There was no hesitation in Mike McCarthy’s voice, no wavering of confidence in a player so clearly struggling with the one aspect that defines his job.
Despite watching two more missed field goals in Green Bay’s 21-13 win over the Chicago Bears, McCarthy made no question he was sticking behind kicker Mason Crosby.
“We are not changing our kicker, so you can write that down right now,” McCarthy said post game. “He is our guy. He needs to make those kicks; he knows that.”
McCarthy’s support of Crosby is—at least on one level—admirable. In not giving up on his kicker, McCarthy has granted Crosby every opportunity to wake up from his current kicking nightmare. Knee-jerk reactions don’t register with McCarthy or Packers GM Ted Thompson, and Crosby’s situation might illustrate that point better than any.
But the numbers are now clear and indisputable: Crosby is entering rare air in the sheer volume of kicking mistakes he’s put the Packers through this season, and it’s hurting his team every single week.
After two misses Sunday, Crosby is now 17 for 29 kicking this season. His 12 misses and 58.6 kicking percentage are both good for last in the NFL among qualified kickers in 2012 (to qualify, kickers must average at least one kick per team’s games played).
Both marks also rank as among the worst in the NFL over the last decade or so.
No qualifying kicker has missed as many as 12 field goals since 2003, when Jacksonville’s Seth Marler missed 13 of his 33 attempts. Considering Crosby is averaging over two attempts a game this season, it’s conceivable that he will pass Marler’s mark sometime over the next two games.
Overall, Crosby is on pace to finish this season 19 for 33 kicking. Fourteen misses would be a rare feat, at least in recent in league history. The NFL hasn’t had a kicker miss 14 field goals in a single season since 2001, when Pittsburgh’s Kris Brown made 30 of 44 kicks. Before Brown, San Francisco’s Mike Cofer was the last to do 10 years earlier. In 1991, Cofer hit on just 14 of 28 kicks, with three blocks.
If Crosby’s 58.6 kick accuracy holds, it would represent the worst percentage the NFL has seen in a qualified kicker since 2004. Between Indianapolis and Tampa Bay, Martin Gramatica missed eight of 19 kicks and finished with a kick accuracy of just 57.9 in ’04. No kicker with at least 20 attempts has had a percentage under 60.0 for a full season since 2001, when Buffalo’s Jake Arians finished at 57.1 (12 of 21).
Crosby’s eight-game streak with at least one missed field goal is also the longest such streak in the NFL this season, and by a wide margin. Billy Cundiff missed in three of four before being cut by Washington, Justin Medluck had misses in three straight games before Carolina sent him packing and San Francisco’s David Akers has two two-game streaks with at least one miss.
“I can’t sit and sulk and think about missed kicks because I’ve got to make kicks,” Crosby said. “We’re going to get to the playoffs, and there’s going to be some big ones down the line here.”
Crosby is right. The Packers are heading to the playoffs, and a kick or two could ultimately decide a game there. His coach knows that it’s time to start putting the football through the uprights.
“We’re at that time of year. We left points on the field today, and the two missed field goals are definitely make-able field goals,” McCarthy said. “Obviously, it factors into some of the decisions you make after that. It’s time for him to step up.”
McCarthy’s unwavering confidence in Crosby is refreshing in the NFL, where players can come and go at the snap of a finger. But in this case, McCarthy’s character strength may end up being a fatal football flaw.
Unless there’s a change of heart and mind, the Packers will head into the 2012 postseason with a kicker in the middle of one of the worst single-season kicking performances in recent NFL history.