Sometime during the course of Mason Crosby’s season-long slump, you’ve probably heard or read the art of kicking compared to the game of golf.
The similarities are undeniable:
- The pendulum-like swing of the club and the leg
- The split-second of contact that determines the flight of the ball
- The ability of the ball to either hook or slice
- The differing approach to long-distance drives as opposed to chip shots and, of course…
- The mental side of the game that can have almost as much impact as the physical aspect
For as much as kicking and golf have in common, however, the game of football and golf have more differences.
Golf is an individual sport.
When Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson go into a slump, when their swing is out of whack, they compete through it. They have no choice.
In golf, you are your own team. There’s no one on the bench or free agents on the street to replace a golfer.
Sure, some of the biggest names in golf might be afforded the opportunity to take a few tournaments off to work on their mechanics, but not those fighting to make a living off the sport and definitely not in any major tournaments.
Football, it goes without saying, is a team sport. The successes and failures of any one player have an impact on the team as a whole. And Crosby’s performance has an impact on the other 52 players on the roster, the coaching staff, the front office and even the fan base that supports the team.
Mike McCarthy has remained steadfast in his devotion to Crosby, saying he will remain the Packers kicker and making reference to the organization’s draft and develop philosophy, a commitment to the players in which the team has made an investment.
There’s certainly a value to that line of thinking. Players aren’t constantly looking over their shoulder, which instills a sense of confidence and, perhaps, makes it more likely a player is going to improve or break out of a slump.
It also shows that, at least in some places, maybe the NFL isn’t quite the cruel, cut-throat business it’s so often perceived to be.
The Packers made the correct choice to hang onto Crosby following the game against the Detroit Lions back during Week 11 after he missed two of three field goals (not including another miss on a late timeout called by Detroit). The hope was that Crosby had hit rock bottom and would rebound.
But Week 11 wasn’t rock bottom.
There’s also a line of thinking that the Packers won’t make a move to oust Crosby until he actually costs them a game. But can the Packers afford for Crosby to cost them a game in the playoffs?
While McCarthy’s faith in Crosby is admirable, the coach shouldn’t lean toward being stubborn. A miss by Crosby in the playoffs could cut McCarthy’s tenure short in Green Bay by several seasons.
That’s not to intimate McCarthy will be fired if Crosby misses a playoff field goal. But he would be on the metaphorical hot seat far sooner than necessary, and all because he wouldn’t make a change at kicker when he had a chance. That’s not in the best interest of the organization, and it is avoidable.
No one wants to callous when a person’s livelihood is at stake. From all appearances, Crosby is a terrific person. But that can’t let the Packers cloud their judgement in an outcome-based profession.
Crosby’s misses have already changed the way the Packers operate, as evidenced by the way they elected to go for it on fourth down in lieu of a 44-yard field goal attempt this past weekend against the Bears.
There’s actually some merit in choosing to leave your offense on the field on fourth down, but that’s immaterial when you’re 45 yards out and down by two points in the fourth quarter with two seconds left on the clock.
Minus Robbie Gould, the Chicago Bears showed on Sunday that despite Olindo Mare being past his prime, at least he wasn’t going to misfire on a field goal twenty yards to the left or the right.
Crosby isn’t just having a bad season, he’s having one of the worst seasons in the history of the NFL, at least recent history. That shouldn’t be allowed to continue.