|Posted on April 21, 2018 at 4:10 AM|
As a quarterback in the NFL, Jay Fiedler started 76 games, played for 5 different teams (Eagles, Vikings, Jaguars, Dolphins and Jets) and passed for over 10,000 yards. Between 2000 and 2003, Fiedler's 35 wins as a starter were 5th most in the NFL—below only Peyton Manning (38), Steve McNair (40), Donovan McNabb (41) and Brett Favre (43).
I caught up with the former Dolphins quarterback to talk about how he worked his way up with depth chart, what it was like to replace Dan Marino, who he would take No. 1 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft and how he's helping to develop future athletes with his football camps.
Ryan: You've been retired for over a decade now. What do you miss most about playing the game?
Jay: "I certainly miss the camaraderie around the locker room and the relationships with teammates, coaches, support staff, etc. But relationships can go on and camaraderie can be found in all walks of life. What I miss the most though is the competition. Knowing that each week you get to spend 3 hours competing in a physically and intellectually demanding environment against the best in the world is something that is difficult to duplicate."
Ryan: From the very beginning of your career, you had to work your way up, spending time with the 1994 & 1995 Philadelphia Eagles and the 1998 Minnesota Vikings before getting your first start with the Jaguars in 1999. Tell me a little bit about that experience and how it helped prepare you to become a full-time starting quarterback.
Jay: "Well I didn’t take the traditional path to becoming a starting quarterback. Having to prove yourself every step of the way and always knowing you can quickly be out of a job helped me to develop resiliency and an unwavering self-confidence that definitely prepared me for becoming a starter. During those first few years in the NFL, I also learned how much politics and business go into personnel decision making. I was cut by two teams whose coaches told me that I was a better player than the one they were keeping. Getting cut by a team can have a damaging effect on a player’s ego and confidence, but fortunately I was able to always maintain a high self-confidence to keep the dream of starting in the NFL alive even when others closed the door on that dream.
My path also gave me the opportunity to learn the game in many different ways. By playing with four different offensive coordinators in my first four years in the league, I was able to absorb the game from coaches who each had varying perspectives of quarterback play. I was able to learn from some of the best coaches in the game, like Jon Gruden, Brian Billick and Tom Coughlin. I was able to take a bit from each coach to continue developing into a better quarterback each season."
Ryan: Your first postseason experience, ironically, was against the Miami Dolphins in the final game of Dan Marino's career (a 62-7 win for the Jaguars). You stepped in and averaged a whopping 15.6 YPA, tossed two touchdown passes and finished with a 108.9 passer rating. How much do you think your performance in that game influenced the Dolphins' interest in you as the successor to Marino the following season?
Jay: "I know that it played a part in the Dolphins interest and decision because people in the organization told me so. The bigger factor from that game against the Dolphins was the fact that leading up to the game, Miami didn’t know if Mark Brunell was going to return from injury to play. That forced the Dolphins staff and pro scouts to analyze my performance from the week before when I played well in my first NFL start in Week 17 of the  regular season."
Fiedler on 1/2/00 vs. the Bengals: 28 of 37 (71.8%) for 317 yards, 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions = 104.3 passer rating
Ryan: Towards the end of your first season with the Dolphins (2000), you faced a quarterback in the postseason who went on to finish his career with a record "9 one and done's" (Peyton Manning). You had a rough game that day, but your team won. Is football the ultimate team sport, or do quarterbacks really deserve the heat they take when their season ends short of a Super Bowl ring?
Jay: "I had a rough first half but was able to make a number of plays in the second half and lead the team to a last second touchdown that got us to overtime and ultimately helped us win the game. A quarterback can have the most impact into the outcome of any game, but he can’t win or lose one by himself. Without our defense keeping the game close, Lamar Smith having a career day (227 yards from scrimmage and 2 touchdowns), and our receivers making some key catches, I never would have had the opportunity to lead our team on that final drive of regulation, throw the game tying touchdown and ultimately finish with the win. Football is the ultimate team sport."
Ryan: Lets fast-forward to 2001, which I really feel was your breakout season. You finished with an 11-5 record, ranked second in the NFL in fourth quarter comebacks (4) and finished with a higher YPA average (7.3) than Rich Gannon (7.0) or Tom Brady (6.9). What do you remember most about that season, besides gracing the front cover of Sports Illustrated?
Photo credit: Sports Illustrated (October 2001)
Jay: "Having a year as the starter under my belt and the continuity of being in the same offensive system for another season helped me perform well in 2001. It was the first time since college that I didn’t have to learn a new system going into a season and I felt I had great command of the offense.
There were lots of highlights from that season, including of course, the game against Oakland in the first game back after the 9/11 tragedy which led to the Sports Illustrated cover shot. That game had so much emotion going into it and then ended in dramatic fashion with the last second dive into the end zone for the game winning score."
Ryan: On paper, the quarterback class of 2018 is said to be the strongest we've seen in over a decade. If you're the Cleveland Browns picking No. 1 overall, who are you taking?
Jay: "This is a very deep crop of quarterbacks from a talent and production standpoint, but it’s too early to label it the strongest in recent years. I think the guy with the biggest upside to be a long term franchise quarterback is Josh Rosen (@josh3rosen). He would be my pick at 1."
Ryan: For those who may not know, you are very involved with football camps, teaching young people how to play the quarterback position. Can you tell me a little bit about your camps and what they can offer young people seeking to develop their skill sets?
Jay: "I have two different sports camp businesses. One of them is Prime Time Football (www.primetimecamps.com), which is a year-round football training platform for beginners up to pros. I have run my own overnight football camp under the Prime Time brand for 20 years now, since early in my playing career, and have expanded that into multiple offerings of clinics, camps and private instruction. I have been able to work with kids as young as 7 years old as well as college prospects preparing for combine and pro days. In the past few years I had the opportunity to help prepare Trevor Siemian and Joe Callahan for their pro workouts. It’s been great to see unknown guys that I have worked with perform well and make it against the odds.
In addition to Prime Time, I also run The Sports Academy at Brookwood Camps (www.brookwoodcamps.com) each summer along with my brother Scott. Brookwood has been a family run summer sleepaway camp for over 30 years. We provide top level world-class instruction in a variety of sports and activities for boys and girls ages 6-17. The camp combines the best of a sports camp within a traditional summer sleepaway camp framework, all set on 160 beautiful acres in the Catskill region of upstate New York. Campers learn from the best while having great fun and making new friends from around the world."
Follow Jay Fiedler on Twitter: @JayFiedler
Follow Prime Time Football on Twitter: @primetimecamps
Follow Brookwood Camps on Twitter: @brookwoodcamps
Follow Ryan Michael on Twitter: @theryanmichael