METAIRIE, La. ― Sean Payton was quick to dispel any notion that the Saints would be issuing new kicking boots this week after Garrett Hartley missed his fourth field goal in nine attempts this season.
Indeed, when asked if his concerns “were escalated” after Hartley missed from 33 yards against Tampa Bay, the Saints head coach simply said, “No.”
“Just from watching him perform during the week, I have a tone of confidence in this player,” Payton said. “I think we’ll see in the long stretch his consistency. That’s a belief in watching someone practice and watching him perform.”
And that’s a change in action for Payton, who blew through kickers early in his first stint as a head coach.
After dismissing John Carney following the 2006 NFC finalist season, Payton went through Taylor Mehlhaff, Olindo Mare, Martin Gramatica and Hartley through the 2008 season.
He brought Carney back into the fold for the first half of 2009 after Hartley faced a four-game suspension for using a banned substance before going back to the youngster to end the season.
Then, after Hartley missed a 29-yard game-winning attempt in overtime against Atlanta, Payton brought back Carney and sat Hartley for two weeks.
But Carney’s eventual miss from 29 yards himself in the Saints’ loss to Arizona ended that stint and now it appears Payton has settled on Hartley.
At least for now.
Hartley’s misses this season have all come between 29 and 46 yards with his two other misses coming from 32 and 33 yards.
Payton, though, is unconcerned with his mid-range follies.
“Again, it’s early in his career,” Payton said. “He has real good leg strength. Like a said before, I think he has a bright future for us. We’ll continue to work, just like we would with any other position group, on the consistency. He’ll be as tough on himself as anyone. But I think he’ll be fine.”
Hartley entered the season 22 of 24 and 5 of 5 in the postseason, including the game-winner against Minnesota in the NFC championship game and three field goals from beyond 40 yards in the Super Bowl, a league record.