Mare scoffs over having to compete for Seattle job

Put a game on the line with one swing of his leg, send 11 men

charging after him, throw in some wind – and Olindo Mare stays

eerily unflappable. Not to mention accurate.

Yet ask the accomplished 36-year-old kicker who is carrying a

Seahawks record of 18 consecutive made field goals into Sunday’s

game at Houston about having to fight for his job this summer with

an unproven kid?

Oh, yeah, that gets Mare flapping.

“I never felt any competition, because I never felt I was

challenged,” Mare said.

He is 21 for 23 on kicks since Seattle ended the competition it

had declared between him and Brandon Coutu, a 2008 draft pick. He

is 45 for 50 in his two years with Seattle, after going 2 for 2

last weekend against San Francisco. The latter one came into a

swirling, biting wind as time expired and sent Seattle (5-7) to its

second consecutive win.

His 91.3 percent success rate on field goals this season is the

highest of a highly accurate 13-year career for the 1999 Pro Bowl

selection with Miami. Mare left the Dolphins following the 2006

season as their all-time scoring leader, then had one injury-filled

season in New Orleans before he resurrected his career with

Seattle.

Mare scoffs that the Seahawks and coach Jim Mora doubted him

just three months ago.

“Not many people can compete with me the way I’m kicking right

now,” Mare said.

Mare became magnificent immediately after his coach roasted him

in the wake of a loss to Chicago in Week 3. He missed his only two

field goals of the season that day, the margin of defeat in a 25-19

loss to the Bears.

“No excuses … You’ve got to make those kicks, especially when

you’re in a game like this kicking and fighting and scratching and

playing your tail off and you miss those kicks,” a terse Mora said

in postgame comments Sept. 27. “Not acceptable. Not acceptable.

Absolutely not acceptable.”

“We’ll look at making a change everywhere. We’re not going to

fight our (rears) off and have a field goal kicker go out there and

miss two field goals and lose a game.”

A day later, Mora regretted the outburst. And it’s good for

Seattle that a change never came.

Mare is 16 for 16 since. And it’s not like he was exactly

loafing that day against Chicago. He made four kicks in six tries

and started his Seahawks record streak for makes late in that

game.

“I think it has very little to do with my very direct and

probably overbearing criticism of him on that day,” Mora said of

Mare’s Pro Bowl-caliber season. “I think it’s just a testament to

the type of professional that Olindo is.

“Whether I said anything to him or not, he has a lot of pride

in his performance, and he takes it very seriously. That’s one of

the reasons that he’s had so much success in this league as a

kicker. We’re reaping the benefits of that now.”

And not just in field goals. Mare has boomed 21 of his 58

kickoffs for touchbacks. His 36 percent rate is second in the NFL

to the 39 percent of Atlanta’s Michael Koenen – and Koenen is a

specialist who hasn’t been doing field goal duty for the

Falcons.

Mare’s kickoffs and the beneficial field position they give

Seattle’s defense is a large reason he won the job the last two

preseasons over Coutu. Coutu was a favorite of general manager and

president Tim Ruskell, who was ousted last week.

“The most impressive thing about Olindo Mare is his kickoffs,”

Mora said. “He just really gives us a chance to create long fields

(for an opponent).”

Mare can even punt. Last weekend, he lined up for a 52-yard

field goal into the wind at the open end of his home stadium. Then

Mare surprised the 49ers by taking the direct snap and deftly

placing a pooch punt that Seattle downed at the San Francisco

2.

He is now so good, Mora can’t even remember who it was Mare was

“competing” with for his job a few months ago.

“At no point did he feel like he wasn’t going to win, and I

think you have to respect that in him,” Mora said. “And yet he

was very respectful of the kid that was here … great memory …

uh, what was his name?

“Brandon Coutu!” a sheepish Mora blurted out after a pause.

“I’m sorry about that Brandon – and Brandon’s parents.”