Except for maybe one season over his nine-year career, Mason Crosby has been pretty darn productive for the Green Bay Packers.
During the 2015 season, Crosby became the franchise’s career leader in scoring – he has 1,145 points currently – passing Ryan Longwell, who was the Packers' kicker from 1997 through 2005. A scan of the team’s record book shows that the 31-year-old Crosby either holds or will hold most of the kicking and scoring records when his career is over.
With a Super Bowl title to his credit, there would seem like little left for Crosby to accomplish. But when compared to his peers, he has another level to reach.
At $16.1 million over the next four seasons, Crosby’s contract – the third-highest annually among kickers - would seem to rank higher than his career performance considering he has never finished higher than 11th in the league in field goal percentage in any one season. In six of his nine seasons, he finished 23rd or worse.
Of course, with kickers becoming more and more proficient, any missed kick can produce a big shift in the pecking order. For example, using Crosby’s average of 33 field goal attempts a season, the league leaders over his time have averaged just one or two more makes per season.
Since 2007, Crosby’s rookie season, the average field goal percentage of the top 10 kickers based on most attempts is 84.5 percent. Crosby, who has attempted the most kicks over that span (296), is at 79.7 percent. Over the last nine seasons, 38 kickers have attempted at least 100 field goals and among them only two – Bill Cundiff and Greg Zuerlein (both 78.2 percent) – have worse percentages than Crosby.
Crosby’s career average was negatively affected by his 2012 campaign, in which a prolonged slump pulled him down to 63.6 percent (21 of 33) for the season, the worst mark of his career. The Packers brought Giorgio Tavecchio into training camp the following season, but Crosby won his job back and responded with two of his best seasons over the next three years. In 2015, he missed only four field goals, tying a career best, and was one of only five players to make every extra point during the NFL’s inaugural season of the longer extra point.
Like at quarterback, the Packers are in the midst of a prolonged stretch of stability at kicker that only a few teams can match. Over the past 27 seasons, they have used just five field goal kickers and, really, two of those kickers made cameos.
Punter Craig Hentrich stepped in for Chris Jacke for two games early in the 1995 season and posted five field goal attempts. And Dave Rayner was in Green Bay for only the 2006 season, which turned out to be a transition year. The season after, the Packers drafted Crosby, who beat out Rayner in a training camp competition.
Before Rayner, Longwell, a waiver acquisition, established many of the Packers’ scoring records over nine seasons. Jacke (1989-96), won a Super Bowl with the team in 1996 before departing via free agency to Pittsburgh.
The last time the Packers truly had personnel issues at kicker was in 1988, Lindy Infante’s first season, when four players took their shots at the job. Combined, they made just 13 of 25 field goals and missed six extra points.
Longwell averaged 81.6 percent on field goals in Green Bay, which ranked 13th amongst his peers (based on at least 100 attempts) from 1997 through 2005. Jacke was at 77.2 percent, which was 15th among kickers during his time in Green Bay.
Jacke in 2013 joined Don Chandler, Chester Marcol and Jan Stenerud as the only kickers in the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. By the end of this coming season, Crosby will have outlasted all of them in years of service with the Packers.