Olindo Mare is not a popular man in the Carolinas. The struggling kicker missed a 31-yard field goal that would have given the Panthers a 26-24 lead late in the game against Atlanta, and also missed a kick against Minnesota earlier in the season that would have sent the game to overtime. Now, fans are calling for him to be cut.
The only problem with that is he signed a four-year, $12 million contract this past offseason. At the time the signing was questioned as Carolina already had veteran kicker John Kasay. While Kasay hasn’t exactly been perfect in New Orleans, the feeling is that he would have made the two kicks that Mare missed. Nevertheless, Mare and his bloated contract are on the roster at this moment, but should the Panthers admit their mistake and move on?
That’s the question that everyone has been wondering lately. The Panthers signed undrafted rookie free agent Adi Kunalic to the roster this past week to compete with Mare, yet it feels like it was done as a motivational ploy more than anything. Even if it wasn’t it’s hard to imagine that Ron Rivera would go with an untested rookie in a hostile environment.
Fans may not be happy with the decision but sticking with Mare is the best option at this point. There’s a reason that the Panthers invested so heavily in him, and it would be wise to stay with him through his struggles. Best case scenario is that Mare rights himself and the Panthers don’t need to address the position in the offseason.
At this point in the season the Panthers aren’t playing for anything but momentum for next season and pride. Cutting Mare would reflect poorly upon the organization and it would be getting ridding of a veteran kicker in favor of an undrafted rookie.
Chances are that Mare is just in the midst of a funk and is pressing too much. I’m not an expert on field goal kickers by any means, nor do I want to be one. But, maybe he just needed a little push in practice this week to get himself right. Or maybe this is who he is: an inconsistent kicker who can’t make the big kicks.
The point that I’m making is that I’d rather find out over the final three games how Mare responds to adversity than looking at a rookie with little promise.
With the playoffs out of reach and another Top 10 pick on the way, Carolina is better off sticking with a kicker who was pretty damn good before he put on the black and blue.