Saints Always Had Faith In Hartley
Garrett Hartley has had his struggles this season. Notably, missing chip shot field goals, with the most notable being a 29 yarder in OT to the Falcons. A make there, and the Saints would own the best record in the NFC, and be a game up on their division rivals. The Saints brought in John Carney for a few weeks after, but never cut Hartley from the active roster. Soon, he was kicking field goals again, as well as handling kickoff duties. While early season struggles continued for a few weeks, he's been consistent the last few weeks. Media and fans alike speculated that Hartley would be replaced, and given his walking papers. Coach Sean Payton never considered a full time replacement.
“Honestly we weren’t at that point that maybe you guys were in regards to a change with him,” Head Coach Sean Payton said. “We see too much and too many things that he’s doing well. He has too much leg talent and he’s produced in big spots for us.”
Nine games later(since Atlanta loss), Hartley has vindicated his head coach, hitting on 10 of his last 11 and five in a row, including three crucial kicks against Dallas and two critical ones against Cincinnati.
Largely due to his consistency through the middle part of the season, the Saints are one game out of the league’s best record and have won five in a row.
Nevertheless, Hartley isn’t taking anything for granted these days. Even when he makes field goals in practice, he said he’ll watch film of the kicks he doesn’t feel comfortable with and correct the mistakes the next day.
During the rough patch, he never lost confidence in his abilities. There would never be a chance of that, in fact, thanks to his support system.
“I think there were days he needed reassurance but that’s just like anybody,” punter Thomas Morstead said. “I would say Garrett’s very prideful about what he does, which is good. He has an extreme amount of confidence. Sometimes you just have to remind him how good he is.”
“Confidence from the head coach in any player, let alone a kicker, really will help his game or affect it,” Hartley said. “(Payton) has been great. The coaching staff, the players, the teammates, everybody in my support system.”
The Saints are on their third long-snapper of the season. Chase Daniel now is the holder instead of Morstead. And still Hartley remains within himself.
He does it by staying levelheaded, which he was when his skill was being questioned early in the season.
Let's all hope this Hartley hot streak continues. Coach Payton can talk about confidence all he wants, but if Hartley misses another critical field goal that could potentially put the Saints in the postseason, Hartley's confidence, along with Payton's could be gone in a matter of seconds.