GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers have bet on Mason Crosby before. They’re doing it again.
On Monday, a day after Crosby missed a chip-shot field goal in a 34-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, coach Matt LaFleur said there was “absolutely” no thought to making a change at kicker.
LaFleur’s predecessor, Mike McCarthy, struck the same chord in 2012. In a late-season victory at Chicago, Crosby missed two field goals to push his season success rate to just 58.6 percent.
“We are not changing our kicker, so you can write that down right now,” McCarthy said after that game. “He is our guy. He needs to make those kicks; he knows that.”
The Packers won that bet. Crosby made his final four attempts of the regular season and both tries in the playoffs. After finishing with a league-worst 63.6 percent success rate, Crosby had to fight for his job in 2013. He beat out Giorgio Tavecchio and Zach Ramirez, agreed to a renegotiated, incentives-based contract and wound up converting 89.2 percent of his attempts – a career-best mark at the time.
“I just felt he was going through a tough patch and just needed support. It worked out. Thank God we were smart enough to go that way,” McCarthy said.
Crosby kept on rolling. After making 80-plus percent of his field goals just once in his first six seasons, he topped 80 percent in five of his next six. That includes 2018, when he infamously missed four field goals and an extra point in a Week 5 game at Detroit. Noting the Packers were breaking in a new operation with the rookie duo of long snapper Hunter Bradley and punter/holder JK Scott, McCarthy had Crosby’s back once again.
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Getting back the team’s All-Pro cornerback, All-Pro left tackle and Pro Bowl outside linebacker, to state the obvious, would be a huge lift to the 9-3 Packers.
“He’s an extraordinary leader with those two young guys,” McCarthy said after that game. “He’s definitely a little bit of a growing curve there that I think it was obvious we’re going to have work through when the roster was established.”
The Packers won that bet, too. Crosby closed that season by making 19-of-21 field-goal attempts. He followed that by going 22-of-24 in 2020 and 16-of-16 in 2021. That’s a 43-game total of 57-of-61. Throw in 4-of-4 in those playoffs, and Crosby’s 47-game success rate was 93.8 percent. Only Jacksonville’s Josh Lambo was better during that span, with Lambo obviously benefitting from better late-season weather than Crosby.
The Packers once again are siding with Crosby’s long-term body of work. He’s 15-of-23 on field goals this season, his 65.2 percent marksmanship and eight misses being the worst in the NFL. After making his first nine attempts of the season, he’s 6-of-14 – the worst slump of his career.
As was the case in 2018, the Packers are breaking in a new operation. They acquired punter Corey Bojorquez at the end of training camp and dumped the reliable Scott. With Crosby in the midst of his slump, the Packers released Bradley three weeks ago and promoted Steven Wirtel from the practice squad. In the three games with Crosby, Bojorquez and Wirtel, the team has made just 2-of-6 field-goal attempts.
The Packers are 8-3 but they’re not a dominant team. As key injuries have piled up, the margin for error has gotten smaller and smaller. Who knows how the games would have played out had Crosby made all of his field-goal attempts, but he missed two kicks in a six-point loss at Kansas City and one kick in a three-point loss at Minnesota.
Nonetheless, the Packers are standing by their man – just as they have before. J.J. Molson, who made a 60-yard attempt as part of an impressive training camp, is on the practice squad. The Packers have protected him every week to prevent him from being poached by another team. So, clearly, he’s seen as perhaps the kicker of the future as the team has major cap issues to wrestle with this coming offseason.
But Crosby remains the kicker for today. There have been bad snaps, bad holds, bad protection and bad kicks. The hope is once those ancillary issues are squared away, Crosby will get back into his usual groove for the stretch run of the season and the playoffs.
“We’re still working through that whole process,” LaFleur said. “That never falls squarely on one individual. Our operation has got to improve. That’s from the snap to the hold to the kick. We’ll continue to work on that but we have a lot of confidence in Mason. We never would have sent him out there if we didn’t, on a 54-yarder, and he came through. I just think that shows the level of confidence we have not only in him, but that entire group to go out there and execute, and they did a great job on that one. Certainly, you’ve got to make the chip shots. We can’t do that on a 31-yard attempt.”