I was going to write about possible playoff scenarios today. We could have called them the ghosts of playoffs future, maybe, and could have considered the repercussions of each. I was going to say that the biggest hinge is the obvious one: The result of the game the Saints will play against Carolina this coming Sunday.
Win that game and the Saints seem likely to advance in the playoffs and earn a berth in their third NFC Championship Game. Lose it, and they'll find themselves a 5 seed wildcard that would face a major challenge winning a playoff game; lose it, and they could even miss the playoffs entirely by also losing to Tampa, along with a pair of Arizona wins.
But let's talk about Garrett Hartley, who was released last night, and who is a Saints hero and a Saints failure, and also a Saints legend. He is, probably, the most important and memorable kicker in team history, even including Morten Andersen, despite his failings.
Let's take a look at Garrett Hartley's five best moments.
5. The Perfect Start
It's easy to forget that, before his 2009 Super Bowl heroics, Hartley earned the Saints' kicking job with a perfect performance as a desperation replacement during the 2008 season. He made all 13 of his field goals in 2008, and then, after being re-activated in December of 2009, made four of five attempts against Washington. Along with his extra points, that means Hartley supplied 15 points in a game the Saints won by 3.
Here he is winning the game in overtime:
4. Beating the 49ers, Part I
Back in 2010 the Saints found themselves in a tough, physical struggle against San Francisco. The game went down to the very end.
Hartley had an opportunity to win the game with a field goal as time expired, and he did—barely, with a kick that was deflected by San Francisco defenders and yet still flew true.
3. Beating the 49ers, Part II
Three years later—just a few weeks ago—Garrett Hartley beat the 49ers again, albeit a much, much better San Francisco team than the one the Saints faced in 2010.
Hartley's success in this game was especially cathartic because it seemed to signify his overcoming another dip in the roller coaster ride of his career. Sadly, as his further struggles this year show, this wasn't the case.
But his performance against San Francisco this year was memorable nonetheless.
2. The Super Bowl
Hartley made every kick he tried in the Super Bowl. Despite the Saints' comfortable final margin of victory, we all know how important those kicks were.
Here's the last one:
Hartley's Super Bowl performance remains one of the best ever by any kicker.
1. Pigs Have Flown
Is there any doubt about the greatest triumph of Garrett Hartley's career? It's one of the greatest moments in the history of the New Orleans Saints, and I won't burden you with words.
Just relive it. But not through the kick itself. Just watch this little sliver of the celebration, and feel the things you felt back then.
For more on the Saints, New Orleans, and everything in the margins, check out the Black & Gold Review.