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Feely and the Jets: The Feeling Is Mutual


During the two-year hiatus from the end of his college career at Michigan to the start of his NFL career with Atlanta, Jay Feely entered the workplace in his degree field of finance. When his pro career is over, Feely likely will return to the financial sector.

Now? "Now is probably not a good time to be a financial adviser," Feely said.

But in a few years, the economy will surely return to health. And as for the present, Feely's career as an NFL placekicker is back on its feet. After Feely spent 15/16ths of last season as the Jets' pinch-kicker, Mike Nugent has been signed as an unrestricted free agent by Tampa Bay. And two weeks ago Feely, also a UFA, re-signed with the Jets.

"I was very happy with the organization as a whole and my teammates in particular," Feely told today. "And Coach Westhoff and Kevin O'Dea as well. I was very hopeful I'd be back and that they'd want me back and we'd be able to come to some kind of agreement on a contract. And we were able to do that, I was thrilled."

Thus ended Feely's season-long "temp" job, coming in for the injured Nugent for Week 2 against New England and kicking the rest of the way, even though by midseason Nugent's leg was fine enough to return.

To paraphrase Dr. Evil, it got a little weird there last season.

"It was such a whirlwind for me, an odd experience," Feely said. "Especially coming onto a team with a guy you're friends with and he's injured. You never want to see anybody get hurt, yet you have to go out and try do your job the best you can. But by doing your job well, it really impacts your friend."

Feely said he and Nugent maintained their great respect for each other — even though Feely is a former Michigan Wolverine and Nugent a one-time Ohio State Buckeye — and continued to talk after the season to see what each other was going to do in free agency.

The Jets' job of deciding which kicker to try to keep was made easier (or perhaps it was made harder?) because Feely kicked so well in Nuge's place, and got better as the season went on.

"My groin was still very much bothering me when I first got here," Nugent said of the injury that he suffered while reportedly leading the Dolphins' kicking derby in early August. "By the end of the season I was 100 percent healthy. And as the season went on and I got it healthier and got stronger, I was able to practice the way I wanted to practice."

Feely's list of significant contributions to the Green & White, his fourth pro team (fifth, if you count the one day he was with Kansas City this summer), began piling up:

*  He drilled a game-tying 52-yard field goal with eight seconds left in regulation to send the Week 6 game at Oakland into overtime.

*  He went 4-for-5 in the major 26-17 road win at Buffalo two weeks later.

*  The following week he went 4-for-4 at home vs. the Rams, including a franchise-record-tying 55-yarder and three 40-plus FGs in all.

*  The next week he calmly instepped the game-winning 34-yarder down the middle of Route 1 at the closed end of Gillette Stadium to slay the Patriots in OT, 34-31.

*  He closed with 14 consecutive field goals, setting him up to take a run at Pat Leahy's and Nugent's team-record 22 straight FGs (Nugent's streak includes 3-for-3 in a playoff game).

*  His kickoffs were sound all season, resulting in seven touchbacks, nine returns stopped inside the opponents' 20 and an unofficial 3.77 hangtime.

"It was exciting for me," Feely said of the unfolding season. "I didn't want it to end — I know nobody else did, either. We wanted to go into the playoffs. I was feeling so well physically. Sometimes guys are beaten down by the end of a season, but I was not that way."

The Jets didn't get what they wanted, needless to say, nor did Eric Mangini, who was not retained and moved on to become head coach of the Browns. But that meant that Rex Ryan got his turn at the NFL head coaching carousel, and Feely has been further energized (as have his teammates and more than a few folks in the business part of the building).

"The interesting thing for me was that I came in here this week and met Coach Ryan for the first time and I knew I'd made the best decision for me personally," Feely said. "He's going to be awesome to play for, exactly the kind of coach I want to play for — fiery, honest, he'll tell you whether you were good or bad, and you can trust what he tells you."

In fact, Feely said, Ryan is a lot like Westhoff, who continues along with O'Dea to orchestrate the Jets' kickers and special teams in the new regime.

"That's why I like playing for Mike so much," he said. "If you do a good job, he'll tell you, if you do a poor job, he'll tell you that. And he's such a great coach from a schematic standpoint, the best in the NFL. And he's got the guts to call things like surprise onside kicks or fakes, or to draw up a play on the sideline in New England and boom! We score a touchdown on that [Leon Washington's kickoff return]. Guts as well as very great schemes."

And since it's the fashion these days to express confidence in all phases of the Jets' attack, Feely tipped his cap to his fellow teamers.

"When you look at the special teams as a whole, you have Leon. Then you couple him with the way Wallace [Wright] played, the way Ahmad [Carroll] played, Brad Smith. We had the potential to be a dominant group," he said. "I think that's what we all feel and what our goal will be coming into the season. We want to dominate on special teams every week. Then hopefully on offense and defense, you win one of those other things and then you win the game. We have so much talent."

Speaking of guts and talent, there is Feely himself. He's always believed in himself, even when he went unsigned for two years, then bounced from one team to another and another. He turns 33 in May and he's still got a few more big games and long kicks left

"I'd love to be here the rest of my career and not go anywhere else," he said. "I have much affinity for the Jets after just one season. I like the area a lot. There are so many opportunities in New Jersey and New York to develop relationships. There are so many advantages to being here, so much I like about the team."

And so much the team likes about Feely. Now if both are up to the task, and the economy can follow their lead, Feely may have a great climate to become a financial adviser sometime well into the next decade.

Second-Half Resurgence

Feely said he wants to be the best kicker in the NFL. Over the last three seasons one piece of his game has been among the best and that's how he kicks late in the season. Here are the NFL's leading qualifying kickers from 2006-08 in two categories:

 December Games FGM-FGA Pct.  Games 9-16            FGM-FGA Pct.
 Jason Elam 25-25 100.0  Jason Elam 42-42 100.0
 Jay Feely 19-19 100.0  Morten Andersen 20-21 95.2
 Jason Hanson 26-27 96.3  Mike Nugent 35-38 92.1
 Joe Nedney 19-20 95.0  Jay Feely 32-35 91.4
 Nate Kaeding 26-28 92.9  Jason Hanson 41-45 91.1
 Mike Nugent 23-25 92.0  John Carney 29-32 90.6

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