We are 3 days away from Henne's debut on Sunday against the Biils. There are high expectations to see him perform well. Lots of people around here believe he is going to be our Sanchize quarterback for years to come. However, others claim "not seeing" anything yet to make them believers.
- a strong arm
- good pocket presence
- above average mobility
- icy nerves.
- forces the ball sometimes
- looks off his receivers
- doesn't go through his reads but locks on his main option
- hasn't shown a great deal of accuracy.
These are the main characteristics that resume his abilities as a quarterback. Naturally, one would think his success or lack thereof would depend on how well he showcases those abilities. However, where I am going at here is this: the possibilities of success for a young quarterback depend on much more than his own play.
There are always lots of key catalysts than can make or break a young promising quarterback. 99% of the players at that position drafted between the first and the second round have the prototypical abilities needed to be a successful quarterback in the NFL. So, then, what happens ? Why do some of them become stars and a handful of them become busts?
Last year, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco where thrown into the fire as week 1 starters while Henne sat on the bench learning behind P. But, where they really thrown into the fire?
Matt Ryan had two elite weapons on Michael Turner and Roddy White. He wasn't asked to come from behind consistently or throw more than 20 passes a game. Turner had more than 1,600 rush yards and managed to break a couple of key long ones, while providing Ryan with short third down situations to work with. Then White would be there to catch anything that was thrown to him and greatly helping his young quarterback staying on the field. Yes, Ryan showed a lot of poise and smarts during the season, but he had a lot of help.
Joe Flacco is even a more extreme example of how the conditions surrounding a young quarterback are key to his success. He started for Baltimore all the 08 season as a rookie. While he managed to make a couple of big plays early on with his feet and his big arm, he was far from perfect. Aside from his play that left a lot of question marks especially about his mechanics, lets take a look at what Baltimore asked and expected him to do compared to other elite quarterbacks in the league-
Attempts Completions Yards TD INT
Flacco 428 257 2971 14 12
P.Manning 555 371 4002 27 12
Rivers 478 312 4009 34 11
Brees 635 413 5069 34 17
As you can see, Flacco did not only receive a very limited workload (low Attempt numbers) , but he wasn't asked to win games for them (low TD and total yards numbers) and on top of that he could afford to make the same number of mistakes as guys who were producing 100% and 200% times more than him. Three of these mistakes came in the AFC championship game against Pittsburgh. Did it matter? yes, it probably cost them the game but a game that the #1 ranked Baltimore defense kept extremely close, allowing less than 16 points in 60 minutes. Bottom line, without that defense and with the task of winning games from behind Flacco would've been called a bust around mid october. Yes, he is starting to come along nicely but last year, without that supporting cast he doesn't achieve 20% of what he did, period. (You saw that playoff game against miami, he threw for 9 completions and still managed to win)
Sure, this are nice examples of a successful franchise quarterback development but things go wrong even more frequently.
David Carr- No weapons, no defense no O-Line.
Alex Smith- Different Offensive Coordinator every season he started for the 49ers.
Brady Quinn- Awful supporting cast, no patience from FO. (They gave him one start and that was it)
So, what are the catalysts that will come a long way in Chad Henne's development as a Franchise Quarterback?
Time to prove himself-
Chad Henne, bearing injury, will have 13 games to prove he can be a capable starter for the Dolphins. That's 52 full quarters, or 780 minutes on the football field. This should help in two ways: first, will have more than enough time to adapt to the speed of the game, learn how to read defenses, work on his accuracy and his mechanics. Then, he will also get a shot at mastering the offense and becoming a true commander on the field. If he is a true leader, that will show sooner or later.
Expected to make mistakes-
While he has to find a way to be consistent and keep the offense on the field, fans and coaching staff know that he is going to make mistakes, lots of them probably. And it will be tolerated. Most of the knowledgeable fans at least, have come to terms with the concept that this season the team is going nowhere. We must find out if Henne is the long term solution to the qb position in Florida. He will be given all the patience in the world to come along, and more importantly, he will eventually be given the opportunity to take the training wheels of the offense and light it up, even if mistakes come along the way.
Strong Running Game-
He will have a strong running game to rely on. This comes a long way for his development process. 1- He won't be asked to throw the ball too much times and 2- He will face a bunch of third and short situations, which gives him the chance to stay on the field while not having to be stelar down the field.
No playmaker help-
Like I mentioned before, Ryan had Roddy White and his ability to make big plays after the catch, Flacco had Derrick Mason and his ability to catch the most inaccurate of passes , Rodgers had Jennings to get open down the field and make the big play, etc. What does Henne have? Bottom line, a young quarterback needs a true #1 receiver to rely on. He needs a guy that beats the jam at the line, gets open, catches everything and that goes down the middle with ease. It makes his life much easier. Unfortunately the closest thing Henne will have to this are Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo, yes, dependable and good receivers, but very far from being elite.
A strong defense comes a long way in a young quarterbacks development. It allows a quarterback to:
1- Hand off the ball to the running backs. Run, run and run.
2- Manage the game. Throwing short, manageable passes and staying on the field.
3- Make mistakes. Mark Sanchez threw an interception and lost a fumble last Sunday against the Titans in an extremely close and physical game. In the second half he led his offense to more than 9 three and outs. He still managed to score two TD and win the game right? That doesn't happen if the Jets defense doesn't have 2 key interceptions and the special teams unit doesn't force two fumbles, period.
4- Not have to play from behind- Having to play from behind is a young quarterbacks worst nightmare. It basically takes away the last 3 points we discussed. It eliminates the run game, he has to throw downfield and take chances and he can not afford to make mistakes. Just what we saw last week against the Chargers.
There is no way around it, playing good teams is a hell of a lot harder than playing weak teams. This year Henne will face a whole lot of playoff contenders and excellent defenses in hostile environments. Including Tennessee and the Jets at home plus the Patriots two times. Bottom line, Henne will have to prove he is the best against the best.
Chad, your development process in the NFL just got that much harder. Best of luck.