GREEN BAY—Mike McCarthy didn’t try to sugarcoat what he witnessed from veteran kicker Mason Crosby on Saturday night.
“He’s definitely got to do better than that, because that’s not going to cut it,” McCarthy said after Crosby’s Family Night to forget had just concluded with a 2-for-6 showing in the scrimmage-ending head-to-head duel with challenger Giorgio Tavecchio.
That gave Crosby a 3-for-8 overall mark on the evening as the battle to keep his job reached a whole new level of intrigue.
A Family Night-record crowd of 63,047 became a bit unsettled when Crosby opened the final session with a miss from 37 yards. Things then got quieter as his struggles continued, with consecutive misses from 53, 33 and 43 yards before he finally closed with a make from 51.
“Mason Crosby is competing for a job on our football team, like everybody else, and he definitely didn’t take a step in the right direction with his performance,” McCarthy said.
Crosby’s night started when he hit the right upright from 48 yards away to conclude an earlier offensive period, and he never got on track. Three of his other four misses were wide right. Other than the final 51-yarder, his makes came from 40 and 47.
“I’m not going to talk about if I’m worried or not,” Crosby said. “This is my job, this is what I want to do. I have to go out and perform. I didn’t do that tonight, and I have to take advantage of my next opportunity.”
After missing twice during the first practice of training camp, Crosby found a rhythm on Thursday and went 5-for-5, but the success didn’t carry over to showtime, the same pattern that developed during a horrid midseason stretch last year.
“I had a great week of work,” he said. “That’s what’s disappointing. I had a good session the other day, and all the field goals I hit this week were solid. It’s something I want to evaluate and look at, and if anything I have to learn from it and move on.”
While Crosby’s accuracy was a problem, Tavecchio’s leg strength was a question mark. He was statistically superior at 6-for-7 on the night, including 5-for-6 in the final duel, but his 53-yard try hit the crossbar and bounced over, and his 51-yarder only cleared it by a few yards. His miss was wide right from 47.
“I’d like to think I have a little bit more than 53,” said Tavecchio, who did drill one kickoff out the back of the end zone. “That’s why I was a little frustrated. I got a little under the ball and kind of left that one up. I got a good trajectory, but on a 53-yarder, I have to get that one there first.
“I think he struck the ball better than I did, but the results don’t show that, and that’s the frustrating part as a kicker.”
Add reserve quarterback B.J. Coleman to the list of the frustrated. His effort to unseat Graham Harrell as Aaron Rodgers’ backup went backwards with a pair of interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown.
Moments after moving the offense across midfield on his second drive of the night, Coleman tried to hit receiver Jeremy Ross to his right on a hook route. But first-year cornerback James Nixon, who spent his rookie season on the Packers’ practice squad, jumped the route, Ross fell down, and Nixon snagged the ball and was off to the races 65 yards the other way.
On his next drive, playing behind the first-string offensive line, Coleman moved his unit 65 yards to the 15, but a jump ball for Ross in the end zone was underthrown and picked off by undrafted rookie corner Brandon Smith.
McCarthy labeled the first interception “poor” and said Coleman “didn’t really give him a chance” on the second one.
“You never want to turn the football over,” Coleman said. “That’s how you get your team in trouble.
“I felt good when both of them left my hand. I felt very comfortable with the decision, and the defensive backs, both of them made great football plays. But at the same time, you have to be able to eliminate that. That can’t happen.”
Coleman got one more chance but couldn’t fully redeem himself. Directing a two-minute drill, he drove the ball 64 yards, all the way to the 1. But with no timeouts and only 10 seconds left, he threw three straight incompletions, the last one a lob to the corner for Myles White that was knocked away by rookie Micah Hyde.
“He did some good things, but the two turnovers was obviously the black eye for B.J. Coleman,” McCarthy said.
Rodgers couldn’t help but be a bit sympathetic, having turned in some less-than-stellar Family Nights earlier in his career.
“I’ve been there before,” Rodgers said. “It’s Family Night, and you have to realize it’s a practice setting, but you’ve got to learn from it and get better. I’ve been in those shoes and struggled. My first Family Night, I was 0-for-7. I had a rough one in ’08 as well. It happens.”
In this one, Rodgers got his work in quickly and efficiently, directing a 10-play, 80-yard TD drive to open the action. He was 4-for-6 passing for 64 yards, including two completions to Randall Cobb and a 7-yard TD toss to tight end D.J. Williams after a brief scramble.
Harrell was productive as well. He first entered by taking over mid-drive for Coleman but eventually overthrew receiver Alex Gillett in the end zone, a throw he confessed he wished he had back.
Later, Harrell engineered an 80-yard TD drive that featured five completions for 69 yards. The five completions were in a row – thanks to a defensive offside penalty nullifying a batted ball by linebacker A.J. Hawk – and were capped by a 16-yard swing pass to rookie running back Angelo Pease for the score.
“I thought he was very composed, distributed the ball, had a number of checks at the line of scrimmage,” McCarthy said. “I thought Graham Harrell had a good night.” Additional coverage - Family Night