Mason Crosby and His Rare Ability to Overcome

Green Bay's Strongest Leg Has a Legacy Like No Other

Mason Crosby - (CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons - Image Cropped)

To be remembered as a Green Bay Packer is an honor. To be remembered as the best player at your position in the history of the Green Bay Packers is among the rarest of feats. 

Mason Crosby is, undisputedly, the finest kicker in this franchise’s history.

Around the league, the position of field goal kicker is perpetually vital to a team’s success, but–despite that undeniable fact–the position is overlooked with regularity. Crosby shines, like few have, in that relative obscurity that surrounds his position.

Often times, a kicker is not honestly valued until the game is on the line. Feast and famine. Penthouse to outhouse.

Football, as a whole, is a game of isolated drama. 

No other sport routinely sets up dramatic bursts of momentary suspensions of reality. Think: third-and-ten or fourth-and-one or a Hail Mary pass or an onside kick. But no other time in football is drama more succinctly undiluted than when a kicker lines up for a game-winning field goal, with everything on the line, with one player to commemorate — or blame.

Fandom is rooted in disbelief; we watch the game for the moments when we have to hold our breath. It’s the love-hate relationship that sets football apart from other sports. Fans in Green Bay held their breath from the very beginning with Crosby as the team’s kicker.

His first NFL game ended as he kicked a game-winning field goal against the Philadelphia Eagles, going three-for-three on the day, including a 53 yard kick. Imagine the fear of your first NFL game coming down to your kick.

Crosby didn’t flinch.

His first NFL season ended with him leading the league in scoring, with 141 points, breaking a two-year streak of that title going to a running back. Quite the achievement, despite him not being rewarded with a Pro Bowl trip for his efforts.

From there, it took him less than a decade to become the Packers’ all-time leading scorer. And he got there, not by playing without fear, but by playing through fear.

Fear has a way of crippling athletes in all sports. But NFL kickers, by virtue of their position, live almost entirely in fear. Crosby never shied away from that fear — he, instead, continually embraced it.

At the age of 26, he cemented his legacy in Green Bay. He scored 25 points in the playoffs en route to a Super Bowl Championship. In 2011, he made his career long field goal of 58 yards (the 20th of his regular season career-best 21 consecutive field goals made). That kick remains the longest made field goal in Packers history.

He quickly made fans forget about Ryan Longwell; his highly-successful predecessor and previous franchise scoring leader that unceremoniously joined the Minnesota Vikings.

But like most good stories, Crosby’s career was not all celebration.

In 2012, he seemingly lost his touch and put together his worst season as a professional. He missed 12 field goals that year, by far the most of his career. Many people, fans and analysts, were calling for the Packers to let him go. 

He had simply lost his ability to be an effective kicker, the narrative went. And he nearly did lose his job. His 63.6% field goal percentage was, by far, his career worst. Crosby faced real, sustained adversity for the first time in his professional career.

But just like the great kickers in NFL history before him, he did not give in to the fear that surrounded him from all directions. From famine, Crosby found a way to feast. 

On the brink of unemployment, he responded by putting together him most accurate season yet. He hit 89.2% of his field goals and that included a career-high five 50+ yard field goals. He then went on to set one of the NFL’s most impressive records:

Mason Crosby made the most consecutive field goals in NFL postseason history (23).

This is all the more impressive because Crosby kicks outdoors at Lambeau Field, not in perfect conditions inside a dome or outside in warm-weather stadiums. He, like many Packers greats, found a way to embody the cold. For his career, he’s 26/29 in postseason field goals. Six times he’s scored 10+ points in a single playoff.

In the postseason he is 65/65 in extra point attempts.

Consistency is the word that comes to mind. It’s something a franchise takes for granted at the kicker position until they no longer have it. Just look at the Chicago Bears since they let Robbie Gould walk.

Crosby owns the record for the seven longest field goals in Packers history and owns the two longest consecutive field goal streaks. Not to mention, he has kicked, by far, the most 50 yard field goals in team history (37). He’s never gone through an NFL season without kicking one.

But it’s Crosby’s accuracy in the playoffs that ranks among the NFL’s all-time greats at the position; he simply plays better when the stakes are higher. That is what every coach wants–needs–out of their kicker.

His teammates believe in him, they respect him, they root for him. It’s rare for a kicker to ascend to a legitimate leadership role on an NFL team, but that’s where Crosby has found himself after all these years.

The perennial postseason captain just always remains calm.

Never was his fearlessness more evident than in the 2016 Divisional Playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys. The all-time series between the two iconic franchises was time at 14-14, but the Cowboys owned a 4-3 advantage in the postseason.

Crosby changed that history by becoming the first ever player to make two 50+ yard field goals in the final two minutes of a playoff game. He made a 56 yard field goal with 1:38 left to play, to take a three point lead — the longest kick in Packers postseason history.

The Cowboys then promptly tied it up and–after some Aaron Rodgers miraculousness–once again, it was up to Crosby.

He responded, back for the first time in the building where he and Rodgers won Super Bowl XLV, and made a 51 yard kick as time expired. Which was the the longest field goal in NFL history to win a postseason game.

The sideline erupted; Crosby’s legend exponentially grew that day.

Imagine if he’d had missed either of those kicks. That all-time moment, Rodgers’ miraculous throw to Jared Cook, would be lost to history. Instead, that moment lives on as one of the best postseason moments in franchise history.

But earlier in the year he made the game-winning kick which evened the Packers’ all-time series with the Chicago Bears for the first time since 1933. His impact on history, on his era of Green Bay football, cannot be easily calculated.

Which makes the following questions rather unsettling:

What if the Packers had given up on him after that tumultuous 2012 season? What if he was not mentally tough enough to bounce back from the criticism he received that year? What if fear would have gotten the best of him? What if he never got the chance make such history?

Those are questions Packers fans, thankfully, do not have to ponder. Because not only is Crosby the Packers’ strongest leg of all-time — he is one of the mentally strongest players to ever don the green and gold. And that strength was rewarded with career longevity, which endures as a pillar of his legacy.

Crosby has a legitimate chance to become the Packers’ all-time leader in games played.

And unlike most kickers, he’s made tackles every year and even forced a pivotal fumble against the Minnesota Vikings (saving a touchdown along the way). There truly have been none like him before in Green Bay.

But that wavering of confidence in 2012 wasn’t nearly as striking as his “meltdown in Motown” in week five of the 2018 season.

No, this type of failure was unique to Crosby’s career.

In a game the Packers should have won, Crosby missed five kicks. He went 1/6 kicking on the day (1/5 on field goals). Packers fans had never seen anything like it, especially in a weather-controlled dome. That loss seemingly derailed the season.

What’s not debatable is that Green Bay lost that game by eight points and Crosby was directly responsible for that loss.

Much like in 2012, the question was “can he come back from this?” But this time, he was 34 years old and likely past his athletic prime, all the while playing for a team that looked directionless. Would the Packers simply move on from him? Everyone wondered. Only four kickers in NFL history had ever had such a bad day kicking field goals.

Green Bay’s head coach Mike McCarthy was fired during the same season as Crosby’s meltdown in Detroit and the team missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season (a rarity in modern Packers history).

However a week after Crosby’s horrendous day, he went 4/4 on field goals. It was yet another sign of how mentally tough he was; it was also a harbinger of how dominant he’d be in the coming weeks and years.

Since that day in Detroit, Crosby has made an amazing 92.9% of his field goals. He’s made 52 of his last 56 field goals. He literally missed as many field goals against the Lions on that terrible day as he has since in his last 35 games.

His 91.7% field goal percentage in 2019 was the highest of his career and the highest in Packers history (tied with Hall of Fame inductee Jan Stenerud, 1981). So far in 2020, Crosby has made 100% of his field goals (11/11).

It’s as if that horrible day freed him from his worst football nightmare; he had experienced the worst of what his profession could be and is now liberated. He faced his fears and responded with the greatest stretch of field goal kicking in Packers history, by a mile.

However his catharctic revenge on the Detroit Lions in 2019 couldn’t have been more perfect. The Packers never led for a single second of either game, but Crosby kicked game-winning field goals in each as time expired. It’s one of the more remarkable moments in the Packers-Lions rivalry. For Crosby, it had to be specifically special.

His Lambeau Leap following his walk-off kick against the Lions was a moment that healed everyone. That terrible day had finally been forgotten, no, poetically-avenged.

But it’s not only his accuracy that improved following that day. 2019 and 2020 have been Crosby’s best ever seasons of touchback percentage, too. He got better at every facet of his game with age.

It was in the 2019 season, in which he had his best season, he played while overcoming the grief of his sister-in-law Brittany’s death due to ovarian cancer. Crosby is known as a family man and the news clearly hit him, and his entire family, hard. They were very close. This came just months after his wife Molly had emergency surgery to treat a blood clot and remove a tumor. What a difficult year for him and his family. There was a lot to fear.

Prior to the 2020 season Crosby was diagnosed with COVID-19 and faced mild symptoms. The adversity he has recently faced, and overcome, cannot be quantified.

Although if anything, if we pivot back to football, all of these hurdles simply showed again how mentally tough of a person he genuinely is. Nothing derailed his career. Not failure, not medical emergencies, not sorrow, not fear, nothing.

He didn’t just keep playing, which in itself would have been applaudable, he played better.

Mason Crosby has never missed a game in his Packers career. He’s not quite the “Iron Man” that Brett Favre was, but it’s an impressive streak in its own right (216 consecutive games played).

In his career he’s made far too many high-profile kicks to list, but he’s probably more proud of his 26 career tackles anyway.

He’s never been invited to a Pro Bowl, which is pretty funny. But trust us, that won’t affect his legacy in the slightest. It only makes us appreciate him more. And remember, Crosby is kicking on natural grass, outside in the rain and wind and snow.

The flags on those fabled goal posts have fooled many fantastic opposing kickers. But no one knows, and overcomes, the unique wind flow of remodeled Lambeau Field better than him.

Twice Crosby has been named NFC Offensive Player of the Month and seven times he’s been named NFC Offensive player of the week, so his work has been recognized. Even though we think he’s posted at least three Pro Bowl worthy seasons. At the conclusion of the 2020 season he may finally get that honor; even though it’s trivial, it’s beyond deserved.

We should mention that he credits his faith in Christ for his ability to remain such an effective NFL kicker — we can’t argue with it. We think it’s obvious he’s relied on his faith quite a lot in the last decade, for many reasons.

Perhaps that has helped him become so mentally tough. This is reflected in the fact that he’s 102/104 on field goals from under 30 yards. He just doesn’t make mental mistakes.

He’s the best to ever play his position in Titletown, USA. But again, it’s frightening to ponder what would have happened if the team would have given up on him after that disaster in Detroit? What if he hadn’t responded so impressively? What if they decided to let him walk after the 2018 season like some insiders projected?

But it never came to that.

On February 24, 2020 Crosby signed a three-year $12.9 million contract extension with Green Bay. A well deserved crowning achievement to his career. He has been the kicker every year that Aaron Rodgers has been the Packers’ starter (plus Brett Favre’s last season in Green Bay). There’s a legitimate chance that Crosby remains in that role through Rodgers’ entire tenure in Green Bay.

He came to Green Bay at the age of 22 and at 36 he’s still here (but better than ever).

When it seemed like there was a chance the team would move on from him in 2019, every fan just knew he’d go on to be great for another team. Thankfully, they locked him up. He’s one of the rare career Packers. Just like Donald Driver, William Henderson, LeRoy Butler and the other fan-favorites of recent Packers history.

His number won’t be retired by the team, of course, but it should go without saying that no other kicker should be given his No. 2 for quite sometime. It just wouldn’t feel right, would it? His 1,636 points scored are by far the most in team history. That’s a record that has the potential to last quite some time, perhaps forever.

What an era of Packers football the ‘Crosby Era’ has been (yeah, some might refer to these years as the ‘Rodgers Era’ but we’re talking about No. 2 today). He is the longest tenured starter on this squad after all.

There’s been incredible heartbreak as well as incredible highs, both on and off the field for Crosby in his time with the Packers. He’s been Green Bay’s kicker for 11 postseason wins, which is a Packers record, as well as nine postseason losses. It’s been anything but boring. With so many huge games coming down to the wire, he’s been right in the middle of it all — oftentimes with all eyes on him.

He always stares directly back at the fear and we love him for it.

If everyone approached their career, and life, like Crosby, there would be a lot more bravery in the world. Even in the 2020 season, he’s playing through a calf and back injury. Kicking a ball 50 yards, accurately, under those conditions is nothing to scoff at. But, we should have known better than to think he wouldn’t overcome these injuries.

The raw truth is Mason Crosby could very well forever remain the greatest kicker to ever play in Green Bay. His career will be tough to surpass. With so many incredible memories, he will without a doubt forever remain an integral part of Packers history.

We foresee a few more big kicks this year, especially in the playoffs. And unlike the fans of many other teams, we know our kicker won’t be afraid with the season on the line.

Thanks for everything Mason, Packer Nation loves you.

#GoPackGo

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