After the Carolina Panthers released John Kasay before the 2011 season, Olindo Mare had some big shoes to fill. And after watching Mare's performance last season, I don't think he's been able to fill those shoes.
For one thing, Mare hasn't convinced me that he's able to come through when his team needs him most.
Take, for instance, the game against Minnesota, where Mare's missed field goal could have sent the game into overtime. Instead, the game ended in the fourth quarter, and the Panthers lost, 24-21.
Just a few weeks before the Minnesota game, Mare also missed two field goals against Chicago, a game in which those six points could have made a difference in the outcome. The Panthers lost to Chicago, 34-29.
These two games are important because they not only question Mare's consistency but they also raise doubts about his ability to come through when his team is relying on him.
When looking at Mare's numbers as a whole, they look decent. He completed 22 of 28 attempts, including a 45-yard field goal and four other field goals of more than 40 yards in 2011.
The six missed field goals, however, were kicks that Mare should've made. NFL kickers are supposed to come through for their teams during critical times, and this is what worries me about Mare.
And although his numbers look decent, what makes a kicker good in the NFL is not just whether or not he can make 10 field goals in a row. In this case, it's not the quantity of field goals that matter—it's the quality of those field goals.
Here, the quality that I'm referring to is the game-changing quality of a field goal, a quality that Mare seemed to lack in those six games last season.
And a great kicker in the NFL should not only be able to make 10 field goals in a row—he should also be able to make those game-changing field goals, especially when his team needs him the most.
Can Ron Rivera and the Panthers rely on Mare to make those kicks?
From what I’ve seen so far, it doesn't look like it.
The Panthers are coming into a new season where they are no longer seen as a young and inexperienced team led by a rookie quarterback. Given what the Panthers did last year (especially offensively), the expectations for them are high. They will not just try to win a few games in the 2012 season, they'll be attempting to make a run at the playoffs.
And if there's ever a time when those extra three points can decide the outcome of a season, it may as well be the 2012 season.
Carolina recently signed kicker Justin Medlock, who was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2007, but ended up playing in the Canadian Football League. Medlock will compete against Mare for the starting position in the 2012-2013 season.
The Panthers made similar move when they brought in Adi Kunalic to compete against Mare during the 2011-2012 season. Fortunately for Mare, Kunalic couldn't take the position away.
Hopefully this upcoming season, Medlock can.