Around and around it
goes, where it stops nobody knows.
How else to interpret
Nick Saban’s latest spin on the quarterback situation?
You’d think, after
OTAs, training camp, four preseason games, hours (no, days!) of film study, and
endless classroom sessions, that Nick Saban would have a solid handle on this.
Yet here we are, with
A.J. Feeley and Gus Frerotte back to splitting snaps with the first team
Saban suggested that,
at this point, he may move forward with a two-headed monster, a ‘QB by
committee’ if you will.
Or, as Saban
professes, whoever gives the team the best chance to win.
Is this Saban’s idea
of success or some elaborate psychological plot to drive out a winner?
Let’s hope it’s the
latter. We know what usually happens when a team tries the former.
In all fairness, the
race has indeed been tightly run. Frerotte started out quickly but has since
faded, this despite taking all of the snaps with the starters for the past two
weeks. Meanwhile, Feeley has steadily improved since being relegated to working
with the second-teamers in practice and in games.
So, after all of the
work that’s been put in thus far, who’s the better player? Or, more to the
point, the best man for the job?
Both men have a case
Feeley has the
physical tools to round into the form of a Matt Hasselbeck-type quarterback.
Per offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, he has “exceptional” passing ability,
along with a release faster than any QB the Dolphins have had since
When one considers
that a Matt Hasselbeck-caliber player would make the Dolphins a legitimate Super
Bowl contender, Feeley becomes a very compelling prospect. That’s the argument
former-GM Rick Spielman used to justify spending a high second round pick to
acquire him from the Eagles.
However, Feeley is
not a Hasselbeck…not yet anyway. He is still an unknown, a guy who has taken
very few snaps as a pro. In fact, since graduating from high school, Feeley has started only 21 games.
There are third year college players who have played more
football than Feeley has. That makes him a big developmental risk.
Frerotte is a
seasoned pro, 12 years’ worth to be exact. During that time he has made stops
in six NFL cities (including Miami). His ability to be proficient in various systems
demonstrates his versatility as well as his broad and deep knowledge of the pro
game. He is very well versed in the Dolphins’ current scheme. He is mature and
possesses a strong arm. Players laud his leadership skills in the huddle.
If the Dolphins had
to play in the Super Bowl today, Frerotte would be the man.
But Saban is building
for the future. Is it correct to play a 33 year old veteran unless that veteran
is clearly superior to his competition?
If you believe the
answer is “no”, the decision is a simple one: Play Feeley.
Not so fast, says
There is something else
on the table here, something that keeps Saban from handing the reins to Feeley.
And, really, this is more about Feeley now than Frerotte.
Does Saban truly
believe that Feeley has what it takes to lead a well-stocked offense to the
promised land? Is Saban concerned about playing Feeley sooner than he thinks
he’s ready? Is Feeley’s penchant for playing better than he practices something
Saban wants to prove out, as he did with Rohan Davey back at LSU?
Or, is Saban trying
to motivate Feeley into seizing the job outright, thus earning the respect that
such legitimacy brings?
One thing seems
certain: If Saban had concluded that Feeley wasn’t capable, he would have named
Frerotte the outright starter by now and been done with this.
names will continue to be introduced into the public discourse. Of those at the
pro level, Davey, Tim Couch, and Adrian McPherson are the ones most-often
Davey has the mind
and the intangibles but lacks the pro-caliber passing skills. Couch is the opposite
of Davey. McPherson is a character risk and a long term developmental
proposition, though his upside is tremendous.
In other words, none
are better options to the ones the Dolphins have right now.
Those who read my column
know my opinion on this subject: given the current circumstances, the Dolphins
should play Feeley to determine, once and for all, what they got for their
investment. This is what Dave Wannstedt should have done last year. This is
what Saban should do this year.
In the end, only
Saban’s vote will count. For the good of the team, let’s hope he casts his