It's Crosby or Bust at Kicker

Why is Mason Crosby still the kicker? Here's your four-word answer: Dallas signs Shaun Suisham. Packer Report publisher Bill Huber provides the ugly facts behind why the Packers are going to have to sink or swim with their erratic third-year kicker.

For those of you who remain mystified that Mason Crosby remains the Green Bay Packers' kicker, perhaps this will help.

The Dallas Cowboys, who with the New York Giants are battling the Packers for the two NFC wild-card spots, released kicker Nick Folk on Monday and replaced him with Shaun Suisham.

Suisham, you may recall, had a chance to lock up the Redskins' huge upset of the undefeated Saints on Dec. 6 but missed wide right from just 23 yards. The Saints drove down the field to score the tying touchdown, then won the game in overtime.

So, the Cowboys have put themselves in the dubious position of possibly entrusting their season on the right foot of a kicker who missed a chip-shot field goal that most kickers could make with their eyes closed. Good luck with that.

Last week, the playoff-bound Cardinals signed Mike Nugent to replace injured Neil Rackers. Nugent got his pink slip in Tampa Bay after making just 2-of-6 attempts to start the season, including a pair of misses in a 16-13 loss to Washington in Week 4.

No wonder Packers coach Mike McCarthy emphatically stayed he had "zero interest" in bringing in another kicker. It's not like a 30-year-old Morten Andersen or Jan Stenerud is sitting by his phone.

By comparison to the Cowboys, the Packers' kicking situation with the struggling Crosby looks rock solid. Crosby, who converted 79.5 percent of his field-goal attempts in his first two seasons, has banged home just 72.7 percent of his kicks this season. He's missed one in each of the last four games but at least is 12-for-12 from inside of 30 yards.

That's hollow praise — sort of like being the tallest jockey at Churchill Downs. But Crosby has the type of talent that coaches and general managers just can't dare to part with. Maybe this is just a blip on the radar of what will be a superb career. After all, even the great Andersen — arguably the greatest kicker in NFL history — had four seasons worse from an accuracy standpoint than what Crosby is enduring.

Kicking, as the great philosopher Yogi Berra might have said, is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical. In 2007, Folk and Crosby looked like they'd be dueling for Pro Bowl honors for the next decade after wildly successful rookie seasons. Crosby won the NFL's scoring title — the first rookie to do so in 22 years — but Folk made the Pro Bowl by hitting 26-of-31 field goals (83.9 percent).

Crosby's 2008 season should have raised a few eyebrows. After hitting 31-of-39 field goals (79.5 percent) as a rookie, he basically matched it by connecting on 27-of-34 (79.4 percent). Folk, meanwhile, was a phenomenal 20-of-22 (90.9 percent).

Inexplicably, Crosby and Folk have gone haywire this season. For as bad as Crosby has been, Folk has been far worse. He hit only 18-of-28 (64.3 percent). While Crosby is 6-of-10 with one miss in his last four games, Folk was just 4-of-11 in his last six games. Folk's 24-yard doink off the right upright almost cost the Cowboys a must-have victory at New Orleans on Thursday. In pregame, TV cameras caught people in the Superdome running for cover as Folk kicked the ball every which way but straight.

So, the Cowboys are banking on Suisham, who has a career mark of 79.4 percent. Suisham beat out Shane Andrus (0-for-1 for Tampa Bay), Steve Hauschka (9-of-13, 69.2 percent, for Baltimore), Connor Hughes (Arena League) and Parker Douglass (zero career attempts) for the gig.

Given that unimpressive list, it's no wonder the Packers are going to sink or swim with Crosby. In the fickle world of kicking — a world in which special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum admitted that part of his gig is playing psychologist — maybe Crosby will get on a tear once he builds a rapport with new holder Jeremy Kapinos. Or, he'll cost the team dearly in a playoff game.

"I would say if anything, without talking to Mason yet, his confidence probably took a shot yesterday and we need to help get him past that," McCarthy said. "At the end of the day, we'll have a great week of work and he needs to do a better job of making that key field goal. That opportunity is going to come in the game. There is nothing that we can do Monday-Saturday that is going to create that situation for him."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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