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