Green Bay Packers beat writer Paul Imig will be analyzing the 25 most important players to the Packers’ success in the 2014 season. Check back each weekday to see the latest player on the list. You can find the entire list here.
NOTE: This is not a list of the team’s 25 best players, but rather it’s a list of which players mean the most to how Green Bay will fare this year. Criteria such as depth at that player’s position, general expectations and overall importance of that player having a good season are all highly considered.
NO. 10 — MASON CROSBY, KICKER
AGE / EXPERIENCE
29 / Eighth NFL season
WHY HE’S NO. 10
Mason Crosby followed up the worst season of his career in 2012 with the best season of his career in 2013. However, he’s not completely in the clear just yet. Crosby will need an equally productive 2014 season to put any doubts to rest that he could struggle mightily again.
Crosby missed only four of his 37 field-goal attempts last season, equating to an 89.2 percentage. A year earlier, he missed 12 of his 33 field-goal attempts, which was just 63.6 percent. The difference between those percentages is the difference between having a challenger for the job and not having a challenger for the job.
It was in the 2013 training camp that the Packers brought in Giorgio Tavecchio (and later Zachary Ramirez) to challenge Crosby. It was the first time since Crosby’s rookie season that he had anyone to directly compete against. This year, Crosby earned the right to once again be all by himself when Green Bay goes into kicking drills.
Crosby is No. 10 on this list because he needs to consistently be the kicker he was in 2013. He can’t revert back to his 2012 ways, because if he does, the Packers — and Crosby’s career — are in trouble. The team has substantially lengthened the leash on him, but that could be temporary if things go south once again for Crosby.
EXPECTATIONS FOR 2014
The confidence that head coach Mike McCarthy had in Crosby in the second half of the 2012 season was very low. McCarthy showed that by not taking any chances on what would have been long field-goal attempts — even though they were field-goal attempts that most NFL kickers would have been given a chance to make. McCarthy re-discovered his confidence in him last season, and Crosby can’t let that dip so low again.
Crosby’s career field-goal percentage is 78.7 percent. That’s not very good. Compare that to kickers in the 2013 season, and Crosby’s career success rate would have ranked him 28th in the NFL. Putting aside his significant struggles in 2012, Crosby has actually had his two best seasons in the past three years, making more than 85 percent in both 2011 and 2013.
It’s at or above 85 percent that Crosby needs to find himself at again. In a league where field-goal attempts are being made at an all-time-high rate, even 85 percent doesn’t make it in the top 20. That’s right: the top 20 kickers in 2013 were all better than 85 percent. But still, that’s about where expectations for Crosby need to sit for now, and if he can surpass that, the Packers would be happy.
WHAT WOULD THEY DO WITHOUT HIM?
Green Bay has no intentions of giving Crosby any direct, in-person competition this year in training camp. It’s Crosby versus Crosby, winner take all.
In the event Crosby reverts back to his 2012 form, the Packers may not hesitate to bring in another kicker, even if that happens midseason. The team has been down that bad road before with Crosby, and it’s safe to assume that lessons have been learned. Tavecchio might be on speed dial if he’s a free agent at the time, but there are many other Tavecchio-type kickers waiting for an opportunity in the NFL.
Though it won’t help the Packers this season, if Crosby does happen to falter, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if they drafted a kicker in 2015 and made him the new face of the position next year.