Aint that a kick in the head

Kyle Riviere
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere

Garrett Hartley may have missed a couple of field goals last Sunday against the Rams, but the Saints surely didn't miss when they gave him a swift kick in the backside.

The organization cut the long-time kicker just two days later and brought in veteran Shayne Graham to replace him.

Tension had been building up throughout the season, but it got to its breaking point last Sunday when Hartley went just 1-3 in an embarrassing 27-16 road loss to the lowly 5-8 Rams.

To be fair to the six-year New Orleans kicker, one of those misses was a result of the kick being blocked and with the Saints falling into a 27-3 hole, they needed a heck of a lot more than a couple of field goals to win.

The fact of the matter is, New Orleans couldn't stop the run, the offense consistently made mistakes all day, Drew Brees threw two costly and uncharacteristic interceptions and they had no running game whatsoever.

But come Tuesday, Hartley became the sacrificial lamb. He was promptly cut. After that disgraceful performance, the whole team deserved to be handed walking papers.

The Saints' road woes have become a traveling joke around the league. Hartley is now the face of that joke. To me, his release painted him as the scapegoat for New Orleans' short-comings away from home.

Yes, he has struggled in spots this season. However, he still has been a respectable 22-30 overall and is just a month removed from winning a huge game against the 49ers on a last-second kick.

Not being cursed with a short-term memory, I was against Hartley being cut, but I do respect the organization's mindset and belief that they had to make a tough decision for the betterment of their team.

What I don't respect is the venom and hate Hartley has received from the Saints' fanbase this season.

You know the deal. He has routinely gotten angry letters, violent tweets and the same things any delusional and borderline psychotic fan does when they leave reality and enter a world where sports are life and death.

It's a fantasy world where sports are so important and so powerful that they cure diseases, change the world and end communism faster than a Rocky Balboa post-fight speech.

If you don't believe me, just take a look at some of the vile and equally-asinine death threats Alabama kicker Cade Foster received after all of his misses in the Tide's upset-loss in that crazy Iron Bowl last month.

Not only did Hartley get similar treatment, much of the "Who Dat" nation--which once wore bags over their heads but now have become spoiled and afflicted by amnesia--rejoiced and threw parties upon news of Hartley's release.

They quickly forgot how they went from wearing those cheap bags to wearing a shiny crown. They forget how they turned from insecure, embarrassed and depressed onlookers to rabid fans that refused to accept mediocrity.

Some of that transformation was achieved on the foot on Hartley. He is part of the reason they have become spoiled by winning.

Oh how they quickly forget how he nailed a 40-yard field goal in overtime against the Vikings to send the Saints marching into their first ever Super Bowl.

Oh how they quickly forget how he became the first person in NFL history to make three 44-yard-plus field goals in said Super Bowl. Those nine key points helped propel New Orleans to its first and only championship victory.

For someone who had such a major contribution to the Saints' transformation from league laughing stock to champions and perennial power, I just thought Hartley deserved more.

He deserved more from the organization but most importantly, he deserved more from the fans and the city he helped lift into a euphoric and surreal frenzy on a crisp February night in 2010.