Paws and Claws: Week 15, Kicker and Quarterback Edition

I am sitting here snacking on some of these awesome Garden Tomato and Basil potato chips, pondering over the many

An all-too familiar sight for Panthers fans.

different stories that have irked me over the past week. There were a few to be sure, but two which really stand out … well, one is more of a story-line, while the other is just pondering thoughts in my mind. Anyway, the two ideas which are most prominent are in regard to our inept, club-footed placekicker Olindo Mare, and our rookie sensation at quarterback, Cam Newton.

So once again, it seems this week’s edition of Paws and Claws will be more “claws” than “paws,” but to some extent the latter half of the story will be more favorable towards our own Cam Newton, than another team’s player.

Olindo Mare. He’s been around the league a little bit…He’s not a league traveler like some players have been, but he’s been on a few different teams, anyway. I remember back when he was with the Miami Dolphins, and a lot of times when the game was on the line with two seconds remaining in regulation, Mare would be called upon to take a shot at victory, thus giving the Dolphins a two or three point victory. These were the moments where it was a good idea to close your eyes, or walk out of the room to go grab another beer. Because with Mare, it was guaranteed to be one thing: An adventure.

So what were my initial thoughts when the Panthers signed this buffoon as our replacement for longtime PK, and one of the most accurate actively in the league, John Kasay? In short, I was livid.

“This is not an upgrade — it’s remaining the same at best.

But once again, Panthers General Manager Marty Hurney blundered and locked the team into another long-term contract with another inept being, signing Mare to a four-year, $12 million deal. Way to go, Hurney. In hindsight, I think I would have rather seen the team keep three kicking specialists on its team than sign Mare…or as some have eloquently named him, “Mary.”

So the question arose … What do the Panthers do this weekend at the kicker spot? Will Mare start, or will the new guy, Adi Kunalic start? I’ve never heard of Kunalic. Not that it discounts his potential to be a world better than Mare, but I’m just not familiar with his body of work. Regardless, I’m throwing caution to the wind; not erring on the side of caution, and saying this: Start Kunalic! And please, deactivate Mare ASAP. For that matter, team owner Jerry Richardson should consider “deactivating” Hurney, since the boneheaded GM keeps frittering the “Big Cat’s” dinero away on whimsical draft picks and unrestricted free agents. Case-in-point, Carolina’s high-profile free agent signing for 2011? Olindo Mare.

Onto the more “paws” side of this piece, and it relates to first-year rookie sensation Cam Newton. Now I wiould have never imagined that six months ago, I would be attesting Cam Newton a rookie sensation — in fact, those of you who remember, I was very much against drafting Cam; even calling him some not-so-nice names to boot. But I’ve eaten my crow (best served cold with a side of humble pie), and am both excited and impressed by Newton’s body of work and commitment to not only winning, but to the game.

Which is why we hear so little about Newton, and so much about Denver’s Tim Tebow. Yeah, that guy who typically can’t hit the broadside of a barn with his errant passes, but is fortuante enough to have a defense that carries him on its back, so he can continue to make his one-dimensional running plays, while orchestrating the over-inflated “fourth-quarter comeback heroics.” Let’s be honest for a moment, if not for Denver’s fairly stout defense, the Broncos, with Tim Tebow, would be getting smeared all over an NFL turf near you on any given Sunday.

So what does this have to do with Newton? Well, not much, but everything, too. For instance, Newton has only orchestrated one fourth-quarter comeback this season, against the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, his accuracy has been stellar…Yes, he is probably close to leading the league in interceptions, but he makes up for it, having broken some records, and being on point to break Indianapolis Colts’ QB Peyton Manning’s rookie season passing record, as well. Newton has also taken a certain receiver’s career and put it back on the fast track to success.

Tebow, meanwhile, continues to keep the media’s attention with his fourth-quarter heroics, making himself a one-man circus, and by “Tebow-ing.” The question however, is how long will this ill-begotten attention last? And who is the AFC favorite in the Pro Bowl at quarterback right now?

Follow Eric on Twitter, @PSU_EQ.

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Tags: Adi Kunalic Cam Newton Olindo Mare Tim Tebow

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