67.9%
NFLY1    79.5%
NFLY2    79.4%
NFLY3    75.0%

Sophomore year in college was the only time Crosby has EVER broken 80%. So tell me, Crosby defenders, what makes you think he is just an adjustment away from even being a “good” NFL kicker?

Even before his poor 2009, I questioned why there was no competition brought in during the 2009 training camp to push Crosby. As I wrote during the first week of camp, “I feel Crosby is being given an undeserved pass and there should be another kicker in camp to push him, if nothing else.” Yes, a little competition can be a great motivator. Instead, the Packers just handed the job to a kicker that finished in the bottom 20% of NFL kickers his first two seasons.

So what will happen in 2010? While there are a few unrestricted free agent kickers that would be an improvement over Crosby (Shayne Graham and Jay Feely, for example), they will both command higher salaries than even Crosby’s 2010 overpaid $1M contract will provide. That, of course, makes it extremely unlikely that Ted Thompson will be calling their agents anytime soon.

Looking at the NFL draft, it’s not a strong year for placekickers. There aren’t any kickers that would warrant using anything other than a late 6th or 7th round pick. With Ted Thompson having used a 6th round pick just 3 years ago to select Crosby, I think it’s unlikely Ted Thompson would use another pick so soon on a kicker.

So, it appears a street free agent or an undrafted placekicker after the upcoming draft would be the most likely method Ted Thompson uses to bring in some competition for Crosby. But will he even do that?

When I called for some kicking competition for Crosby last year, some readers pointed out that most teams don’t want to waste one of those 83 valuable training camp roster spots on a second kicker. Fair enough I say, but do the Packers really need to bring 11 wide receivers to camp like they did last year? I’d would opt to go with 10 and bring someone in to give Crosby something to worry about. Maybe he’ll have the motivation to find that magic adjustment you Crosby defenders are waiting for. Imagine what he’ll make in incentives then…

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Jersey Al Bracco is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com. You can find more of Jersey Al ’s articles on several sports web sites: NFL Touchdown , Packers Lounge , Packer Chatters & Bleacher Report .

  • chazman

    I was one of those Crosby defenders, his first year had promise but after his last couple of years and with those wonderfully inept statistics you just brought up of his whole career . . . it’s past time for competition this training camp. And all from the right hash mark . . .

  • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

    Most people were fooled his first year, myself included. Mainly because he got so many opportunities, he ended up being the leader in points, so we all thought life is good. But dig deeper and the facts jump out at you…

  • Erin

    Nice article. Yeah after his 1st year I thought we had the kicker of the future. He seemed to be making a ton of clutch kicks, but the last 2 years he seems to miss kicks when it matters most. I guess I will be hesitant going in to this year, but we will just have to wait and see.

  • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

    For a rookie kicker, his first year was good enough. But only because you would expect improvement. instead, he’s gone in the opposite direction. That’s a big concern.

  • Ron LC

    For a “strong legged kicker”, his touchback ratio has not impressed. His accuracy remains his biggest problem. But he did kick that onside beauty. That must have been the incentive trigger. That, or he’s still breathing.

    I’m afraid that much like O linemen and punters, TT believes in a maximum salary. So, don’t hold your breath on the FA madket.

  • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

    Ron,

    I would never expect TT to sign a FA kicker, especially with Crosby being the guy he drafted. i just want to see another kicker in camp to give Crosby a little push.

  • Ron LC

    You’re right Al, that is the best we can hope for. And I’m afraid that’s about all we can hope for with O linmen too. He’s allocated a certain amount to the O line and that’s all they get. Maybe I’m wrong, I hope so.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Well, there better be some new OL faces this year (draft picks), or Packer fans everywhere will be up in arms…

  • PackersRS

    But nothing’s gonna change… We’ll get a new punter, which is nice, but nothing’s gonna change. He won’t even get competition…

    For all the talk about improving the ST play, Crosby’s got a free pass, so it seems…

  • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

    Yes he does, and that’s what bothers me…

  • Ron LC

    You are absolutely correct, RS. Just think how good that Offense would be if they had a line that could keep Rodgers vertical and actually make a hole for Grant.

    Hopefully Crosby has been in therapy (mental) sessions at least.

  • http://packerchatters.com MJ Kasprzak

    Love the line about votes of confidence and Thompson’s WRs. Like the whole tone, actually. And while I did defend Crosby last off-season because I think he had a pretty good rookie year, he has only gotten worse. I still like that he can make 50+ FGs and kickoff further than the 10 (cough*Longwell!), but it’s not worth the trade-off. I;d love it if we cut him and signed Feeley.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Thanks for stopping by MJ. We were all fooled by his rookie year because he was the points leader. But he still didn’t hit 80%.

      • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

        test

  • John Rehor

    Strong leg-yes. Inaccurate, in particular at the worst times-yes. He may have the support from the coaches and GM, but I wonder how confident they would feel if their job security came down to his leg? The fans have already voiced their opinion. Next season, if the Packers fizzle out as a direct result of Crosby’s inaccuracy,I wonder what Murphy and the Board of Directors would say about the vote of confidence given to Crosby repeatedly.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      John,

      Funny thing is, their job security DOES come down to his leg. Many games are decided in the end on one swing of the kicker’s leg. That’s actually one thing I dislike about football (kind of like soccer games being decided by penalty kicks).

  • Ruppert

    Great stats, Al. I’m going to be very upset if they don’t bring in real competition during training camp. This is going to sound stupid, but I have always been a little paranoid about Crosby just because his FG kicks never seem to sail on a perfectly straight path (even the good ones). Practically all of his kicks, even XPs, tend to bend one way or another en route to the goal posts. This had better not turn into another punter-type situation.

  • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

    Ruppert, here’s some more for you… On a Packers forum, someone made the argument that the stats were skewed because of crosby kicking in Cold weather and being asked to kick a lot of long field goals. Here was my answer:

    Cold weather and being asked to kick more long field goals are definitely factors that will affect a kicker’s overall average. Nobody can dispute that.

    But other kickers have to kick in cold weather and they have performed much better than Crosby. Reed, Akers, Dawson, Gould, Prater, Lindell, Tynes, Gostkowski, Feely, Graham – all better than Crosby. Out of these 10 cold weather kickers, 7 have better percentages from 50+ yards than Crosby. and all 10 have better percentages from 40-49 yards. This is all on NFL.com stats page.

    So as far as I’m concerned, there are no excuses.

  • John Rehor

    “Thanks for stopping by MJ. We were all fooled by his rookie year because he was the points leader. But he still didn’t hit 80%.”

    In hindsight there were issues with the 07 team that went 13-3. Kicking was part of it, but everyone was so thrilled by the success of the team they were sewpt under the rug. Crosby was ok, not bad for a rookie. It was 08 when missing field goals to win games which could have put them in the playoffs that eyebrows should have been raised. And to not bring competition into camp was inexcusable. Now he doubles his salary. I just dont get it.

  • http://www.greenbaypackernation.com Brady Augustine

    Laughed my tail off at the list of incentive triggers!

    Great post, and I agree that Mason is just not putting enough through. That is the bottom line. But we cannot forget to ask the question “who would replace him?”. I am for getting competition into camp against Mason but who out there would beat him? I think the Mason apologists are right on some levels if they try to answer that question and factor in variables like:

    1. Does the kicker kick indoors or outdoors, if outdoors is it windy and what is the temperature. These all complicate each individual kick and wind in particular can change from the time the kick leaves the kicker’s foot to the time it crosses the plane of the goal posts.

    2. Does the kicker get put on the field for kicks over 50 yards on a regular basis (Crosby) or does the team decide to punt if they cannot get closer (Longwell).

    3.Other factors, especially when considering stats back to high school – coaches change, player psychology (and physiology) change (I would suspect there are those who call for the high school numbers to drop out entirely for those reasons).

    4. There might need to be a built-in offset for such variables such as dropping out the best and worst numbers or calculating a mean for the college and NFL years. But that wouldn’t negate the fact that Mason’s worst NFL year was his most recent one which is a very strong point.

    5. Does the kicker also have value as a placekicker?

    6. Each field goal is so fine-tuned that I think there is some truth to the point that with one adjustment, Mason Crosby is just fine. It may be coaching, it may be snapping, it may be holding….it may be Crosby (probably is) but again:

    7. If Crosby apologists could show that TWO of his field goals were missed due to something other than his own incompetence…they would have something because then his percentage would be over 80. If they could show that he missed ONE field goal last season due to something other than him having his pants on backwards, he is back to 78%. I can think of only one field goal the whole season that I thought the ball placement was poor but there may be more.

    In summary, I think someone SHOULD be there to challenge Mason in Green Bay in August. But I also think that Mason is CLOSER to that 80% all things considered and that though we need to risk it, the Packers could find someone who beats Crosby by a kick or two in August in Green Bay…somebody that we can’t even put on the field over 45 yards in December…I think that chance may be why some of the Crosby apologists are still pulling for him.

    Or maybe it is just because he had that cool “Pick me!” commercial where he dinged the bell in the campus bell tower three minutes before the hour.

    Thanks for a great post and one that really got me thinking. Please forgive any stupidity herein as i am really just thinking off the top of my head here and kind of working through my own thoughts about the guy.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Brady,

      Jay Feely is one guy that’s out there that would be an improvement over Crosby, but admittedly, it wouldn’t be the real answer.

      I don’t know if you had time to read the comments, also, but I addressed the issue of cold weather kickers and long field goals. To save you time looking for it, here it is again:

      On a Packers forum, someone made the argument that the stats were skewed because of Crosby kicking in Cold weather and being asked to kick a lot of long field goals. Here was my answer:

      Cold weather and being asked to kick more long field goals are definitely factors that will affect a kicker’s overall average. Nobody can dispute that.

      But other kickers have to kick in cold weather and they have performed much better than Crosby. Reed, Akers, Dawson, Gould, Prater, Lindell, Tynes, Gostkowski, Feely, Graham – all better than Crosby. Out of these 10 cold weather kickers, 7 have better percentages from 50+ yards than Crosby. and all 10 have better percentages from 40-49 yards. This is all on NFL.com stats page.

      So as far as I’m concerned, there are no excuses.

      • http://www.greenbaypackernation.com Brady Augustine

        Oh I am absolutely all for getting one of those guys who has proved he can kick in cold weather! But I think the most likely scenario is that we get someone who hasn’t proved it and have to take that uncertainty into the next season. I think maybe the Jon Ryan story from a couple years ago has me unsure of “the guy we got” and also unsure of who we might get next.

        • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

          I think the most likely scenario is that Crosby is handed the job again. And I’ll still be kicking and screaming about it…

  • TRveor Hill

    can you put a mason crosby jersey for sale