One False Step And Saints Kicker Getting The Boot?
By Greg Barber
Saints kicker Garrett Hartley has been with the team since 2008 and early on, it seemed that New Orleans found a real special teams gem. In 2010, Hartley's solid performance continued as he kicked three field goals that sailed over 40 yards in the Super Bowl, which actually set a Super Bowl record. Overall, Hartley had been a strong contributor for the Saints with his leg, impressively capitalizing on 84.5 percent of his attempted field goals during his career.
Since that fateful 2010 season, however, Hartley’s performance has been erratic.This is what truly makes Hartley so frustrating - he just seems to wet the bed when it comes to short or game-winning field goals. As a matter of fact, Hartley has brought quite a bit of pain heartache to Saints fans as of late.
Starting with the 2012 season, Hartley missed a 38-yard field goal against the Kansas City Chiefs that would have won the game. Instead, the Saints were forced to play into overtime and ultimately lost by a field goal. Even though Hartley's kick was missed in the second quarter when the Saints had an 18-point lead, the Chiefs ended up tying the game and that missed field goal came back to bite the Saints in the rear.
The following week, Hartley missed a 48-yard field goal that was the potential game-winner against Green Bay. This loss also dropped the Saints to 0-4 on the year, a defecit from which they were never able to climb out of. If Hartley had made the field goals both in this game and against Kansas City the week before, the Saints would have been sitting at 2-2 and the season would have had a different ending to it.
Speaking of different endings, remember during the 2010 season when Hartley missed a short field goal in overtime against the Atlanta Falcons, resulting in a Saints defeat? That missed field goal was essentially the reason why the Saints did not win the division title that year. Sure, this sounds as if Hartley is the one solely responsible for the outcome of the team’s fate, and in some cases he is. Despite everything that happens during a game (right or wrong), if the kicker has the opportunity to win it, then I believe that the head coach and his teammates should know that they can count on him to get the job done.
During this season's training camp, Hartley will have competition in Jose Maltos, a kicker from Mexico that was discovered during a workout at Southern Methodist University. Maltos will give Hartley a run for his money and has a slight chance to possibly even win the position, which at first thought seems unlikely. The big question that needs to be asked remains though: if Hartley begins to falter again, will head coach Sean Payton replace him or will he continue to give him a chance to get out of this apparent funk? If Payton chooses the latter, can the Saints overcome the potential damage caused?
It is imperative that the Saints get consistency from Hartley this season. Otherwise, they should not hesitate to replace him. What Hartley did in 2009 means nothing in 2013 - that cow has already been milked.