Green Bay Packers place-kicker Mason Crosby missed two more field goals Monday, sinking his training camp accuracy rate to an abysmal 6-for-11.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy was quick to defend his kicker following practice. “I’m not concerned with Mason Crosby,” McCarthy said sternly.
On that count McCarthy is right. Crosby isn’t the problem.
Instead, the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of McCarthy and special teams coach Shawn Slocum, who insist on saddling Crosby with a pair of inexperienced holders during camp — punters Chris Bryan and Tim Masthay.
At a time when Crosby should be building confidence coming off a so-so 2009 season, he instead has to break in not one but two new holders.
The Packers’ revolving door holder policy is not doing their kicker any favors. Crosby has kicked with four different holders in his first three NFL seasons and is now working on a fifth.
Although McCarthy could employ backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who was a holder for four years at Louisiana State University and spent parts of the 2008 and 2009 seasons as Crosby’s holder, the head coach seems hell-bent on filling the job with an inexperienced punter.
“The ideal, as I stated yesterday, is for the punter to be the holder,” said McCarthy on Monday. “It’s a relationship that best serves the kicker. I think that has been evident throughout this league just from a time commitment standpoint, but we feel fortunate to have Matt Flynn there if we need him.”
The Packers and Crosby need Flynn, the sooner the better.
Bryan has no prior holding experience, and considering he hails from Australia where they like to drop-kick the ball, it makes little sense to put him in that role. Besides, Bryan and Masthay should focus all their attention on what they do best. It’s a half-baked idea to have them split holding and punting duties when someone with Flynn’s experience is on the roster.
It’s Crosby who must suffer the consequences of that decision.
In theory, McCarthy’s desire to use a punter to hold makes sense, since punters and kickers can spend more time working together in practice. But important decisions like this shouldn’t be made out of convenience or some pie-in-the-sky philosophy. Flynn is the best holder on the roster and the job should be his.
Now is not the time to be mixing and matching holders and toying with Crosby’s confidence. He’s a talented kicker with a big leg, but there’s no telling how much his performance has been negatively impacted by the team changing holders so often.
Crosby has not complained or pointed fingers at anyone. Unlike former Packers kicker Ryan Longwell, who didn’t hesitate to throw his holder under the bus after missed kicks, Crosby has taken the high road. He is determined to work hard with his holders, regardless of who or how many.
“We’re working out some kinks,” Crosby said. “We haven’t worked together a ton, so it’s one of those, we’re still trying to find that rhythm with one another.”
Essentially, Crosby has no choice in the matter. It was a coach’s decision to switch from Flynn to punter Jeremy Kapinos late last season.
Flynn said he had no problem holding and would gladly resume those duties if asked. Crosby said he had no problem with Flynn as his holder.
“He did a good job,” Crosby said. “We didn’t get a ton of reps together. It’s tough with his other duties as quarterback. Sometimes it just didn’t feel like we were working as much together. But coaches made the decision. We’re going to work with these punters. They’re young guys. We’ve got to make them feel comfortable.”
That’s part of the problem. The last thing Crosby should consider is making his fledgling holders comfortable. The less Crosby must think about, the better chance he has of kicking the football through the uprights.
Mike Vandermause is sports editor of the Press-Gazette.