Monday, April 12, 2010

Saints Nation: Thanks to Garrett Hartley, We Can Stop Missing John Carney

Almost exactly a year ago, I wondered when it might be that we can stop missing John Carney. It turns out that time is now, but the 2009 season brought us some unexpected turns.

First, after a promising end to the 2008 campaign, Hartley failed a drug test that landed him on suspension for the first four games of the season. That opened the door for the Saints to bring back an available John Carney. Carney was a little shaky in this stint with the Saints, but he was good enough to remain the starting kicker well after Hartley's suspension was over with. After 11 games, with Carney going 13 for 17 (with 2 missed extra points), Hartley got his chance. Hartley did go 9 for 11, but he also missed an extra point, and one of his misses was a game winner against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that ended up costing the Saints the game. Hartley completely transformed his fortunes once the postseason began, though. He nailed his lone kick against the Cardinals from 43 yards in game one. In the NFC Championship, he hit a 40 yard game winning overtime boot that sent the Saints to the SuperBowl. In the SuperBowl, he went 3 for 3 hitting kicks that were all longer than 40 yards away. His clutch kicking has given the Saints a reliable and trustworthy kicker for the first time since John Carney. With Hartley's young age and leg strength, evidence suggests he'll probably be around for a long time too.

So I'm going to come out and say it: we can finally stop missing John Carney. The fact that we brought him back to give Hartley competition made the changing of the guard all the more special. Carney was retained as the "kicking game coordinator" too, so while he wasn't out there helping the Saints on the field, he was on the sidelines giving his wealth of experience and knowledge to Hartley. How perfect. It's been a stressful few years anytime we needed a field goal, but we've finally got ourselves a kicker we can trust and have promise in.