On Stickin' with Missin' Crosby

Mason Crosby does a lot of things well. His kickoffs go deep. He's a willing tackler. He can boot an effective on sides kick. And he's 39 for 39 on extra points.

He is a proven, veteran kicker who's paid among the kicking elite in the NFL because he has answered the call for years on a winning team that has asked him to step out there in ultimate pressure situations.

But the Packers should have cut him loose on Monday.

I don't say that lightly. There is something to be said for loyalty, for standing behind a player when he's going through a rough time. It's not like all-pro kickers are hanging out playing cards, cell phones at the ready.

But Crosby has clearly lost all confidence in his ability to kick field goals and the Packers are getting ready for the playoffs, with a fifth Lombardi trophy in their sights. The NFC is loaded with physical, defense-oriented teams (SF, Seattle) and balanced offensive machines (Atlanta, New York). The Packers will no doubt need Crosby to step in in a big moment (or several) and nobody on this planet, except maybe Mason's mom, will have a shred of confidence that he'll make the kick.

He's 17-29 this season. That's a tick over 58%. The next least efficient kicker is the Niners' David Akers at 71%. Akers' coach, Jim Harbaugh, is said to be losing patience and mulling bringing in some competition. Akers is also a seasoned veteran, but he's been dealing with an injury so there's an explanation for some of his struggles. Crosby is healthy, as far as anyone knows.

He was no doubt halfway out the door during the Vikings game, when he missed field goals and then booted the second half kickoff out of bounds. But he rallied to make a couple and his coaches stood firmly behind him.

The two misses from the low 40s at Soldier Field on Sunday should be the last straw. If he were an offensive lineman playing at this level he would be on the bench. The same could be said for just every other position. The problem is, teams only carry one kicker. There is clearly hesitation to bring in a new guy in late December and get him up to speed in their system.

But they should do it. Find a guy like Nate Kaeding, Neil Rackers or the ageless John Kasay to finish out the season. Maybe they'd be hurting their kickoff unit a bit if the guy can't kick as many touchbacks as Crosby. But let the defense handle that.

Imagine the Pack in a dogfight with RGIII and the 'Skins at Lambeau on wildcard weekend. Down one, Rodgers brings the Pack to the 26 with three seconds left and out trots Crosby to kick a 43 yarder to win and move on to the divisional weekend.

See what I mean?


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