Kicker, snapper, punter. The Packers’ three man special teams battery has been in place concurrently for three seasons, longer if you count the time Mason Crosby and Brett Goode spent together before Tim Masthay arrived. As with any position, consistency tends to breed success, especially when the three men must work closely together to perform a specific task, as the three of them do on every successful field goal and point after try and Masthay and Goode do on every successful punt.
But just because something is successful doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be changed. Though Masthay and Goode are almost assuredly safe this year, Mason Crosby’s spot on the roster is up for grabs for the first time since his rookie season. Crosby’s coming off his worst season as a pro, and the Packers have signed unheralded Giorgio Tavecchio to challenge him. As we know already, Tavecchio kicked at Cal in college and spent a little time with the 49ers last year. And though he’s a nice guy, he’s undoubtedly dead set on trying to make Crosby irrelevant and expendable.
So will Crosby respond? As we’ve painstakingly detailed here before, Crosby not only had one of the worst seasons of his career last year, but his career averages rank below what you’d expect from even an average NFL kicker. That doesn’t mean he’ll repeat those stats, but it could mean there’s a lower bar for replacing him than you might think.
Consider this: if Crosby’s stats truly are below average, than it really shouldn’t be that difficult to find someone new, right? Yet the Packers have been slow to pull the plug on their embattled kicker, which could mean one of two things: that the stats don’t tell the whole story on Crosby, or that they really don’t want Tavecchio to take his job to begin with.
The first point is easy enough to assume. It’s hard to get super detailed about a particular kicker’s stats, in part because we’re dealing with ridiculously small sample sizes and in part because there’s just not a lot to quantify. It’s virtually impossible to relate statistically how well a kicker strikes the ball or how prone to success or failure a particular kicker might be in a particular climate, but all these things are important or could be deemed important when evaluating a kicker.
As to the second point, I think it’s exceedingly possible the Packers really don’t want to replace Crosby, but want to motivate him in whatever way they can to return to his 2011 form. If bringing in Tavecchio is enough to upset the balance (I knew there was a reason I picked that title) of the special teams equation and force Crosby to focus, it’s probably a worthwhile investment of both time and money.
And if Crosby can’t beat out a guy who has never kicked in an NFL game, that’s probably all we need to know about his story, anyway.