Mason Crosby drilled two field goals – a 56-yarder and a 51-yarder – in the final 93 seconds of Green Bay’s 34-31 over Dallas on Sunday, and yet, some people refuse to give him credit.
He’s a kicker. He has one job. He did it. He doesn’t deserve praise.
That’s the argument – and Jay Feely doesn’t get it.
“There always is, among fans, this vitriol for kickers, but they don’t have the same thing for a designated hitter or a closer in baseball or somebody who has a specific role on these teams,” the former NFL kicker said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “You got defensive specialists on basketball teams, and yet, you don’t have that same vitriol. Celebrate a guy and what he does special – to go in there with the pressure of the playoffs, to make a 56-yarder (and then a 51-yarder was impressive).”
Feely, 40, led the NFL in made field goals in 2002. As he explained, there’s a certain art to kicking long field goals.
“I always had a distance that I knew I could go back to and stay at 80 percent,” Feely said. “Eighty percent is the exertion level when you’re most accurate, whether you’re throwing a ball or kicking a ball. If you can stay at 80 percent, that’s when you’re most accurate. There’s a misnomer that people think you’re hitting it lower and you have to hit a line drive and that’s just not the case. You’re going to to swing a little harder and you’re going to drive the ball a little bit, but the height isn’t going to change. The only time you do that if when there’s a stiff, hard wind in your face. In cold weather, that ball is not going to go as far.”
Kickers must also win the mental battle – not with timeout-calling coaches, but with themselves.
“You’re trying not to think about (the big picture),” Feely said. “You’re trying not to think about the implications of what you’re doing – what it means if you make it, what it means if you miss. You know in your mind that this kick could elevate you to a whole other level and help you with your contract. You can get caught up thinking about how important that kick is to your career and to your success – and that’s what you can’t do. You can’t let your mind wander and think about the implications of what you’re doing. You have to just focus on the fundamentals.”
Feely believes that Justin Tucker, who converted 38 of 39 field goals this year, including 10-of-10 from 50+ yards, was the best kicker in the league.
“He just seems to be able to step up when it’s a pressure situation,” Feely said. “I go with Adam Vinatieri (as the best of all time) because of what he did in those clutch moments, in the Super Bowl. His kick against Oakland, the 45-yarder to tie the game in the snow, was the greatest kick in NFL history.”