So the Panthers have signed another kicker to compete with Olindo Mare following Mare's second huge fourth-quarter miss under 40 yards of the season -- last Sunday in a loss to Atlanta.
Good for them. Sticking stubbornly with Mare just because they paid him so much money to replace John Kasay would be silly at this point. The question is how much confidence Mare has lost and whether it can be regained, and we won't know the answer to that one until when (and if) he puts some of these misses far in his rear-view mirror.
Kunalic is not a household name in his own household -- he didn't even kick field goals in college, but was a kickoff specialist at Nebraska. So he's not all that different from Mare -- who remains on the roster -- except that he's younger and would be cheaper to employ.
Like Mare, Kunalic has a strong leg that can reach the end zone for touchbacks but is far from a sure thing with a game on the line.
At least the Panthers are doing something to try and answer the "No-o-o-lindo" question. Releasing Kasay has long been the 2011 team's most questionable offseason move. Kasay has made 98 percent of his field goals from under 40 yards over the past four years -- they are like extra points to him -- and he is now flourishing in New Orleans.
No, Kasay couldn't reach the end zone on kickoffs any longer. But the Panthers had another option there if they were dead set on not having two kickers on the roster as they did for the latter part of John Fox's tenure. They could have kept Kasay, released punter Jason Baker instead and gotten a punter who could also kick off like some other NFL teams do.
You can see why the Panthers would try to get a two-for-one roster spot special in Mare, who was paid a $4 million signing bonus as part of a $12-million, four-year deal. But he hasn't been performing in the clutch.
I think the early-season blocks may have affected him (Mare has had two field goals and an extra point blocked) and he's now trying to get the ball off too quickly, which makes him yank kicks sometimes. That's just a layman's opinion.
But whatever the reason for Mare's miscues, at least the Panthers are trying to tinker with this critical position now -- again -- after they tried over the summer to fix a position that was never really broken.
6 months ago