Tuesday's post on Green Bay Packers place-kicker Mason Crosby generated a fair amount of feedback, from both an emotional and analytic perspective, and Chris of Minneapolis' mailbag note offered a springboard for further discussion:
As a Packer fan, I have mixed emotions regarding Mason Crosby's job security, and, frankly, your recent article does not sway the argument. After scanning (I'd be lying if I said I read the MIT paper), I noticed that the statistical analysis stopped at the 2011 season, so Crosby's palpable 63.6% FG percentage from last year did not factor in. Did you know that he completed at least 10% less of his FGs than anybody not named David Akers last year? Also note that Mason was ranked #5 in biggest jump from traditional rankings to weighted rankings. Even with that jump, he finished 19th out of 55 kickers according to MIT's advanced analysis. Essentially, he went from mediocre by traditional measurement to above average by advanced statistical analysis (or on the verge of elite if you are the professor) Again, this is BEFORE his latest and greatest season.
Chris is right. I should have made the window of this study more clear. It did not include last season's 21-for-33 performance. I'm not sure how 2012 would alter the MIT analysis, but we should point out that the two factors in curving his performance through 2011 existed in 2012 as well.
In total, seven of Crosby's 12 misses came from at least 50 yards. And he kicked eight games at Lambeau Field, the NFL's most difficult active kicking venue according to the study, and a ninth at Soldier Field -- which ranked fifth. (Crosby missed two field goals in the Packers' Week 15 game at Soldier Field. They accounted for two of his five misses from inside 50.)
With all that said, the past two days have further illuminated this discussion. The San Francisco 49ers have since released Akers, who had a terrible 2012 season but still finished with a better conversion rate (69.0) than Crosby. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the Packers are evaluating candidates to compete with Crosby in training camp.
(How serious the Packers are in that regard is another question. Their current target, according to the Journal Sentinel, has kicked competitively in only one game since his final college season in 2008 at Division III Farleigh Dickinson.)
The Packers would be negligent not to study deeply the season that Crosby had in 2012. The information in the study helps provide insight into what has driven the Packers' loyalty. It doesn't necessarily mean they should welcome back Crosby unchallenged in 2013, but it is a quantitative way of saying the grass is not always greener on the other side.