The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE

He didn’t win the game and won’t get any sleep tonight, but A.J. Feeley certainly won the respect of his teammates Sunday. What can you say about his incredibly gutsy performance. After getting hit by defensive lineman Rocky Bernard who went airborne at full speed and landed on top of him (with his hip taking the full brunt), Feeley showed tremendous grit in returning to the game. When back-up Jay Fiedler got injured and was forced out, it looked as though Rosenfels was headed into the game—a move that would have precluded either Feeley or Fiedler from coming back in under NFL rules—but Feeley convinced the coaching staff to let him return.

Feeley, who was only 2 of 8 passing at the time, played his heart out and got the Dolphins back into the game. However, his play was not without mistakes. For the game, Feeley had two fumbles and two interceptions along with two avoidable intentional grounding calls. The first fumble cost the chance to get the Dolphins within a score just before halftime; the second interception was returned for a touchdown (for the fourth time this season) and cost the game, coming as it did with the score tied at 17, with about one minute left and with the Dolphins just about in range for a game-winning field goal.

But the story of this game was really Feeley who came within one big mistake of leading the team to a win against the first-place Seahawks. It is not often that there is reason for hope in a losing locker room, but this one was somewhat reminiscent of when a young Dan Marino came off the bench in a losing effort in 1983 and had everyone talking about the future. Make no mistake, Feeley is no Dan Marino, but one should also remember that the mistakes he made must be viewed in light of his pain-induced limitations, the porous play of the o-line and his overall lack of experience. As much as everyone points to his inexperience as a reason why it was foolish to trade away a second round draft pick and give him a $3 million dollar signing bonus, that very lack of experience must be considered in analyzing his mistakes.

What can’t be overlooked in discussing Feeley’s performance is the upside he may present over Fiedler. Fiedler is a serviceable quarterback who could win a lot of games with a talented team, but he is not a quarterback who can put a team on his shoulders and carry them when necessary. With some seasoning (and a better o-line), Feeley might be able to do so. The last six games of the season should give him some well needed experience and should give us some insight into whether or not he can develop into a worthy first-string quarterback. If he shows signs of developing, then he will be the unquestioned starter going into training camp next season. If not, then the Dolphins can look forward to the top pick in the 2005 NFL draft. For now, Feeley can look forward to a sleepless night or two thanks to Seattle.

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