by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist
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 offense.
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 to state.
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 you-know-who.
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
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 Saban.
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.
Meanwhile, other 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 discussed.
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 ballot soon.