Packers definitely not kicking themselves about keeping Crosby

Kicker became Green Bay's al-time leading scorer Sunday

Mike McCarthy heard the question over and over again, especially from one prominent network duo who shall remain nameless.

In advance of each NFL game, television broadcast teams sit down with each coach and a handful of top players to gather insight for their call of the upcoming game. The conversations are meant for background, are not video recorded and are more or less off-the-record chats, although play-by-play announcers and color analysts do reference portions of the conversations throughout their telecasts.

And during the 2012 season, those TV folks constantly asked the Green Bay Packers head coach the same thing:

Why haven’t you guys cut kicker Mason Crosby yet?

“Every week,” McCarthy recalled Monday, one day after Crosby became the franchise’s all-time leading scorer during the Packers’ 27-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. “We were playing a lot of national [games], a lot of big games. And the crew every week couldn’t believe we weren’t making a change.

“It’s nice to be right once in a while.”

And McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson definitely were right.

On Sunday night, Crosby made all four of his field-goal attempts (from 54, 18, 44 and 21 yards) and scored 13 total points, giving him 1,057 for his career – three more than Ryan Longwell, the team’s kicker from 1997 through 2005.

“It’s just so special,” said Crosby, who came in as a sixth-round pick from Colorado in 2007 and beat out incumbent Dave Rayner that year. “Being part of this organization for nine years, the history, the guys that came before me, to be able to hold a record like that is awesome. It’s awesome to say I’ve played with this team and these guys and a group of these guys the whole time. It’s a bunch of great guys.

“It’s really special.”

And with less patient leadership, it wouldn’t have happened. Crosby would’ve been cut loose in 2012 and would either be kicking for someone else or in another line of work entirely.

Instead, even as outside pressure mounted as the misses piled up, Thompson and McCarthy stood by their man, despite the fact that, after starting that season 5-for-5, Crosby’s kicks were a 50/50 proposition.

It began with a pair of misses from beyond 50 yards – including what would have been a game-tying 51-yarder with 8 seconds left – in a 30-27 loss at Indianapolis after the Packers blew a 21-3 halftime lead. Over the next nine games, Crosby missed at least one field goal in eight of them – and the only game in which he didn’t miss was when he didn’t have an attempt.

He was 12 of 24 over that span, before making his final four regular-season attempts and both his postseason kicks.

“You don’t see a lot of patience with the specialists. That’s the norm,” McCarthy admitted. “I just always knew he was going to be the all-time leading kicker in Green Bay Packer history.”

McCarthy was kidding about that, of course. But in his heart, McCarthy believed Crosby would figure it out and be himself again.

“Mason Crosby is an outstanding talent, and we had a lot invested in not only him but him in us,” McCarthy continued. “I just felt he was going through a tough patch and just needed support. It worked out. Thank God we were smart enough to go that way.”

Since the start of the 2013 season (and including playoffs), Crosby has now made 74 of his 84 field-goal tries that have meant something – an 88.1 percent conversion rate. He made all five field goals he attempted in the Packers’ NFC Championship Game loss to the Seahawks on Jan. 18, and with his four made kicks Sunday night, he’s now off to a 5-for-5 start this season.

“I don’t play golf, but [even the best] golfers put them in the woods every once in a while,” special teams coordinator Ron Zook said. “The ball doesn’t always go where it’s supposed to go. To me, for coach McCarthy and Ted to stay with him like that, that shows you what they’re about. Obviously there comes a point in time where you can’t go too long, but they understand. They understand the game and they understand the importance of letting a guy [work through his struggles]. Sometimes that makes them better in the long run, being able to kick through that.”

The Packers didn’t just let Crosby keep his job after his struggles in 2012, though. They brought in head-to-head competition for him that offseason (Giorgio Tavecchio and Zach Ramirez) and made him restructure his contract – only to watch him earn back every penny of the $1.6 million pay cut he took by going 33 for 37 (89.2 percent) during the 2013 season.

Now, it’s hard to believe he was so close to losing his job.

“It was looking a little dire in the middle of that [season],” said Crosby, whose parents, wife and kids were at Sunday night’s game to see him break the record. “But I’ve come out of that and feel like my best years are ahead of me. I’m really happy with that and how I handled my business and my approach.

“The last [few] years have been my best years. That one (2012) was just a little blip in the radar. But I learned so much that year and now looking back I’m thankful for. At the time it’s hard to see any good in that. But I’m thankful for that every day because I think it gave me some perspective in moving on – good or bad – and to keep working on the details and all the things I can control.”

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