After a let down in the 1st round of the playoffs, there were a lot of very upset people on this site. I saw mutiple calls for Chad Pennington to be benched in favor of Chad v2.0 aka Chad Henne. The point of this article is not to argue for one QB over the over. I am a selfish, selfish man and I have no particular rooting interest except for this: I want the Dolphins to win. For every arguement about Pennington and the limitations his arm puts on this offense, there is a counter argument against Henne and the limitations his inexperience saddles us with. I'll leave it up to the Coaching Staff to decide which trade off is better as they are the pros and we are not- and I think they have done enough to earn our trust after one season.
The point of this article is to address a simple fact. Pennington is 32 and not getting any younger, and last year we spent a 1st day draft pick on a QB. Now it may not be next season- heck, it might not even be the season after that- but at some point, Henne is going to be the starting QB for the Miami Dolphins. I would like to take a look and see what we may have.
People look to a lot of things when they try to project the success of a college quarterback. How big is he? How strong? Can he scramble or is he a pocket passer? Scouts salivate over prospects like Matt Stafford due to his "ideal size" and laser like arm. We put them in the combine and measure how much they bench, how fast they run, and how far they can throw. But the last time I watched a football game, I didn't see the QB dead lifting anything on the field. Tom Brady couldn't outrun my grandmother, and she is dead. Joe Montana never threw bullets, but I think he turned out OK too didn't he?
Maybe its the Wonderlic score right? QB is a "cerebral" position, so maybe the smartest QBs are the ones who make it? Terry Bradshaw, and our own Dan Marino had some of the lowest scores ever for a QB. How did they do again?
So do QBs need to sit on the bench and learn on the job to be successful? Well, sometimes that helps. Aaron Rodgers had a great year on an awful team after riding the pine for a few years. Matt Cassell looked pretty good as well. But then how do you explain the fact that two rookie QBs made it to the play offs this year?
Is it being prepped by a big time program? Carson Palmer came from USC, Peyton Manning was groomed at SEC powerhouse Tennessee, and Matt Ryan came from Flutie U aka Boston College. But Big Ben played at Miami of Ohio in the MAC, Phillip Rivers came from NC State, and Eli played at SEC doormat Ole Miss.
If you really sit down and look at the trends, there are two numbers that stand above all others.
#1 is completion percentage. #2 is games started.
Look at the evidence.
Lets start with a very high profile example. The year is 1998. The Colts have the #1 overall pick, and need a QB desperately. They have their choice of 2 consenus picks. Scouts went back and forth over who would be better. The more consistent Manning or the high upside Leaf. It really seemed to be down to a coin flip. Obviously we know how it turned out. Manning went to the Colts, and 10 years later is considered a sure fire Hall of Famer. Leaf burned out big time, and just resigned as QB coach at a small school in Texas. But who could have seen this comming? How did a coin flip turn into such a disparity. Look at the numbers.
Peyton Manning: 63% completion percentage, 45 games started.
Ryan Leaf: 54% Completion percentage, 24 games started.
If you subscribe to the started-completed theory, the choice would have been easy.
Maybe this is a fluke you say?
Lets look at some more examples:
Phillip Rivers: 64% completion percentage in 51 games started. He was the highest rated passer in the NFL this past season
Carson Palmer: 59.1% CP and 45 games started
Eli Manning was a 4 year starter with a 60+% CP. Ben Roethlisberger left a year early but completed over 65% of his passes. On the other hand- you have these guys who were thought to be sure fire franchise QBs:
Joey Harrington- 28 startes, barely hit 55%
Akili Smith- 19 starts, another one who barely hit 55%
Jim Druckenmiller- 24 starts, sub 55%
Kyle Boller- 42 starts but not even 50% completion percentage.
So how does our guy stack up?
47 games started, 59.7% completion percentage. What does that seem to indicate? Well he compares favorably with Carson Palmer, which I think anybody he would be glad to be "stuck with". He had a solid 4 year career, though his senior year production did dip with some significant time lost due to injury (Only 10 games played vs 13 his junior year, 17 vs 22 TDs, 9 vs 8 INTs, 58.3 vs 61.9% completion percentage). My guess would be that if he had not been injured, his senior year would have been similar to slightly better than his junior year as he finished out the season by shredding up my Florida Gators for a career high 373 yards while completing 64.1% of his passes, 9.6 Yards/Attempt, and 3 TDs vs 2 INTs.
Just to compare this years super rookies Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco had 32 starts and a 59.9% of passes complete, and 26 starts with 63.4 % of passes completed respectively.
I would say this projects to a pretty bright future for our current pine rider. At worst, we should expect a solid pro career out of him, with the potential to match up with the Carson Palmers and Eli Mannings (at least the Manning of the past 2 seasons) in the NFL. Learning behind "Coach Pennington" can only help.
So while we don't know when he will take over as the leader of our offense, I think we should all be fairly confident when he does.