Brian Gutekunst says Anders Carlson was Packers ‘best option’ at kicker during playoff run

Had there been some better options available at kicker towards the end of the season, the Green Bay Packers would have explored those options. But, as Brian Gutekunst told reporters on Thursday, rookie Anders Carlson was their best option.

“I think as we got towards the end of the season,” said Gutekunst, “and we were headed towards the playoffs and had an opportunity to be in the playoffs, certainly something, if there was a veteran option out there that would have been really good, then maybe we would have considered it.

“But there wasn’t. He was the best option by far. We’re really excited about where he’s going.”

Carlson’s missed 41-yard field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter of the NFC Divisional Round. Following a 49ers touchdown, the miss left the Packers offense trailing by three rather than the game being tied with just over a minute to go.

That crucial miss ended up being the 10th missed kick by Carlson in the Packers’ final 12 games of the season. Carlson’s six missed extra points on the season were the most in the NFL. That, coupled with six missed field goal attempts, resulted in there being just three games since Week 5 in which Carlson didn’t miss a kick.

“I don’t know,” said Matt LaFleur about Carlson’s continued missed kicks following the playoff loss. “I think if we had the answer we would have fixed it, right. So, certainly just got to work on the consistency. We’ve seen him do it. We know what he’s capable (of), but you’ve got to be consistent in order to last in this league.”

Most notably available at the kicker position for much of the season was Mason Crosby. He was signed to the New York Giants practice squad on December 22nd, but his contract then expired when their season came to an end.

Crosby has made 84.9 percent of his career kicks and 96.1 percent of his career extra-point attempts.

From training camp throughout the regular season, the Packers preached patience with Carlson, knowing that a rookie kicker was going to have his ups and downs. So, despite the inconsistencies we saw from him this season, according to Gutekunst, none of that was unexpected.

“We obviously work kickers out all the time,” said Gutekunst, “but as we went through the course of the season, we were committed to going through the ups and downs that a lot of young rookie kickers go through. Certainly, what we went through was not anything different than what a lot of guys go through.”

To Carlson’s credit, where he did shine was in showcasing his bounce-back ability, an intangible quality that special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia has spoken highly of since the Packers drafted him.

Through all the missed kicks, Carlson never missed two in a game or even two in a row. Unfortunately, in the playoffs, you’re never guaranteed that opportunity to rebound.

A missed kick certainly wasn’t the only reason that the Packers lost to the 49ers. They were also just 2-5 in the red zone and dropped a pair of interceptions, while Jordan Love threw two uncharacteristic interceptions.

But with the message from both Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur to the team being that nothing is guaranteed as they look ahead to 2024, the grace that the Packers showed Carlson as he navigated this learning curve burned them in the playoffs.

Shortly after their season came to an end, the Packers signed 2023 undrafted rookie Jack Podlesny to provide some competition for Carlson over the summer.

With Super Bowl aspirations and the margin for error, especially in the playoffs, being so small, Carlson isn’t going to be afforded the same opportunities in 2024 as he was in 2023. Progress is a must.

“You’ve just got to be resilient,” said LaFleur following the playoff loss when asked what his message to Carlson was. “You’ve got to find a way to get more consistent.”

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire