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).

I felt all along that competition for Crosby and potentially worrying about his job or salary would be the type of pressure he would either use as a) motivation and excel in or b) cause him to wilt like a flower in the hot sun.

After Crosby finished with a horrid 63% kicking percentage in 2012, Ted Thompson finally corrected one of his biggest faux pas and brought in some competition for Crosby. I remember many saying over the years you don’t want to upset Crosby’s delicate psyche by bringing in competition. To that I said, if he can’t handle it, I don’t want him.

Just as importantly though, Thompson restructured Crosby’s contract to be heavy on incentives.

The conversation probably went like this. “Mason, you sucked pretty bad last year and you’re being out kicked in camp by Giorgio Tavecchio. Despite all of that, we still want to keep you as our kicker. However, the only way you can keep your job is by conceding salary for a heavy incentive-laden contract. Deal?”

Crosby wisely took the deal, and to his credit, did not wilt under the pressure. He excelled.

I noticed the difference in his kicks early in the season. They no longer had any tail or hook to them. They were straight lines. Watch most any top NFL kicker, and that’s what you’ll see. To have the top accuracy numbers, you can’t have kicks with late movement left or right.

There were obviously some adjustments made. Perhaps Shawn Slocum finally found the answer. Perhaps Crosby finally ignored Slocum’s advice and did things his way. Who knows? And who cares?

The Packers finally got what they needed from Crosby.

Crosby got what he needed career-wise.

And I finally got what I wanted.

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Author’s Note:

Irony of all ironies department: I sat across the aisle from Mason’s Mom on my connecting flight from Chicago to Green Bay. She, a young lady in the Navy on my right, and I had a non-stop conversation for the entire flight. Mrs. Crosby was thoroughly lovely and talked our ears off. We covered many topics (but mostly about Mason) like we were old friends. I’ll keep the majority of our conversation private, but suffice to say I did feel pretty bad that I had ever been somewhat critical of this incredibly nice woman’s son.  The entire time I kept saying to myself, “if only she knew who she was talking to…”).  Based on this experience, I have no doubt that Mason must be a really good person having been raised by this woman.  I only include this note to further make my point. A few times during the conversation I said to her, “He had a great season.” Each time, her face got a bit serious and she said, “We really needed that.” Not HE really needed that, but WE really needed that. Obviously, the Crosby family was feeling the pressure too.  If by some chance Mrs. Crosby is reading this, I’m sorry I was hard on your son, but all along, I just wanted him to be what the Packers needed him to be.  And I’m glad he got there this year. May he have continued success.

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He is a PFWA member who can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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21 Responses to “Kudos to Crosby: Packers Kicker Answers the Critics and Naysayers”

  1. Razer says:

    Good of you to say so Jersey Al. I think that Mason Crosby embodies what the Packers are all about and how they operate. The organization looks down the road and invests in its people and players. A guy like Crosby was given every opportunity to get on track and excel. He was supported by his coaches and his teammates because they realize that there are ups and downs to a career. The faith and investment speaks volumes about all parties.

    I think that we saw the same reward come back from Matt Flynn. We invested and trained him and he is a perfect player for this team. None of the other organizations would go this far and released him before he could show his potential. Their loss.

    You can even look to Justin Harrell and extend these principles. Yes he didn’t work out. He was a huge reach. But, the Packers gave him every opportunity to excel and demonstrate his skills. When he was let go, no other team would find the potential that the Packers couldn’t find.

    I think that players believe that they will get great coaching, total support and every opportunity to make it in Green Bay. That translates into a good working environment and great potential for both player and team. The Packers do it right.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  2. JimR_in_DC says:

    Nice article, Al, and the Author’s Note is fantastic. Thanks for sharing it with us. :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. Barutan Seijin says:

    I’ve always agreed with you about Crosby, Al. I still do.

    The bit about Crosby’s mother is great. Thanks for all you do here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. Big O says:

    Ya, it was something I noticed this year, nothing really being said about, when last year he was under the big guns constantly, good artical, and nice job this year Mason Crosby!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Since '61 says:

    Al – Crosby had a great season this year and made a nice comeback from 2012, but you did an even better job with the article and author’s note. Great work as usual! Thanks, Since ’61

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. tim says:

    I’ve been critical of Mason Crosby as well, but he’s one of the few packers who exceeded expectations this season in my eyes. He’s kicked a few monster field goals in pressure spots. Gotta give him his due.

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  7. tim says:

    I can remember the way back days of some pretty bad kickers around green bay. Booth Lustig, Tom Birney, Mike Mercer, Dale Livingston, Eddie Garcia…etc. It was a 50:50 proposition. We couldn’t dare try a 50 harder! It was ugly! (Jeez Al, now you’ve got me thinking – I hope their moms aren’t reading this)
    I bet some of the seasoned packer fans like me remember those days. Even “greats” like Marcol, Chandler or Kramer were iffier than today’s kickers.

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  8. Slim11 says:

    Being a former high chool and college kicker, I was pleased to see Mason Crosby come back the way he did.

    Several years ago, I had a chance to see him working by himself at a preseason pracrtice. If I’d worked 10% as hard as seeing him work, I would have had a more productive college career to look back on.

    In addition to all he’s done as a kicker, he can tackle, too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. Since '61 says:

    Tim – I remember Paul Hornung kicking extra points and field goals. 3 FGs in the ’61 NFL title game against NYG, plus 4 xtra points and a TD for 19 points by Paul for the day. In ’62 title game Kramer kicked 3 FGs in a 16-7 victory again over NYG for back to back NFL titles. Chandler came in later and Marcol in the ’70s. Marcol was pretty accurate and had a very strong leg. Today’s kickers are scary, pretty soon the 60 yard FG might become normal. Thanks, Since ’61

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  10. Chad Lundberg says:

    Jersey Al… giving credit… to Crosby..
    fish… riding on… bicycles…

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      ha!

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      • Chad Lundberg says:

        lol. In all seriousness, you were dead on with your criticism of Crosby. I never really thought much of the guy before this year. In fact, I was one who said get rid of him!

        Really have to give MM credit for sticking with him and Crosby give himself a lot of credit for making a 180 as sharp as he did. It might have been his family’s financial situation as you stated, however it also might have been the competition they finally brought in as well. Maybe both.

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  11. Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

    I did my dissertation in performance anxiety, and one of the things I discovered was that in those who have attained expert status in any motor skill (aka – all NFL players) there is an inverse relationship between the current amount of self focused attention and the level of performance.

    In 2012, Mason’s first real shank (the 58 yarder before halftime in the loss to Indy) shook him a bit. He didn’t know why he missed it that badly. He was embarrassed and reverted to analyzing himself. (If you want to remind yourself go look up his quotes from mid season and later..) Of course, that didn’t work…and he completely lost his confidence. It was obvious. By the end of the year he was just trying to whale on the ball. It was painful to watch.

    I thought we were in big trouble when TT brought him back. I speak from experience – it’s really hard to gain confidence back after you’ve lost it when you are dealing with procedural level (professionals) movement. The pressure to perform is SO high that the time to fix things isn’t usually given. You have to make the corrections and then unlearn the fixes – so you can just “do it.” Obviously I wasn’t in the room during discussions with SS and MC – but he got back to the correct way to do procedural action – analyzing himself in practice and just kicking it in games.

    As I always tell my students: Performing is like being a race car driver – your job is to drive the car. The coach’s job (as the mechanic) is to know what’s wrong from watching the car go and to fix it up when it’s in the garage. Don’t try to be a mechanic when you’re driving down the road at 60 mph. We have to give credit here where credit is due: to both the car driver (Crosby) and his mechanic (Slocumb).

    Coming out of a slump like this is the hardest thing to do in a professional context. With the way Crosby made the corrections to both his physical and mental set up this year, it looks the Green Bay Packers have found their kicker for the next decade.

    Everyone wins.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

    • Bedroske says:

      So, Bearmeat, in your professional opionion, is Crosby better able to handle a future slump having brought himself back from the depths of kicking hell?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

        Absolutely. Everyone goes through slumps. We’re not robots. Human beings strive to get to expert status and then mistakenly try to stay consistent (or even worse, stay perfect) every minute of every day.

        A more appropriate performance model would be to attain expert status as quickly as possible (Crosby did this – he was a GREAT kicker at CU Boulder), and then know yourself well enough to know when something isn’t right. Break it down quickly (The car is in the garage) and then get back out there (The car is on the race track).

        The trouble comes in for 2 reasons:

        1. Many athletes (or professionals using any type of motor skill) DON’T know how to analyze themselves at all. These would be the Tim Tebows, Vince Youngs or Chris Johnson’s of the world: Insanely talented individuals that have gotten by until on being more gifted than their competition – until they run into people who ARE as gifted as them. They don’t know how to prepare to improve themselves – so they are screwed. Career over.

        2. Those who’ve had to work extremely hard for what they have (like Crosby). These guys KNOW what makes their profession work. They KNOW the skills backwards and forwards. Unfortunately, they know too much – and end up driving down the road at 60 MPH with their head under the hood. They can’t forget their training and just “reinvest” in the education during the critical moment. Thus, their motor skills slow down and become clumsy. What’s going to happen? A bad pass, a missed block, a shanked kick. (or in my case, a missed note) :D This “letting go” in the critical moment is REALLY hard to do for these types of people.

        For example – if I were to coach you how to eat soup while you were doing it as an adult – it would NOT be helpful to you. Just eat it. You are a “soup eating professional” You have trained yourself since a young age in how to eat. You don’t need instruction during the task.

        So it is with Crosby. When he’s going through a slump – it’s time to reinforce the old knowledge. (That’s what he did). Then once you are “on stage” just let go.

        The best of the best know to both practice like it’s the most important thing in the world to them – AND – to perform like they don’t give a damn.

        We have a kicker who now knows how to handle both – who happens to be a physical freak of nature. It’s a good place to be. I expect Crosby to be a great player for us for a long time now.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      I live the driver/mechanic analogy… Good comment!

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  12. tim says:

    Hi since ’61. I was pretty young when Hornung was a kicker. I do remember him with Starr and Taylor. Nice backfield! I especially remember him in a game against Cleveland picking his way though and around the Browns in the mud. There was something about #5.

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  13. WKUPackFan says:

    So glad for Crosby. Great writing Al, you’re obviously as good a person as the people here who have met you say. Bearmeat, fantastic insight. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge, especially in such a coherent and understandable way.

    I was so happy when Crosby arrived in GB because it meant the end of Longwell kicking off to the 12 or so yard line. The Pack suffered field position problems for years because of that.

    Now if they could just get Masthay to kick it out of the end zone every time. The best KR coverage is the one that never has to cover,

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