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Packers K Mason Crosby Off Incentivized Contract, Does He Lack Motivation?

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Packers K Mason Crosby Off Incentivized Contract, Does He Lack Motivation?

Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby by Benny Sieu—USA TODAY Sports.

Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby by Benny Sieu—USA TODAY Sports.

Last season, the Packers made multiple efforts to motivate an underperforming Mason Crosby. 

And it worked.

First they brought in competition during the offseason and training camp. Giorgio Tavecchio made a valiant effort to win the job, but in the end, he couldn't unseat the veteran Packers kicker.

Then the Packers restructured Crosby's contract to a highly-incentivized version, reducing his guaranteed money from $2.4 million all the way down to $800,000 with the opportunity earn it back base upon his performance.

By remaining on the roster for the entire season without being cut and converting on a field goal percentage of 85 percent or higher, Crosby could earn back every penny.

And he did.

Crosby followed up on a horrendous 2012 season when he connected on a league-low 63.6 percent of his field goals to convert a career-high 89.2 percent in 2013.

The turnaround was remarkable. Crosby went from the hot seat, fighting for his job to ending his season on a high note, being named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month during October along the way.

Perhaps deservedly, Crosby is no longer subject to an incentivized contract. The remaining two years on his deal are unchanged.

The Packers kicker will earn $2.65 million in base salary in 2014 and $2.8 million in 2015. Because of his signing and workout bonuses, Crosby's salary-cap figures will be $3.4 and $3.55 million in each of the next two respective years.

It's back to pre-2013 conditions for Crosby. Despite 90 spots on the offseason roster, the Packers have brought in no competition. Higher-ups within the organization have essentially sent a message to Crosby telling him the job is his.

The question is, can Crosby maintain his high level of performance minus the motivation from a year ago?

Crosby seemed to thrive under pressure last season, be it competitive or monetary. Those pressures, however, are no longer present.

With an offense expected to be particularly potent behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers directing the passing game and running back Eddie Lacy leading the running attack, Crosby will have to internally motivated to be part of a high-scoring squad.

Maybe the prospects of a second Super Bowl ring will be all the motivation Crosby needs. But it's not as if that same incentive hasn't been present every other year he's has been a professional football player.

Like any player, Crosby will likely tell the media before the season starts that he remains intrinsically motivated and is primed for success.

But in the end, all that will matter are Crosby's statistics. In a league that 11 kickers made over 90 percent of their field goals last season, it will be up to Crosby to keep pace.

Regardless of a career-best field goal percentage last season, Crosby has yet to hit 90 percent or better.

Maybe that will be his carrot at the end of a stick.

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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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (25) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

BVanRoschke's picture

Ideally as fans I am sure most would like to see him on the same deal as last year with the constant pressure to be great or else. On the other side he had a great year and now the heat needs to be taken off him again just because it's the fair thing to do. I know kickers are a different breed altogether but Crosby's a good guy and the Packers shouldn't f with him this season. I think they are doing the right thing by letting him know he did good and the expect him to do the same this season. Last year was just a warning or kick in the ass. I think Crosby got the message loud and clear.

rwhyan's picture

Studies have shown over and over that pay-for-performance doesn't actually work. Also, with such a small sample size of kicks each year, kicker performance (especially rank amongst peers) varies wildly from one season to the next (even for the best all-time kickers). The difference between being one of the best and one of the worst is just a few kicks each year. Situations and conditions are different for every kick. Sometimes you just get unlucky.

Now, obviously in 2012 something went wrong with Crosby - he got too much in his own head. We could all see that. It wasn't just slight misses - something was broken.

Barring a repeat of that situation (which had never happened to him before in his career, despite not having a pay-for-performance type salary), there is a 50% chance his 2014 performance is above his career average, and a 50% chance it's below.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

First, those kickers who made 90% of their field goals did not kick in Lambeau Field in winter regularly. Only Jan Stenerud in 1981 made 90% or more of his field goals in a season (91.67%). Ryan Longwell twice exceeded the 90% mark for a season - both seasons were in Minnesota. Longwell never made 90% of his field goals in GB. Longwell holds the career best mark for making field goals in GB with 81.59%. Stenerud is second career in GB at 80.82%. Crosby is third at 77.98%. Seems to me that if you were my boss, I would consider you to be extremely demanding, to say the least.

Second, if you wrote that I have to be incentivized in order to perform well, I would be insulted.

Stroh's picture

Damn... Great stats! Just proves how difficult kicking in Lambeau is... And that Crosby is actually very good.

Jersey Al's picture

STATS: From an article I wrote in 2011:

I chose teams from 9 other cold weather cities with dome-less stadiums (PHIL, NYJ, NYG, CHI, CLE, BUF, CIN, PIT, NE). Where did Crosby’s FG % rank when compared to these kickers?

2007: 9th out of 10
2008: 9th out of 10
2009: Tied for 9th/10th
2010: 6th out of 10

So, when compared to other kickers playing in cold weather, he still comes out near the bottom. We can now say, whatever the typical weather conditions, Crosby is ALWAYS near the bottom in FG %.

Evan's picture

Is it really as simple as looking at just "cold weather"? Don't different stadiums have different wind patterns, which would also play a big role in a kicker's accuracy. NYG and Philly have/had notoriously windy stadiums. Not sure how Lambeau rates.

RCPackerFan's picture

And to add to yours Evan. its not just the wind, its which direction the wind is coming from.
Which directions are the kickers kicking in each stadium. If there is a cross wind or kicking into and behind the wind.

The only way to truly rate them is to have them all kicking from Lambeau on the same day.

Also in comparison, of those other kickers what distances were they kicking from? Was Crosby kicking more from deeper ranges?

Stroh's picture

Lambeau doesn't just have winds either. It has or had prior to the new addition swirling winds that were very difficult to read. Longwell said that if he looked at the flags sometimes he would actually kick opposite or a full 1/2 the width of the uprights to account for what he knew based on experience.

With the new addition to Lambeau, the wind and how to compensate might have changed again. Crosby might have a good read on the changes now, but fans have no clue.

And your right... Crosby has routinely been asked to attempt longer Kicks than almost any other NFL PK during his career.

Stroh's picture

An article you wrote w/ your inherent bias against Crosby which goes back to when he was drafted or possibly before! Who gives a rip about your biased article. I read an article a few years ago, just prior to '12 season IIRC, that took all factors into account. Stadium, temp, wind, distance of each kick, etc for all the games Crosby kicked in that rated him just outside the Top 10 Kickers in the NFL. It noted Crosby kicked in the worst conditions in the NFL, is routinely asked to attempt FG that were longer than almost any other NFL PK.

I'll take the unbiased, researched article over your biased one every day of the week and twice on Sundays! You've been biased against Crosby from the beginning! And I do remember having this discussion w/ you then too...

Jersey Al's picture

Wow. Major Crosby apologist, huh? There are plenty of researched facts in my article, just not the ones you want to see, i guess. I'd love to see this wonderful article you hang your hat on. Show me.

Stroh's picture

And I would love to provide it to you, unfortunately I didn't book mark it to save the exact article and any search brings up the gluttony of fantasy rankings. Its like searching for a needle in a haystack. And I know you won't buy it w/o the article. Either way it wouldn't matter your bias is too long established to make a difference. You made up your mind when they drafted him if not before... You've been riding Crosby for years now, nothing anyone could show you would change your OPINION.

Jordan's picture

Jersey al,

You're wasting your time arguing with a blowhard nut like Stroh. He'll huff and puff and blowhard your house down.

Nick Perry's picture

I just went back and read the article and thought it was a excellent article Al. You provided stats for your opinion, key word here is "Opinion". I know half of these folks sticking up for Crosby right now were screaming for somebody, anybody to replace Crosby last year. I'd also be willing to bet that every time Crosby lined up for a attempt last season they held their breath until the kick cleared the uprights. I know I did, on every damn kick. Maybe because I've never saw a kicker miss a FG like Crosby did in 2012 against Indy. In Crosbys defense he did rebound nicely last year, but I'll still hold my breath with each kick. He needs another year like last year.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Notwithstanding my post below, I, too, held my breath on every Crosby field goal try last year, so I gave your post a thumbs up. Another stat: Crosby's career ranking in field goal percentage: 24th, 26th, 25th, 22nd, 10th, 31st, and 13th. That sounds not so good, but stats are a funny thing and I would suggest that my stats below comparing Crosby to the opposing kicker in each game, which still finds Crosby somewhat less than average for his career, is a better metric.

Evan's picture

I don't know if I'm included in those "sticking up for Crosby," but I was merely asking a question. It seems that comparing kickers is a lot more complicated than just looking at raw completion percentage or narrowing it down to kickers in "cold weather cities."

Of course I held my breath every time he lined up last year. I had no faith in him. I'm not defending him, just pointing out what I see as lacking analysis.

Stroh's picture

Its a proven fact in science and research that if go into the research w/ a preconceived opinion or conclusion that the test/research results are going to show what you want them to. That's a MAJOR reason I disregard your article and findings and trust an article that I read that didn't only research Crosby but all NFL Kickers. The findings are then free of any biased and as close to factual as is possible.

Your biased against Crosby goes all the way back to when he was drafted, if not before. So any findings or conclusions you make are inherently flawed.

MarkinMadison's picture

You know, you could have made your whole argument without all of the bias crap attacks on Al, and I would have actually respected you.

Stroh's picture

It wasn't attacks! Its TRUE. Just like all the rest of what I said. He has had a clear bias about Crosby since he was drafted. And its not like I'm a Crosby apologist, I considered him a good NFL Kicker, not a great one. One More season like last year and he'll move up to very good.

Jersey Al's picture

if being unhappy with performance of a kicker being paid like a premier kicker is biased, then sure, I'm guilty as charged. You REALLY don't know what you're talking about with this one. Way off base.

Clay Zombo's picture

Something clicked for Crosby last year and Im not sure it had anything to do with motivation. Overall I just seen better ball flight on his kicks. No longer did he have that mid flight speed wobble or whatever it was, his kicks were for the most part straight and true.

Hope that continues.

BVanRoschke's picture

Something that maybe overlooked in this was two years ago when he struggled, who was his holder? and who was his holder last year? It might not sound like a big deal but I know Ryan Longwell would constantly blame holders as his reason for misses. I am thinking it was Tolzein or Flynn last year. Maybe he just had a better comfort level with one guy over another. As I said, kickers are a different breed.

Update: Never mind. I see in the picture it was Mashtay and he probably was his holder the year before so this throws out the holder theory. I am sure Ryan Longwell will still use it though. lol

Stroh's picture

Masthay was the holder both years. But the holder is an important piece of the equation, no doubt about it. Longwell was very particular about how he wanted the ball placed and wanted it held in very particular way, and IIRC a peculiar way for a Kicker. I'm sure all Kickers like certain holders more than others, its a comfort and trust between them. Longwell was more vociferous about who and how he wanted.

Snap, and hold are all a part of the equation when kicking, you can't just isolate the kick from the rest of the equation, even tho its easy to do. All three aspects need to be perfect, which is a large part of why the punter is almost always the holder. They spend more time together already and a backup QB would be taken from offensive drills to practice holding.

That all said, Crosby was off in '12 for sure, whether mental or mechanical we don't really know, but that seems to be a thing of the past.

c1377's picture

In 2012 something was wrong--too much of the time the kicks that made it looked terrible. His stats that year could have easily been worse. However, Crosby is not a bad kicker (as some seem to imply)--and if you weight his average based upon distance this becomes even more clear.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

In my post above, I was not evaluating Mason Crosby; I responded to Brian's benchmark of making 90% of field goals. My conclusion is that would be a great season that only one packer kicker has managed: Jan Stenerud. I read Jersey Al's post and used his link to go back and read his article. The metrics Jersey Al used were interesting, but picking out the 9 other cold, windy NFL cities and comparing Crosby to their kickers seems difficult, since some did not consider NY, NE, and other sites to be as cold and/or windy as Lambeau. Below is a breakdown of Crosby's career field goals statistics versus the stats of the opposing kicker in those same games (in the 2nd set of numbers). Stats for Crosby come from ESPN and and for his opposing kicker from ESPN.

ATT/M % 1-19 20-29 20-39 40-49 50+
185/235 78.7% 6/6 58/60 58/67 44/62 19/40
xxxxxxxxxxxxx 100 96.7% 86.6% 71.0% 47.5%

158/190 83.7% 2/2 45/45 49/55 43/59 19/29
xxxxxxxxxxxxx 100 100 89.1% 72.9% 65.5%

I note that Crosby made 12 of 14 field goals in the post season (85.7%), including 0/2 from 50+ yards. He had 5 attempts blocked for a 2.1% average blocked, but all 5 were blocked btw 2007 and 2010. (I am addressing one commenter to Jersey Al's 2011 article who noted that Crosby's block rate - at the time 4.7% - was very high compared to the NFL's average of 1.2%. I haven't been able to verify the 1.2% figure cited by that commenter. It seems to have evened out quite a lot over time with no blocks in 2011, 2012, or 2013).

My own conclusion is that Crosby is average (arguably a trifle below average) but has a strong leg. I base the latter on the notion that Crosby is asked to kick more field goals from 30-39, 40-49 and 50+ by a significant amount. I will not address kickoffs because I can find no stats on hang time, and there is the directional kicking and cold weather arguments. I can't find any stats on Crosby's % of made field goals to tie or win a game. Crosby has been rock steady in the postseason. Crosby ranks as the 16th highest paid kicker in the NFL, but with a very low amount guaranteed (10.9%). I conclude that he is being paid about what he is worth.

MarkinMadison's picture

I'm sure folks can find a way to pick at this as well (I can think of about three lines of attack), but I think the reality is that your head-to-head comparison over time is about as good as anyone is ever going to get. Thanks for putting in the work to pull it together.

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