I told you yesterday I was working on a Jay Feely column for the newspaper.
Well, the interesting column is up on the website.
So why is a column on Miami's kicker interesting?
Couple of reasons. First, Jay Feely is much more than just a kicker. He sees himself as something of a team leader, as a locker room spokesman and perspective guy, and as a valuable player.
One cannot argue the valuable player thing. Check out the 2007 NFL stats for field goal kicking and they reveal Feely was among the league's best. But that is not the reason he's under the microscope with the Dolphins.
Seems that his kickoff average is a concern and his average for the number of interviews and times he speaks out is a bigger concern for the team. The Dolphins want the guy to "keek ball, get check," and that's it. (Peronally, it was a shock for me to learn Fidel freakin' Castro resides at the Dolphins training facility.)
I asked Feely outright on Sunday if he had been told by the new administration to basically zip it with the media. I knew the answer already but wanted to hear it from him. Feely was straight with me. He said, "Yes..."
Amazing. But not unique.
I've covered a lot of players and teams that were at odds over how the players dealt with the media and how the team wanted them to deal with the media. Trace Armstrong, who I consider a friend, was forever under the gun when Jimmy Johnson became coach because ... well, because Armstrong had a mind.
Don Shula tolerated Mark Clayton because the receiver was outstanding. But the minute Clayton lost a step, Shula ushered him out and brought in Irving Fryar because Clayton's mouth was a pain for the coach.
I compare Feely's situation to that of Armstrong. The problem Feely encounters is a kicker is a lot easier to replace than a pass-rushing savant, which Armstrong was for a few years.
Anyway, the whole scenario raises a couple of questions.
1. Can Feely stop being himself to save his job?
I imagine a guy that bright feels like he's got a lot to add. But a guy that bright also has to realize it is better to be employed than not. So I assume he will try to dial back on his public opinions and spokesmanship. It won't be easy for him.
Example: Team brass noticed that Feely was the only player who asked a question of Ari Fleischer Sunday after the former White House Press Secretary finished a 45-minute presentation on how to deal with the media.
It's not a bad thing that Feely asked a question, in my opinion. But apparently there were eyebrows raised among Miami brass that Feely felt compelled to step up despite previously being told to step back.
The question apparently didn't help Feely, either. He asked how to he might go about defending the organization on issues he might not agree with.
"What I told Jay was, and I get that question a lot," Fleischer said, "is I worked for three congressmen, one senator and one president. They ran on their issues. I'm a staffer. I cannot possibly agree with 100 percent of what they espouse ..."
Fleischer apparently put it in terms Feely, who is interested in politics, could relate with. He compared the player's situation with a political party member that doesn't buy into every plank of his party's platform.
"... You don't have to believe every single thing your party stands for," Fleischer said. "But you have to believe in your party and your people ..."
The second issue raised by this situation is what the Dolphins do in picking a kicker. Do they go with the best player, with no regard for how/when/why that player talks to the media? Or do they allow those factors to have bearing on the decision?
Feely expects to make Miami's decision a difficult one. He told me he expected to be the NFL's best kicker this year.
So what do you think will happen?