Originally written on The Saints Nation  |  Last updated 5/16/12

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24: Kicker Garrett Hartley #5 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates with teammates after he kicked a 40-yard game-winning field goal in overtime against the Minnesota Vikings during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
When Garrett Hartley injured himself in 2011 forcing the Saints to seek outside help to get a kicker on their roster, I suggested that as good as Hartley was, he might be more trouble than he was worth. As I said back then, "If your kicker can't consistently give you 16 games every season then you're dealing with a serious problem". Well, for 4 straight seasons, Hartley hasn't been able to play a 16 game season as a kicker, including last year where he missed all 16 of them.

Fortunately for the Saints, John Kasay, while old and limited in kicking range, turned in an incredibly solid season. While Kasay went 28 for 34, good for a 82.4% conversion rate, and turned in a perhaps better performance than what Hartley would have if healthy... I still assumed based on Hartley's brand new long term contract and the fact that John Kasay is 42 that the job would revert back to Hartley in 2012. That's why I was shocked to see the Saints re-sign John Kasay this summer and hear the Saints proclaim that the best man between the two would win the job. I'm not that confident about Hartley turning in 16 games this season, either, all of a sudden. But the Saints have made it clear: Hartley will not be handed the starting job and he will have to earn it.

This is nothing new to Hartley who's never really had the luxury of job security until last season... that is, until he hurt himself. He's now had John Carney and John Kasay breathing down his neck for most of his Saints' career. Fortunately for Hartley, the Saints have hung onto him despite slumps in performance, injuries and suspensions. Still, at some point if you can't prove yourself as a reliable kicker that's able to get through a season (something Hartley has NEVER done to this point), there won't be a spot for you in the NFL. This is an important part of the process for Hartley, and he needs to step up now, outperform Kasay, turn in a solid season and play 16 games. If he's not able to do that, his time with the Saints may not last much longer. Kasay may be limited in leg power and longevity, but we know he'll give Hartley a run for his money because he's steady and reliable. He's a known commodity for the Saints and there's peace of mind associated with that. Hartley needs to become that, because at this point he's still an enigma. He's great when he's right, and his ceiling is higher than Kasay's without question, but the NFL isn't about ceiling. It's a what have you done for me lately kind of league. And lately, John Kasay has been the one making kicks and lasting full seasons.

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