When the Green Bay Packers signed Giorgio Tavecchio to “compete” with Mason Crosby for the starting kicker job, Packers fans everywhere chuckled.
There was no way Tavecchio, an undrafted free agent in 2012 cut by the 49ers, would unseat Green Bay’s long-time incumbent kicker right? This was just a move by general manager Ted Thompson to appease those calling for Crosby’s head after a poor 2012. It had to be.
Well, that very well may have been Thompson’s mindset in March when Tavecchio was brought on board but it’s not anymore. Thanks to a poor showing by Crosby in the team’s annual Family Night scrimmage (3-8 overall) and a solid night by Tavecchio (6-7 overall), the kicking competition is serious, and don’t call it Shirley.
Everyone hoped Crosby’s 2012 struggles were behind him and the early news from training camp looked promising. Things went right back downhill during Family Night however and the frustrated look on Crosby’s face Saturday night didn’t exactly inspire confidence in the veteran. It is clear Crosby’s confidence has been on thin ice since last season ended and it’s beginning to break before the first preseason game.
Further proof that the vultures may be circling over Crosby was the comment coach Mike McCarthy made about his kicker after the scrimmage. In short, he wasn’t pleased. McCarthy said that Crosby “definitely didn’t take a step in the right direction” and that “he’s definitely got to do better than that because that’s not going to cut it.”
That’s quite the change from the defiant McCarthy who stood firmly behind his kicker last season despite some serious accuracy problems.
What did Crosby think of his performance? Well, he said he was “way past” his issues from last year and that he’s “just working on things.” Not exactly a ringing self-endorsement. In Crosby’s defense, he did say he knows his performance in the scrimmage was “unacceptable and I have to do better.”
So where do (or should) the Packers go from here?
It’s time to cut the cord with Crosby. With as much time between the end of last season and training camp, Crosby should have had enough time to exorcise the mental demons that were plaguing him in 2012 and come back strong in 2013.
For whatever reason, it didn’t happen and the Packers can ill afford a repeat of last season from their kicker. With a much tougher schedule in 2013, Green Bay will likely be in for a fair amount of close games that could very well come down to a field goal attempt. That could possibly be the difference between the team making the playoffs and sitting at home. You just don’t know what to expect in today’s NFL. A contender in August could be a pretender in December.
Does anyone have confidence that Crosby is the guy for that kind of situation? Anyone? Bueller?
Just because Crosby could be thrown to the curb doesn’t make Tavecchio the new starter by default, however. His leg strength remains a concern and if the Packers do go with the Italian as their kicker, it could very well mean punter Tim Masthay would handle kickoff duties. It’s not exactly an ideal situation.
Therefore, Thompson should do what he should have done in the first place: bring in a legitimate veteran to compete for the job. Keep in mind this isn’t necessarily to challenge Crosby. He could be cut and the veteran could face off against Tavecchio. Handling the kicking competition “Gong Show” style is the way the Packers might have to do this.
It’s admirable to stand by your players until the bitter end, but Thompson has to swallow his pride and cut Crosby loose. Fans (and probably coaches and players too) will be holding their breath every time Crosby lines up to kick a field goal and nothing can change that now, especially in light of tonight’s performance. Crosby could have a perfect preseason and that probably won’t be enough to scare off the ghosts of 2012.
Olindo Mare is still available. While he may be 40 and have lost some strength in his leg, he won’t have nearly the mental baggage that Crosby has right now. Kicking, perhaps more than any position in football, is as much mental as it is physical and a successful kicker has their head on straight.
That’s not Crosby right now and nothing he can say can change that fact.
This isn’t to say the Packers need Mare specifically. There are many good veteran kickers that are free agents right now. Any one of them at this point would be an improvement over Crosby. Tavecchio may even end up being the best option for the Packers when it’s all said and done.
Thompson has got to pull the trigger here. He won’t be able to live with himself if Crosby doinks a kick in December and it keeps his team out of the postseason. It shouldn’t take that kind of heartbreak to force the general manager’s hand. There’s probably nothing to worry about on that front, however. If McCarthy is losing patience with Crosby, Thompson likely isn’t far behind.
Crosby should be thanked and appreciated for his years of service to the Packers, but the time has come to close the chapter on this era. Letting him go would be the best thing for both Green Bay and Crosby. It would allow the kicker to hit the reset button in his head and hopefully get out of his slump while the Packers would get a much needed boost at the position.
The time has come. Crosby has got to go.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke