Remember the television game show The $100,000 Pyramid?
That's child's play compared to what's at stake for Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby on Sunday when the Packers take on the Chicago Bears in the 2013 season finale.
Crosby can make up to $800,000 in bonuses if he finishes the regular season with a field-goal percentage of at least 85 percent.
So while the Packers find themselves in a do-or-die situation, win-and-they're-in type of scenario in terms of qualifying for the NFL's playoffs, Crosby has the added incentive of hundreds of thousands of dollars potentially riding on every field-goal attempt on Sunday.
It really doesn't come down to one game for Crosby, however. Sunday is just the culmination of a bounce-back season for the Packers kicker, in which his job itself was in question as late as the end of training camp.
Through the first 15 games of the 2013 season, Crosby has made 31 of 35 field goals for a percentage of 88.6, which would qualify for a career-best if he doesn't attempt a single field goal in the final game of the season.
That's a far cry from last season when Crosby made an NFL-low 63.6 percent of field goals that had some fans calling for his release.
During the offseason, the Packers brought in competition for Crosby for the first time since his since his rookie season in the form of street free agent Giorgio Tavecchio.
While Tavecchio put forth a valiant effort, the Packers decided to stick with Crosby despite an up-and-down training camp, low-lighted by converting only 3-8 field goals in the team's annual Family Night intra-squad scrimmage.
Just days before the team's final cutdown date to 53 players in late August, however, Crosby agreed to a restructured contract, bringing his guaranteed money down from $2.4 million to just $800,00 with an opportunity to earn all the money back in incentives.
With just one game to go, it's possible and perhaps likely Crosby earns back every penny.
Crosby has already earned $800,000 in bonuses for simply being on the team's active 46-man game day roster for Weeks 5 and 10 of the season, $400,000 each game. Essentially, these bonuses hedged against Crosby performing so poorly that he would be cut before the bonuses kicked in.
That brought up his season earnings to $1.6 million.
The last $800,000 in bonus money depends upon Crosby's season-ending field goal percentage. He'll make $200,000 if he makes at least 75 percent of his field-goal attempts, another $200,000 by making 80 percent and yet another $400,000 if he makes 85 percent.
The 75 percent bonus is a given, and it would take a performance of 0-4 or worse not to meet the 80 percent required for the next $200,000. It's the 85 percent or better benchmark that's still in doubt.
If Crosby were to miss two or more field goals on Sunday, which is conceivable given the cold and potentially inclement conditions outdoors in Chicago, he could be in danger of slipping under 85 percent.
Whether he goes 0-2, 1-3, 2-4 or worse, all those scenarios would result in a percentage south of 85. Only if he attempts five goals or more would two misses result in a percent of 85 or better.
In a twist of fate, Crosby has to feel lucky a blocked field goal last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers was nullified when a questionable penalty for illegally batting the ball forward was levied against the Steelers. Had the play stood, Crosby's margin for error this week would be even slimmer.
Whatever the result after Sunday's action, there's little doubt that Crosby has turned his fortunes around, going so far as to consider Pro Bowl consideration even if he ranks just 16th in the NFL in field goal percentage (among kickers with at least 10 attempts).
Crosby is also a perfect 39-39 on extra point attempts and gained back his kickoff duties after the first few games of the season when punter Tim Masthay briefly took over the role.
The final two season's of Crosby's contract remain unchanged, and the Packers have to be more than happy to pay Crosby his base salaries of $2.65 million in 2014 and $2.8 million in 2015 after such a successful 2013 campaign.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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