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.''