Four weeks ago in this space, I wholeheartedly supported the Green Bay Packersí decision to stick with struggling place-kicker Mason Crosby.
But as the playoffs approach and Crosbyís puzzling slump grows deeper, itís time for the Packers to get their head out of the sand and take action.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy stood at the podium at his press conference Monday and staunchly defended Crosby, just as he has done for the past two months, and said he has no plans to make a change.
But McCarthyís loyalty to Crosby flies in the face of one of his long-held and often-preached core beliefs that every player must be held accountable.
Crosby isnít getting the job done. McCarthy knows it. General Manager Ted Thompson knows it. Special teams coach Shawn Slocum knows it. Packers players know it. And restless fans know it.
Crosby has converted just 58.6 percent of his field goals (17 of 29) this season, which ranks last in the NFL by a wide margin. San Franciscoís David Akers is the next-worst kicker at 71.4 percent (25 of 35). Only six NFL teams have a field goal accuracy rate below 80 percent, and the league average is 84.5 percent.
Since making his first five field goals this season, Crosby has converted just 12 of 24 attempts. He has missed at least one kick in the Packersí last nine games in which he has attempted a field goal, including an 0-for-2 performance against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
If Thompson and McCarthy continue to sit on their hands and do nothing about their kicking situation, itís very possible the Packers could get bounced out of the playoffs on a missed field goal.
How could McCarthy then look his players in the eyes, knowing he didnít do everything possible to prepare his team for a potential Super Bowl run?
Every week Slocum talks about Crosby focusing on technique and needing to learn from his missed kicks, yet nothing changes.
By doing the same thing over and over again, why should anyone expect better results?
Whatever the Packers are doing with Crosby isnít working, so itís time to try something different.
Iím not advocating cutting Crosby outright. He has a strong leg and the potential to one day be successful again in the NFL, so it would be prudent to keep him on the roster and give him time to find his kicking stroke.
In the meantime, the Packers need to bring in another kicker ó veterans Ryan Longwell, Nate Kaeding and Neil Rackers are available ó to compete with Crosby. The Packers should also hire a kicking guru that can work one-on-one with Crosby to guide him through this rough patch.
The daily practice competition and counsel will either light a fire under Crosby or at the very least give the Packers a more reliable kicking option heading into the playoffs.
Just because a kicker has been out of action for a while doesnít mean he canít perform up to NFL standards. The Bears picked up Olindo Mare off the street last week and he went 2-for-2 Sunday against the Packers.
The argument that the Packers canít afford two kickers on their 53-man roster is nonsense. In recent seasons, bottom-end players have rarely been active on game days.
The concern that the presence of another kicker would damage Crosbyís psyche also doesnít hold water. Crosby was never better than during a 2007 training camp duel with Dave Rayner. A little competition could be exactly what he needs to shake out of his funk.
By standing pat and refusing to address their kicking problem, Thompson and McCarthy are doing the entire team and their fan base a disservice and inviting an early exit from the playoffs.
ó firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.