This entry is a few days late, but I've been waiting until the tears for Feely stopped flowing before I wrote about this. Okay, not really. The Madden NFL 09 release has kind of been occupying my time. Sue me.
As you well know by now, the Dolphins have released placekicker Jay Feely and essentially handed the job to undrafted rookie Dan Carpenter. Feely was arguably one of the Dolphins' most valuable players last season, converting 21 of 23 field-goal attempts on his way to a single-season franchise record for field goal percentage (91.3).
I've acknowledged the possibility of this happening all offseason, but I had predicted/hoped that it would not happen given Feely's production. One knock on Feely was his kickoff ability, as he ranked 34th in the NFL last season among players with 10 or more kickoff attempts (44th overall). However, if you look at his career statistics you will see that his 57.8-yard average last season was well below his usual numbers. His 64.6-yard average with the Giants in 2006 would have ranked him EIGHTH in the NFL last season. Obviously he has the ability, and I'm inclined to believe his low average last season was more the result of the Dolphins' strategy (i.e. pooch-kicking) than anything else.
Feely's kickoff ability is just an excuse, and the simply fact is he was cut because Bill Parcells didn't like him. From Day 1, there were rumblings that Parcells wasn't happy with Feely's media-friendly behavior, and even though the kicker gave in to the organization's demands by toning down his exposure it clearly didn't matter. Parcells cut Feely because he is the kind of guy that likes to exert his authority every once in a while just for the hell of it.
Maybe Dan Carpenter will pan out. Maybe he does have a better leg, and maybe he'll continue to improve on his 72.8 college field-goal percentage. (His average went up every year, from 62.1 as a freshman to 82.6 as a senior.) That, however, remains to be seen, while Feely has already established himself as one of the elite kickers in the NFL and was without a doubt one of Cam Cameron's and Randy Mueller's best signings. You can bet Feely goes (are you listening, Kansas City?), he'll have the production to make Parcells regret this decision if Carpenter flops.