Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter
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That Garrett Hartley remained with the Saints until December 17, 2013 should tell you all you need to know about what Sean Payton thought of him.

Any other kicker would have been gone a long time ago.

Hartley has had his struggles. They've been documented, no doubt.

Payton stuck with him, bringing in older kickers to mentor the then young player. He publicly remained behind him even when others wouldn't and didn't.

He liked Hartley, wanted him to succeed. Few other players get as many lives as Hartley received.

But Sunday, after having a 36-yarder blocked and a 26-yarder stray wide left, Payton finally had enough.

No public backing and, in fact, his statements in St. Louis and again on Monday were akin to shots fired.

Hartley had the NFL's third-lowest kicking percentage this season, having missed of eight of his 30 attempts. It's the kicks he missed, though, that sealed his fate.

He was 10 of 14 from between 20-39 yards, kicks that are nearly automatics in the NFL. In his career, of his 19 misses, 11 have come from inside of 40 yards.

Yet, while the move is fresh, as are his misses against St. Louis, Hartley's time in New Orleans should be remembered for what he did, not what he didn't do.

Specifically, hitting a 40-yard field goal in overtime to send the Saints to their first-ever Super Bowl. Then, in that Super Bowl, he went 3-for-3, helping New Orleans stay in the game early with 46- and 44-yard field goals.

When the Saints needed him the most in the biggest games of 2009, Hartley came through.

Still, with just two weeks remaining and the Saints in a must-win position on the road Sunday at Carolina, Payton had to make a move. With the season nearly going off track, he's holding those on the roster as accountable as he can in hopes that there's still a long way to go.

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