GREEN BAY, Wis. – There wasn’t a hitch of hesitation. Mason Crosby didn’t wait idly on the sideline for last-second clearance. A first-half shank behind him, the Green Bay Packers kicker ran onto the field for this fourth-and-1 field goal attempt Sunday at Soldier Field.
Crosby took his usual steps. Swung again. And this time, he hit the left upright. It was Crosby’s 12th miss – and 12th cold stare of disbelief. In Green Bay’s 21-13 win over the Bears, the skid lived.
Yet as fast as Crosby hurried onto the field for that second kick, Mike McCarthy hurried to his defense. Once Sunday, then again Monday.
“At the end of the day,” McCarthy said, “Mason will be our kicker, and that’s my focus as we go to Tennessee.”
This weekly declaration reflects philosophy. General manager Ted Thompson and McCarthy draft, develop and stand by their players. Panic moves practically do not exist in Green Bay. The team ignores the fans with virtual pitchforks on Twitter, screaming for change.
“Evaluation of everybody is an ongoing process as you prepare to win each game,” McCarthy said. “Definitely no one’s happy with the number of kicks Mason has missed. As we stand here today on who’s going to line up and kick, it’s Mason Crosby. I don’t know how to continue to answer this question.”
Green Bay’s kicker is 17 of 29 – in mid-December – on a Super Bowl contender.
Yet Thompson has dealt with slumping players before. Some persevered, others did not. The GM stood by 2007 first-round-pick Justin Harrell through four injury-tarnished seasons. Now, he’s out of football after 17 career tackles and zero sacks.
That same draft, Thompson took wide receiver James Jones in the third round. Jones never experienced anything quite like Crosby’s funk, but his 2010 season was littered with deep drops. When no other team gave Jones a big payday in free agency, Thompson re-signed the receiver at a modest rate. Now, he has an NFL-high 12 receiving touchdowns this season, including three in the Packers’ victory over the Bears on Sunday.
A similar investment was made in Crosby. The Packers actually signed the kicker to a 5-year, $14.75 million deal before addressing Jones. Maybe time and money spent on a player is a factor.
Then again, maybe not.
Philosophy is important. But as former Packers architect Ron Wolf points out, this is a production-based business. Wolf, who also happens to be Thompson’s old boss, said the Packers must have confidence in Crosby because of what he’s done in the past.
Wolf faced midseason decisions of his own through his 9 years in Green Bay. He wasn’t shy in adding troubled wide receiver Andre Rison to a hurting receiving corps during Green Bay’s Super Bowl season in 1996, a move that paid off on the game’s biggest stage.
This is a much different era, he said. Maneuverability within the salary cap – and the ability to make moves at this point of the season – has changed.
One thing hasn’t changed.
“You’re paid to perform,” Wolf said. “If you no longer perform up to the capabilities, you’re going to be replaced. The object of these games is to win them. That’s why they keep score. You can never lose sight of that. So it’s nice to pat somebody on the back and all that, but eventually when you’re put on the field, you have to produce.
“I don’t care what position it is – that’s any position. If you don’t produce, you’re not going to be playing.”