by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist
No one will ever deny that professional football is a hard business.
Even for an individual of the highest values, with the competitive heart and toughness of a lion, it matters not.
Just ask Jay Fiedler.
Last week the post-Marino era in Miami came to a rather quiet end when Fiedler, carrying a $7.75 million cap number, became an early casualty of the housecleaning that comes to all NFL franchises this time of year.
There was no post-release news conference. No going away party, no fancy send off.
No matter what you think now or thought you knew about Fiedler, count him among the good players and persons that have come through the doors of the franchise.
What will Fiedler’s legacy in Miami be?
Certainly, he will always be regarded as the guy who tried to do the impossible…fill Dan Marino’s shoes. In this Fiedler failed, just as most every other candidate would have.
He will be regarded as a terrific athlete, a guy who was the quarterback on Dolphin teams that won a lot of games in his five years….36 to be exact. That number would have been much higher had the Dolphins not fallen into ruin this past season, a fate that Fiedler had nothing to do with.
The record books will remember him as the #3 overall passer in team history, going 936 of 1,603 passes for 11,040 yards with 66 TDs against 63 INTs. Only Hall of Famers Marino and Bob Griese rank higher.
Did you know that Jay Fiedler holds a number of team records for a quarterback?
In the passing department, his efficiency as a passer left fingerprints throughout. Fiedler holds the team record for the most consecutive games with no passes intercepted (5). He also has the third lowest interception rate (3.89), behind only Damon Huard (2.78) and Marino (3.02). Additionally, he has the second highest completion percentage (59.1%) in team history, behind only Marino’s (59.4%).
He is the second highest rated passer in team history with 78.1. Again, only Marino’s 86.4 is better.
Another of Fiedler’s assets was his excellent running ability, considered among the best in the NFL. This past season, he was fifth in terms of average yards per carry (4.9) among QBs with a minimum of 10 starts.
Fiedler actually holds a number of team rushing records. He has the most yards rushing by a QB in a single season (321), the most career rushing touchdowns by QB (11), and is tied for the most single-season rushing touchdowns by a QB (4, David Woodley). He is second in most career rushing yards for a QB with 834.
As a Dolphin, Fiedler will also be remembered as a guy who represented the team with dignity and class at all times.
There were opportunities, more than a few, when Fiedler could have given in and responded to the critics in a non-quality way.
But that wasn’t Jay Fiedler. Despite the circumstances he always did his best to do things the right way, even when it killed him to do it in the face of withering and sometimes unfair criticism. He was the consummate professional.
Nothing speaks of his mental toughness more. Fiedler just went about his business to the last, right up until a ‘cervical disc herniation’ finally forced him onto the injured reserve list this past November.
His overall physical toughness was impressive, often gutting out games with injuries that he had no business playing with.
Simply put, he was a guy who would never quit.
A graduate of the Ivy League (Dartmouth), he had a fine mind for the game, having once coached it and coming to understand it as well as any in the league.
Unfortunately for Fiedler, he simply wasn’t blessed with the passing skills the Dolphins needed to win a championship.
His arm was average at best. Opposing teams came to know that they could gamble with the deep third of the field in an effort to stop a Lamar Smith or a Ricky Williams.
When the opportunity came for him to win games with his arm, more often than not he couldn’t. In five seasons, Fiedler had just three games of 300+ yards passing.
He often fell victim to the silly ill-timed turnover, the type typical of an Abbott and Costello shtick.
Fiedler had a love-hate relationship with the fans that often subjected him to brutal criticism. Sometimes his on-the-field efforts to prove the naysayers wrong blew up on him as he’d overly press to accomplish the brilliant. These setbacks only served to make matters worse for him.
Also making matters worse was the blind loyalty that ex-boss Dave Wannstedt had for Fiedler.
As disenchantment with Wannstedt grew, Fiedler came to be known as Dave’s guy. Some of the blame better placed at the feet of Wannstedt ended up hitting Fiedler as well.
Objectively, Fiedler was simply an average player that was incapable of creating any fear whatsoever in hearts of the opposition. Teams just didn’t worry about the damage that Fiedler’s arm could do.
In fact, it was a common refrain that opposing defenses were coached to be patient, knowing that Fiedler would send a gift or two their way. More often than not, they were right.
All things considered, Fiedler did his best to do as much as he could with talent he was blessed with. And he had some very good successes with a team that could have, should have, accomplished more.
Though his teams came well short of contending for a Super Bowl berth, Fiedler tried his best to give his best. Perhaps in time people will come to appreciate his contributions more.
In the end, Jay Fiedler was never a replacement for Dan Marino. He couldn’t be. No one could be.
No, Fiedler was just Fiedler; one of the good guys who helped the Dolphins win more games than it lost.
In short, he was a winner.
Not a bad legacy at all.