Figuring Feeley Out
by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist
Pleasure to pain. Hero to zero. Great to awful.
Pick your set of antonyms. Any number of them describe the paradox that is A.J. Feeley.
One moment, visions of dominance. The next, disaster.
So what did the Dolphins get for their second round draft pick? Did they get a guy who is still learning to play the pro game, a raw talent that will mature into a force? Or, did they get a guy who just flat out can’t play, a bust?
It has been very tough for team insiders to evaluate Feeley objectively. After all, he is trying to learn behind a lousy offensive line and is without the support of a meaningful running game. It can’t be helpful that the offensive coaching staff isn’t exactly working in harmony.
Not exactly a quality learning environment!
First and foremost, recognize that we must lump Feeley in with the other league rookies who are playing, guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning.
The reason is simple. While Feeley has been in the league longer than a true rookie and has prior NFL game experience, he has actually played less football than guys like Roethlisberger and Manning have since high school.
Think about that.
Now, when evaluating a quarterback, there are two things that must be scrutinized: the mental and the physical.
Physically, Feeley has erased any doubts or questions about his ability. The guy has a quality NFL arm with the quickest release we’ve seen in these parts since a guy named Marino used to toss it. He can make any throw and, what’s more, he can make the difficult throws that few other NFL quarterbacks can.
Case in point: the 15 yard TD pass he threw to Randy McMichael on third down and 15 against the 49ers. That was one of the best passes you’ll ever see, a decisive and highly accurate laser shot through two defenders with no room to spare. Money!
While Feeley does not have the mobility of a Jay Fiedler, he has shown that he is mobile enough to evade the rush and gain yards. Witness his 7 yard sneak for a TD against the Seahawks, a tough play for any QB to make inside the red zone against a good defense.
From a toughness perspective, can there be any doubt that Feeley is up to the task?
Example: In the first quarter against the 49ers, Feeley gets the middle finger on his throwing hand bent out of joint. A troop of trainers hold him while one jerks the thing back into it’s place, a gruesome sight for sure. Not be deterred, Feeley trots back out onto the field on the very next play, and fires a 25 yard TD pass to Chris Chambers.
You think that sent a message to his teammates, the coaches, and the fans?
You bet it did. With an exclamation point.
Mentally, the story is quite different for Feeley. Truly, he is the classic example of a guy who hasn’t played a lot of football. One wonders if he is really ready to sit in the big chair.
Perhaps it is Feeley’s competitive spirit, his desire to prove to everyone that he was worth trading for. Or, perhaps it is the desperation every Dolphin feels to get a win. But you get the feeling that many of Feeley’s mistakes could have been avoided by him not pressing or forcing as much.
Then again, Mike Holmgren had to practically beg a young Matt Hasselbeck to make mistakes so that he would learn.
The rest of Feeley’s situation is academic. Defensive coordinators know all about Feeley’s novice condition and, as expected, are doing what they must to give the young student more to think about than he is ready for in terms of disguised coverages and blitz packages.
Understandably, Feeley has been surprised and astonished many times with the outcomes from decisions he has made.
Field maturity in a QB is knowing what to do and when to do it. Perhaps no other quality makes or breaks a QB more. This is what the Dolphins mean when they talk about Feeley’s learning process. This is where the jury is truly out on Feeley. Does he have the mental acumen to win in the NFL?
Other mental attributes include things like leadership and huddle presence. Feeley seems to have these qualities. Like the great ones, he will not hesitate to hold his teammates (and himself) accountable.
I won’t get into Feeley’s stats here because, quite frankly, they are not important. What is important is that the Dolphins see as much of him as they can so that they can determine whether or not the guy is a keeper.
At the end of the season, the Dolphin brain trust will have an important decision to make. They’ll have to judge whether or not Feeley will mature into what they need in a championship-caliber quarterback.
Right now, the returns are mixed. Lets see how the final four games turn out before we decide.