Sunday, September 6, 2020

Green and Gold Graybeards

 By Eric Goska 

Aaron Rodgers and Mason Crosby in 2007
(all photos by Eric Goska)

When does two plus twelve equal one?

When those numbers represent MasonCrosby, Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay Packers history.

In the ever-changing landscape that is the NFL, Rodgers and Crosby have put down roots. They are the elder statesmen – by far – on a Packers roster that gets reshaped more often than potter’s clay.

This season, Crosby – who wears jersey No. 2 – and Rodgers – who dons jersey No. 12 – could become No. 1 in terms of games played as teammates. Where others have come and gone, these two have endured.

According to the NFL Players Association, the average NFL career lasts 3.3 years. Statista, a German online portal for statistics, claims kickers last longest at 4.87 years followed by quarterbacks at 4.44.

Rodgers, entering his 16th season, and Crosby, entering his 14th, have long since blown past those averages.

Crosby has played in 208 consecutive regular-season games. Only quarterback Brett Favre at 255 played in more games for the Packers.

Rodgers, Favre’s backup from 2005 through 2007, has played in 181 games. That’s third-most by a quarterback in team history behind Favre and Bart Starr (196).

In total, Crosby and Rodgers have played in 176 games together. They are within striking distance of the Green Bay record for teammates (188) held by Favre and fullback William Henderson.

Looking back, neither Rodgers nor Crosby was a lock to get this far.

Rodgers in 2019
Rodgers, the Packers’ No. 1 draft choice in 2005, toiled for three years in the shadow of the ever-popular Favre. As a rookie, his passer rating after his first three preseason games was an abysmal 19.4 based on 11 completions in 24 attempts for 80 yards and two interceptions.

A year later, a broken foot in a 35-0 loss to the Patriots ended his season. Green Bay Press-Gazette columnist Chris Havel didn’t hold back: “Rodgers seemed inadequately prepared to step in and at least be serviceable against New England’s powerful defense.”

Then, when it became apparent Favre wasn’t returning in 2008, Rodgers had to endure his share of heckling and boos.

“But the reaction from fans when they realized I’m not Brett Favre the person, that’s what I’ll be dealing with. I’m dealing with following a legend and all the statistics he’s had, the wins and records and stuff. That’s something I’ll deal with not only this year, but my entire career.”

Crosby came on board in 2007 as a sixth-round draft pick. A roster spot was anything but given.

Dave Rayner, the incumbent whom Crosby battled in camp that year, said: “Sixth-round picks get cut quite often.”

Every kick by Crosby – and Rayner – was scrutinized. The holder for each was documented.

The Press-Gazette’s Rob Demovsky mused in an online chat: “I thought going in that Rayner would win the job, and I still think he might. But Crosby is making it closer that I thought. In fact, he’s made a slightly higher percentage of kicks in camp than Rayner has.”

Crosby in 2019
Crosby, like Rodgers, prevailed. And now, more than a dozen years later, the two rank among the very best.

Since 2007, Crosby has scored 1,575 points. Only Stephen Gostkowski (1,672) has tallied more over that span.

Rodgers, too, is among the league leaders during that time. He ranks seventh in passing yards (46,835) and fourth in touchdown passes (364).

And winning? Green Bay has gone 132-74-2 (.639) over the last 13 regular seasons, third-best in the league behind New England (.779) and Pittsburgh (.642).

Crosby and Rodgers first played in a game together on Nov. 11, 2007. Crosby counted 10 points (two field goals and four extra points) in a 34-0 rout of the Vikings. Rodgers directed Green Bay’s final two offensive series.

In the time since they have become one of three Packers duos to have played in more than 175 regular-season games together. Favre and Henderson (188) lead the pack, followed by Starr and Forrest Gregg (179).

Unlike the others, Rodgers and Crosby are not on the field at the same time. But that doesn’t mean the two haven’t worked in tandem to influence a game.

The duo delivered their most powerful one-two punch in a 2017 divisional playoff game in Dallas. With just seconds remaining, Rodgers erased third-and-20 with a 35-yard sideline shot to tight end Jared Cook. Crosby then drilled a 51-yard, game-winning field goal as time expired.

In reality, Crosby hit twice from that distance. His first attempt – which also split the uprights – didn’t count as the Cowboys called time out just before the snap in an attempt to ice him.

The pair’s clutch play propelled Green Bay past Dallas 34-31 and into an NFC championship matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.

Though they work separately, Crosby (special teams) and Rodgers (offense) share a rather unique link. For every touchdown pass that Rodgers has thrown, Crosby is the only one to have followed it up with an extra point.

That’s 330 regular-season scores and counting. It’s the second-most by a quarterback-kicker combo in NFL history trailing only the 358 of Tom Brady and Gostkowski.

That record, too, could break Rodgers and Crosby’s way. If Rodgers throws 29 or more TD passes this season – something he’s done six times in his career – he and Crosby could nail down a second No. 1 in 2020.

Old Couples

Packers players who paired up to play in 160 or more regular-season games together.

Games       Teammates

188            Brett Favre and William Henderson

179            Bart Starr and Forrest Gregg

176            Aaron Rodgers and Mason Crosby

170            Forrest Gregg and Ray Nitschke

167            Bart Starr and Ray Nitschke

167            Brett Favre and Rob Davis

162            Ron Hallstrom and Robert Brown

Eric Goska is the author of “Green Bay Packers: A Measure of Greatness” and “Strength in Numbers: Quarter by Quarter with the Green Bay Packers.” He has written a by-the-numbers column following every Packers regular- and postseason game since 1994. Email him at

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