Since joining Green Bay in 2007, Mason Crosby has made 78% of his field goals. The league average during that time is just over 82%. Does that make the former Colorado star a below-average placekicker? Hardly. While the 26-year-old certainly isn’t Rob Bironas (Titans), Robbie Gould (Bears) or Adam Vinatieri (Patriots), he’ll make any top 12 list that rightfully factors in weather conditions, average distance of attempt and postseason performance when assessing kickers. The very fact that the Packers want to re-sign Crosby suggests general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy know all too well that there are lies, damned lies and statistics.
Crosby has kicked in 64 regular season games with Green Bay, and only 13 have been played in domes. That means 80% of his games have been played outdoors. No other kicker has performed as often in the elements during that same time period. And as we all know, playing in the elements in Wisconsin is hardly the same thing as playing in the elements almost anyplace else. So how big of a difference does the climate make? Ryan Longwell, considered by some to be the greatest kicker in franchise history, went from converting 81% of his kicks with the Packers to converting 88% of his kicks with the Vikings. Not coincidentally, Longwell has kicked outdoors only 22 times since switching teams.
Another thing that must be taken into consideration when analyzing kickers is the length of their attempts. Since ’07, Crosby has been called on 21 times from beyond 50 yards. That means a whopping 15% of his field goals have been attempted from long distance. Conversely, Bironas has attempted only 15 such kicks, Gould 9 and Vinatieri 3. This isn’t to suggest that Crosby is as good as those three Pro Bowlers, but the degree of difficulty has to be a taken into consideration when determining just how inferior to them he really is.
Probably the biggest knock on Crosby is his performance in pressure situations. And while it’s true that he hasn’t kicked a game-winner since the opener in Philadelphia in ’07 and that he’s missed a few over the years, he’s also come up big in the two biggest games the Packers have played in the past four seasons. He made two huge field goals in the 2007 NFC Championship against the Giants – including one in the fourth quarter of what will be remembered as one of the worst weather games in league history. And his field goal with two minutes left in Super Bowl XLV increased Green Bay’s lead from 3 to 6 points and changed the way Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers attacked their last possession.
When you also factor in his strong kickoffs (when he’s actually allowed to kick deep), his ability to tackle on returns and his solid personality, it’s easy to see why the Packers like Crosby so much. And while he may never be among the league leaders in field goal percentage, he’ll probably never have one of those meltdown seasons that seem to affect the majority of kickers at least one time in their careers. That may not be good enough for some fans, but it seems to be good enough for Thompson and McCarthy. And for two men who won’t settle for mediocrity, that should tell you all you need to know about Crosby.