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Saints K Garrett Hartley On His Last Leg

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The struggles of Garrett Hartley have fans wondering how much more coach Sean Payton will put up with before he hands his kicker walking papers. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.
The struggles of Garrett Hartley have fans wondering how much more coach Sean Payton will put up with before he hands his kicker walking papers. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

During training camp, there was an article written on New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley. The story talked about Hartley's past problems with converting on field goal opportunities and wondered whether or not head coach Sean Payton would make a change if his struggles continued.

In 2012, Hartley made 18 of 22 attempted field goals (82 percent) in 16 games. In just eight games this season, Hartley has made only 16 of 21 attempted field goals (76 percent). 

Hartley has nailed just 83 percent of his field goals during his career, so the future is not looking very promising that Hartley will regain his consistency.

So what should Payton do? The obvious solution would be to release Hartley and replace him with another kicker.

But who?

Here are some available kickers the Saints could take a look at and their career percentages:

Shayne Graham   85 percent

Neil Rackers         80 percent

Olindo Mare           81 percent

David Buehler       75 percent

Dave Rayner          72 percent

Justin Medlock      66 percent

The only kickers that may appeal to some are Graham and Rackers, but are these two really an upgrade over Hartley? Graham and Rackers are older veterans who have been in the league for a long time, which could lead to questions about their leg strength. The only way to answer those questions would be to bring in a couple of free agent kickers and try them out. If they are not careful, however, the Saints could end up in the same boat.

Should Payton bring in some competition for Hartley, how will he react? Will this snatch him out of his up-and-down 2013 campaign or will the pressure cause him to falter and lose his job?

With eight games left, New Orleans has to figure out whether it can afford to keep Hartley around until he gets back on track (if ever) or if it is time to move on. The Saints can't afford to lose points with missed field goals.

The game against the New York Jets proved that when Hartley missed the first field goal. It is understandable for people to look at that missed field goal as only cutting New York's lead to 26-23. If you look at it from the other side though, the Saints could have gone for a tie instead of needing a touchdown to win the game had they only trailed by three.

The missed field goal reduced the Saints scoring options later in the game, and it gave the Jets a lot more leverage against the Saints offense. In the end, it resulted in a loss for New Orleans.

Whatever Payton decides to do with Hartley, Saints fans can only hope he is making the right decision in the long run.