Article;Edwin Pope:Heard it here first: Fiedler ready for breakout season

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Posted on Sun, May. 26, 2002

Edwin Pope:Heard it here first: Fiedler ready for breakout season
At age 30, he's ready to star

Cringe all you please, but I'll keep saying it until somebody proves it's wrong. This is going to be Jay Fiedler's breakout season as a Dolphins quarterback.

Give him just half as much help as Ricky Williams is capable of bringing, and only average offensive line support, and Fiedler will be superior.

Not just adequate.

Superior.

Fiedler believes and articulates this with intensity that is astonishing for a 30-year-old QB who has started for only two seasons. ''There's not a single doubt in my mind,'' he puts it.

New offensive coordinator Norv Turner believes it. That's important, too, when you recall Turner's days with Troy Aikman and others who share that galaxy.

Fiedler will never be Dan Marino. Big bulletin there, hey? No one except Marino will ever be Marino. He didn't just travel the passing galaxy. He owned it. But Fiedler doesn't want to be Marino. Doesn't have to be. He just has to be as good as he can be.

Ask Fiedler how he would rate his last season on a scale of 10.

''Oh.'' Long pause. ``Maybe a seven or eight.''

Now ask Fiedler how high he can rate in the future.

''Ten,'' he says. ``No doubt about it.''

Now ask Turner, who replies: ``Jay can be a Pro Bowler.''

What Fiedler has been most of his two seasons here is a whipping boy for lack of an all-around offense.

Time to wake up, Dolfans. The only active pro QB with a better record than Fiedler (22-10) for his first 32 regular-season starts is . . . yes! . . . Kurt Warner (26-6).

You remember the three interceptions Fiedler threw, two of which the Jets returned in that 24-0 rout up there last season.

I remember him playing five of the last seven games without a pick.

You remember booing some boomeranging passing decisions.

I remember him bringing the Dolphins back 80 yards with 1:41 left, and beating the Raiders 18-15 on an end-zone dive -- his second of that game.

You remember his 80.3 passer rating last year and 77.7 for his two seasons.

Turner doesn't: ``People get caught up in yardage, and forget about the five times he brought this team from behind to win in the fourth quarter.''

Turner looks at the last two season's films and then at Fiedler in these seemingly endless ''quarterback camps'' at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. And what Turner sees is a ``a very, very accurate passer who can put the ball where he wants to put the ball . . . a real athlete.''

The bug that kept biting Fiedler even in that 22-10 stretch, and those awful postseason times, largely resided in his hyperactive dome. Mental mistakes cost him and soured fans. The latter is inevitable when you have luxuriated in Marino for 17 seasons.

Even at 30, Fiedler is only now seeing the light bulb that Joe Namath once described for Terry Bradshaw.

''You have no idea of what's going on your first couple of seasons or so,'' Broadway Joe told Pittsburgh Terry back when the Steelers' QB was first floundering. ``But some day it's going to be like a big light bulb going on for you.''

It did. Now it's lighting up for Fiedler. He understands the game.

And don't let his chronological age fake you out. Most NFL QBs are so hard-used by 30, they walk like old men. Fiedler's still a low-mileage model. He threw only 12 passes in his first four NFL seasons at Philadelphia, Minnesota and Jacksonville, and actually spent '96 and '97 coaching. These days he carries the look of a vintage Corvette that's only been taken out of the garage for special occasions.

Again, no one has more confidence in Fiedler than Fiedler. That traces all the way back to when he was an Eagles backup under offensive coordinator Jon Gruden.

'The biggest thing I learned from him was the significance of reading your receivers' body language,'' Fiedler says. ``Sure it's hard when you've got four or five receivers out there and three seconds to make up your mind, but you practice with them until knowing where they are and what they're going to do comes to you instinctively. I didn't say it was easy.''

In turn, receivers such as Oronde Gadsden, Chris Chambers, Dedric Ward and James McKnight have taken their own lessons from Fiedler's infectious self-esteem. If a receiver knows the ball is going to be where he wants it, his head locks in and his hands turn softer.

And then, on top of Turner and QB coach Mike Shula working with him almost by the hour, there's Ricky Williams. How much easier is it to avoid all those third-and-6 decisions when you have a running game that can actually move a pile?

''What would the Rams at their best be without Marshall Faulk?'' Fiedler answers rhetorically. ``What would the Cowboys at their best have been without Emmitt Smith? Sure, the great old 49ers were all about Joe Montana and Steve Young, but you think Roger Craig didn't make a huge difference?''

A smile beams out from Fiedler's usually expressionless face when he says this. It is the smile of a man without a doubt.

He might still have to convince most of South Florida starting in September. That includes at least one popular and prominent Dolphin-turned-sportscaster who still disdainfully refers to Fiedler as ``a backup.''

Not me.

I'm sold.

epope@herald.com

:)
 

Capt. Dick

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I said 2 mos. ago, that Jay will have a breakout season. I`m glad that Edwin listened to me. LOL
 

Muck

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BOOM!! I'm fired up. I'm ready for the hitting to start!!
 

iceblizzard69

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Did Fiedler pay him to write that? lol I hope Fiedler does well, but I don't think he will. He just doesn't have the natural ability.
 

Scrap Iron

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Jay Fiedler is a second string QB and will never be anything more than that. He has a very average arm and will never make the smart decisions in crucial situations. He is a guy who will break a coaches heart. We need to keep looking for a guy to replace him in the very near future.
 

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I know Fiedler is capable of having a Pro bowl year.He could become a very good Qb just like Cannon.Remeber it took Cannon a couple of season as a starter to really catch on..I can't wait for the season!!!;This is the type of article that just gets you fired up.I can't even wait any longer for even Madden 2003 to come out so that I can see Ricky William in the Dolphins Roster...:)
 

akfinfan

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Scrap Iron:

Are you smoking crack?? You say Jay Fiedler will never make smart decisions in crucial situations?? Well how can that be when he had 5, 4th Quarter comebacks in one season.??? I hate posting about my 200% full support of Jay, but some of you are just down-right stupid....or blind. How can you b*tch about a Qb that has taken his team 11-5 in consecutive seasons, made some of the most memorable 4th Quarter drives ever, very mobile, ABOVE average arm, smart player, quick learner, and to top it all off he doesn't have an attitude problem!!! Jay in the Pro Bowl for 2002!!
 

Dolfan984

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And what Turner sees is a ``a very, very accurate passer who can put the ball where he wants to put the ball . . . a real athlete.''
 

Scrap Iron

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What is Jays record against playoff teams??? Not very good is it. I rest my case.
 

Scrap Iron

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Anyone who thinks that Fiedler is a Pro-Bowler is smoking crack!!! He is a second stringer masquerading as a starter.
 

iceblizzard69

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Jay is good against bad teams and bad against good teams for the most part. I am not a supporter of his at all, but he is good enough to be a starting QB in the NFL, just not a very good one. He is very good in the fourth quarter. I think that with a running game and a rejuvenated offensive line, Jay will have a good season.
 

akfinfan

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Scrap Iron: What is our Defenseive record/stats against Playoff Opponents when Jay is playing?? I rest my case.
 
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