There was a moment during the 2018 season in which Mason Crosby’s future as a Green Bay Packer was second-guessed.
A week five trip to Detroit was devastating for Crosby, who missed four of his five field goals that Sunday in addition to his lone extra point attempt. While he finished 21 of 22 the rest of the way, Crosby’s spot on the team still carried some doubt heading into his contract season of 2019. The Packers brought in Sam Ficken, a kicker with ties to Matt LaFleur in his previous stint with the Los Angeles Rams, and the battle went throughout camp. Ultimately, Green Bay decided to keep Crosby for his 13th season with the team and released Ficken on August 31.
With just two remaining games in the 2019 season, that decision appears to have been a wise one.
Crosby has made 16 of his 17 field goal attempts this season, while knocking home all 38 extra point attempts. He has not missed since a 45-yard field goal against Denver in the third week and has been solid despite the elements at home this season, including a perfect snowy outing versus the New York Giants.
His field goal percentage of 94% ranks third in the league behind Josh Lambo and Justin Tucker, the other two kickers who have missed just one field goal in 2019. While Crosby may finish with the fewest field goal attempts of his career this season (his lowest was 19 in 2017), never has he finished with a percentage of 90% or higher.
Ficken, on the other hand, has appeared in 13 games this season for the New York Jets, but has not been nearly as automatic. Although he has made all seven of his field goal attempts under 40 yards, he has been just 7-for-13 on longer attempts and has missed three of his 24 extra point opportunities. While Ficken did win the game for the Jets on a 44-yard field goal as time expired two weeks ago against Miami, he has not been as steadily reliable as Crosby.
Another widely-speculated aspect of the kicking battle in training camp was that the loser would wind up on the roster of a divisional rival - Chicago or Minnesota. While neither team chose to sign Ficken, one could reasonably believe that the proven Crosby would have been a more tantalizing option on the open market.
But after severing ties with Cody Parkey following his playoff misfortune last season, the Bears decided to move forward with Eddy Pineiro. Like Ficken, Pineiro has been up-and-down from 40 yards and beyond in 2019, but has improved since a mid-season slump. Still, his position on the Bears’ roster in 2020 is far from guaranteed.
The Vikings have had much more luck with Dan Bailey, who has drilled 22 of his 24 field goals this season and was NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the third time of the year last week. But the veteran Bailey has still missed four of his extra points.
As the Packers enjoy the warm indoors of Minnesota this week, Crosby and Bailey will face off in a kicking duel. But as the regular season nears its conclusion, Green Bay has to be comfortable with its decision to retain Crosby’s services another year, especially when looking around the division and the results of his closest camp competitor.