Green Bay Packers special teams coach Shawn Slocum swears by Mason Crosby, calling him an excellent place-kicker.
But you would never know that by looking at Crosby’s statistics. He ranks 28th in the NFL in field-goal accuracy and has gotten progressively worse during his four-year career — he started at 79.5 percent and 79.4 percent his first two seasons, fell to 75.0 percent last season and stands at 72.2 percent this year.
But neither Slocum nor coach Mike McCarthy has wavered in their support of Crosby.
In an interesting twist this week, Crosby received a major shout-out from Ryan Longwell, the former Packer who kicks for the Minnesota Vikings.
“I think Mason has done an outstanding job,” said Longwell, who spent nine years as the Packers’ place-kicker. “I really think, percentage-wise, he’s the victim of his strong leg in that if you kind of take away his 50-plus-yard misses, his percentage is not as bad as people think.
“I think he’s actually done a really good job and probably a better job than he gets credit for.”
Maybe Longwell felt obligated to remain loyal to a member of the kicking fraternity, or maybe based on firsthand experience he can empathize with the swirling winds and cold temperatures Crosby faces at Lambeau Field, a kicker’s graveyard.
“He kicks in a very tough place,” Longwell said.
It gets even tougher when Crosby tries so many long kicks. Only Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski has more field-goal attempts from 50 yards or longer since 2007. Toss out Crosby’s 10-for-21 accuracy on career 50-plus field goals and his overall percentage rises from 77.2 percent to 83 percent.
He never has missed a field goal inside 30 yards (36-for-36) and is 168 for 169 on extra points.
In nine years as a Packer, Longwell (81.6 percent) displayed better overall accuracy than Crosby has. But inside 50 yards, Longwell and Crosby have almost identical numbers.
That’s why you won’t find members of the Packers’ front office lamenting the loss of Longwell five years ago in free agency.
“His work ethic, his technique, his execution, his professionalism, his ability to bounce back after a missed kick, I think all of that lends to my confidence in him,” said Slocum of Crosby. “We lean on him on long field-goal attempts. I think he’s an excellent kicker.”
The Packers appreciate that Crosby doesn’t point fingers when he misses. His aggressive mentality and enthusiastic approach is also admirable.
“Every year I’m going to try a lot of long field goals,” Crosby said. “It’s a weapon, it’s something that obviously coach has confidence, I have confidence.
“It’s something I love to do. I always hope we get those opportunities. Those long ones make everyone a little bit excited.”
But missing from long range looks the same on the stat sheet as missing a chip shot.
“My main goal isn’t numbers, it’s not stats,” Crosby said.
It’s one more reason why the Packers are very satisfied with Crosby, even if his numbers aren’t the flashiest in the league.
Mike Vandermause is sports editor of the Press-Gazette.