All the current hype surrounding Patriots backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo brings back old memories of once-touted backup A.J. Feeley. Remember his stint with the Miami Dolphins? If not, to put it mildly, it was brutal. This is not to say that Garoppolo’s fate for whichever team he ends up playing will be similar, but one has to assume that players like A.J. Feeley are always in the back of the minds of general managers when evaluating backup quarterbacks.
Back in February 2004, the Miami Dolphins traded a second-round pick for Feeley, a three-year pro with just five career starts with the Philadelphia Eagles. Joe Schad reported on the trade in the Palm Beach Post.
In an effort to find the next Jake Delhomme, Dolphins General Manager Rick Spielman conceived of a painstaking research project analyzing numerous quarterbacks who have blossomed from backup to successful starter.
Three weeks of projection research churned out this name: A.J. Feeley. And so the Dolphins, not wanting to be left out in the cold of a competitive quarterback market, agreed in principle on a five-year, $18 million contract with Feeley, a third-stringer with five career starts. The Dolphins will send the Eagles a conditional second-round pick in the 2005 draft for him.
Feeley was relatively unknown until he had a nice run in 2002 with the Eagles when he held the fort down for an injured Donovan McNabb and led Philadelphia to a 4-1 record in five starts. However, although the Eagles were successful in the win/loss column, during the six games Feeley played, he didn’t put up Marino-like numbers, throwing for 6 touchdowns and 5 interceptions with a 56% completion percentage. The following season, McNabb was healthy and Feeley didn’t take a single snap. Despite all this, Feeley had a choir of supporters.
Former Packers general manager Ron Wolf told The Palm Beach Post, he’d take Feeley over Kurt Warner and Jeff Garcia.
“I would personally take him over (Kurt) Warner and (Jeff) Garcia,” Wolf said from his Maryland home.
“I am very impressed with A.J. In a critical situation, he helped the Eagles win four games. At a vital time when everybody in the city of Philadelphia was predicting gloom and doom, he did not lose.”
According a Miami Herald piece, Tom Brady thought Feeley was “excellent.”
“I’ve seen A.J. play and he’s excellent. They’ve got a great team. I don’t think there’s much of an edge either way between us and Miami. We got the best of it last year.”
In the same piece, Peyton Manning said Feeley would “make this work,” with the Dolphins.
“I’ve gotten to know A.J. the past couple of offseasons,” Manning said from Dan Marino’s charity golf tournament. “The time he got to play a couple years ago, he played extremely well. He will work hard to make this work.”
It did not work out for Feeley and the Dolphins.
Embattled veteran Jay Fiedler, not Feeley, hung on to his role and started the season opener. Eventually, the Dolphins opted to use both Feeley and Fielder behind center. Feeley would make eight starts in 2004, throwing 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The Dolphins finished the season with a 4-12 record overall.
Before the 2005 season, the Dolphins, then led by new coach Nick Saban, traded Feeley to the Chargers for Cleo Lemon. Feeley would start 10 more games in his career, before retiring in 2011.
The Oregon product Feeley must have been a really nice guy, as he had many avid supporters. Unfortunately for him and his career, he was not a capable starting quarterback and was never on the level of Garcia or Warner. Heck, he wasn’t even on the level of Jay Fielder.