Hartley’s performance lost in post-game euphoria

This posting is going to get into two topics that are searing on my brain today, which is another way to say I am procrastinating.

First, Ohio University football coach Frank Solich has filled a key staff vacancy — the position of tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator — with an up-and-coming coaching prospect, my brother-in-law, Brian Haines.

Brian Haines

Though I am (completely) biased, I believe Solich has made the right hire on several different levels: 

1.) Haines is young, personable and will relate well to the young men on the team. It is crucial that coaching staffs represent a broad range of ages to ensure players have a diverse group to which to relate.

2.) Haines makes the third Bobcat recruiting coordinator in  three years. Chances are, Haines will be sticking around for awhile. First, Haines needs to prove himself in his first full-time job, which typically means he will dig in and establish some professional roots with the staff.  In addition, Haines has roots in Athens with his wife being a native and having a young family. (Granted, if is his in-laws and sister-in-law get to be too much, he might run for the next available opportunity.) The notion that Haines could add stability to a position that demands some continuity is one Solich could not have overlooked.

3.) I do not think anyone would work harder to build relationships with high school coaches, to familiarize himself with the programs, and to bring quality student-athletes to Athens than a young, fiery, hard-working coach. This kind of man is eager to impress his bosses, to lay the pavement for a sustainable and lasting career, and is the kind of coach who truly enjoys what he does.

So, here is a sincere congratulations to Coach Haines, and wish for all the success his hard work affords him.

HOW ABOUT HARTLEY:  The second thing on my mind this morning — er, let me rephrase that… The second thing that is preventing me from getting on with my schoolwork and distracting me from issues of much greater importance is the  near-anonymity of New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley.

Garrett Hartley / Getty Images

Let’s rewind two weeks and, in that backtracking, remember the faces of almost-automatic kickers Shayne Graham, Neil Rackers, Jay Feeley and Nate Kaeding this playoff season.

Now, with those images of failure and angst in your minds, recall two weeks ago when Hartley kicked the game-winning field goal in overtime against the Vikings to win the NFC Championship.

Go back even further. Recall that after a little run-in with a bong and a four-week suspension, Hartley watched veteran (and likely Hall of Famer) John Carney take over the kicking job. But the diminutive booter from Oklahoma got to work. He won the job back (Carney was cut in December) and went 10-for-12 the rest of the way.

Now, go back to Super Bowl Sunday, a mere three days ago in Miami. While Drew Brees struggled to get the Saints’ offense clicking and it looked for a quarter or so like Peyton Manning and Joseph Addai were going to run away with the game, Hartley went about keeping New Orleans in the game.

He was dead-on on field-goal attempts of 46 and 44 yards in the first half. That kept Sean Payton’s team close going into the break.

In the third quarter, Hartley’s 47-yarder put the Saints within one point.

With that field goal, Hartley became the first kicker in Super Bowl history with more than two made field goals of 40 yards. (Isn’t that kind of amazing that that had not before happened?) Regardless, he did it — and made it look easy!

We know the rest of the story… Brees ignites, the Saints defense punishes and New Orleans hoists its first Lombardi Trophy.

It was a given Brees would win the MVP, (though I really hope Hartley was the runnerup.) And it was obvious that Brees would grab the headlines and Tracy Porter’s game-sealing interception returned for a touchdown would lead all the notebooks, or be the subjects of the sidebars.

But, outside of Norman, Oklahoma and his hometown of Dallas, Hartley got lost in all of the post-game euphoria.

Well, not here. Way to go, Garrett.


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