posted on Sep, 16 2004 @ 10:40 AM
Dolphins' offense walked through the locker room Wednesday looking like he belonged to the crew that takes care of the lawn.
As A.J. Feeley's sartorial sensibility suggests, it's a new era for the Dolphins. A check of Dan Marino's 47-page biography in an old media guide
offers no evidence that he ever wore his cap backward.
This much is certain: Feeley is no Marino. But he's also not Jay Fiedler, and with the Dolphins seeking a spark on offense, Feeley will make his first
start for them Sunday night at Cincinnati.
"It's an exciting time," Feeley said. "It's everything you ask for as a player - an opportunity to play. Hopefully I'll take it and run with it."
Fiedler, who took over when Marino retired following the 1999 season, lost the job when he threw two interceptions in the first half of Miami's
season-opening loss Saturday against Tennessee. Coach Dave Wannstedt declined to say whether he expects the change to be permanent, but no one with
the Dolphins wants rotating quarterbacks.
"Stick with somebody," tight end Randy McMichael said. "It's not college. You can't keep having the quarterback shuffle, because that's only going to
destroy the offensive chemistry."
While Wannstedt was quick to yank Fiedler, the unproven Feeley will likely get more of a chance to show what he can do in the Dolphins' revamped,
sputtering offense. Five starters on the unit are new to Miami this season, including Feeley and running back Lamar Gordon, who was acquired just last
week in a trade.
Gordon doesn't even know the names of all of his teammates in the huddle yet. But the Dolphins hope he can take some pressure off the new quarterback
against the Bengals, who allowed 219 yards rushing Sunday in a loss to the New York Jets.
"Who knows?" Feeley said. "We might go out there and run the ball 40 or 50 times and have success, and only throw it 10 times."
The start will be only Feeley's 14th since high school and his first since 2002, when he was a backup for the Philadelphia Eagles. He threw 282 passes
at Oregon and has thrown 199 in four NFL seasons.
Yet he has confidence in abundance.
"He's very excited that he's getting his opportunity to shine," McMichael said. "He's a cool guy. In the huddle, he's in charge. He makes everybody
believe: 'I am the leader, and you're going to follow me to the promised land."'
Feeley has a stronger arm than Fiedler but is less mobile, and the lack of experience makes him prone to the kinds of mistakes coaches loathe. With
Miami trailing Tennessee 7-0, Feeley forced a pass against a blitz, and his interception was returned for a touchdown.
"He's going to make some mistakes because of a lack of experience," Wannstedt said. "But he'll make some throws that offset the inexperience."
During a 33-year stretch from 1967 to 1999, the Dolphins' quarterback position was in Hall of Fame hands for all but three seasons, thanks to Marino
and Bob Griese. Now Feeley will try to settle into the role as the successor to Marino's successor.
Facing a battery of TV cameras Wednesday, he was much more relaxed than when he first met the media after being acquired in March for a second-round
draft pick. He laughed about how friends were unable to congratulate him on becoming No. 1 because he had neglected to cleaned out the message box on
his cell phone.
He said his girlfriend, soccer star Heather Mitt, and her family will be at the game in Cincinnati. He said the prospect of playing a night game on
national TV won't faze him.
"I stay in my bubble," he said.
Now that the bubble's in the spotlight, Feeley believes he ready to be a No. 1 quarterback in the NFL. The Dolphins hope he's right.