"After making long evaluations on all details involved what I’ve decided to do here as we move forward right now is that this week Chad Pennington is going to be the quarterback."
With that one sentence from head coach Tony Sparano to start his Wednesday press briefing, shock waves went out throughout South Florida - turning a quiet fall day into a media frenzy. Chad Henne is now out as the starting quarterback of the Miami Dolphins. Chad Pennington is again back in - trading youth, potential, and development in for experience and veteran leadership.
Some might be wondering what's taken me so long to share my thoughts on this huge decision made by Miami's coaching staff. Well the biggest reason, quite frankly, was to avoid posting angry knee-jerk reactions like many Dolphin fans have already done.
Despite the rumblings from guys in the media about the possibility of a quarterback change - from guys like Chris Mortensen and Vic Carucci, for example - I was as surprised as all of you that Tony Sparano officially made this switch. But I wanted to give myself time to digest this all. I wanted to really let this move sink in before I shared some thoughts.
I also tried my best to stay away from reading the opinions of other fans as well as the thoughts from members of the media. I didn't want their ideas to influence my thoughts on this change. Instead, I read the quotes from the players and the head coach, watched videos of the different interviews, and am now comfortable breaking this down from a few different angles.
A desperation move?
My initial reaction to Wednesday's news of the quarterback change was that it reeks of desperation from this coaching staff. It seems like this regime is now desperate to make the 2010 season matter. But what are they desperate for? Are they desperate just for some wins? Are they desperately trying to reach the playoffs? Are they desperate to make the month of December matter in order to simply sell some tickets to keep owner Stephen Ross happy?
I really don't have any answers to these questions. But you can't help but wonder if the coaching staff - and the front office - are simply trying to keep their jobs. I really did not think Jeff Ireland or Tony Sparano would be in a situation where their jobs are in danger this offseason. But I have to admit that this whole situation sure does have a strong stench of desperation.
I would just like to add that I'm not ready to fire Tony Sparano like some people have been calling for since the switch was announced. I like Sparano as a head coach. I believe that his players like and respect him, too. So I'm not ready to ditch him - not yet. One of his top assistants, though, does need to go. And I think we all know who I'm referring to.
The benefits of the change
The catch phrase that's been going around within that Dolphins locker room since the change was made has been "creating a spark." That's what Chad Henne said he was told by Sparano when Tony informed him of the switch. Chad Pennington, meanwhile, mentioned that the offense has "got to make sure we create a spark."
Clearly, that's the buzz word being drilled into the team by the coaching staff.
On the surface, the idea of "creating a spark" by sitting your young, strong-armed quarterback for an aging, weak-armed quarterback doesn't really make much sense. But I think you need to dig a little deeper than what meets the eye.
Pennington is a true leader. He can rally his teammates and they will respond like a military leader rallying his troops. That's something that we haven't seen on the field out of Henne. What makes Pennington so darm good despite his physical limitations are three things - his accuracy, his brain, and his leadership.
We also have to consider the possibility that the players inside that locker room may have been losing some faith in Henne - and in turn, losing faith in Sparano. One thing you do not want to have happen inside an NFL locker room is to see your starting quarterback and your head coach lose that locker room.
With absolutely no information to back this belief up, I do think that there may have been a little of this going on within that Dolphins locker room. I wouldn't be surprised to find out at some point that Sparano learned of this growing situation at one of his "captains meetings" - which are held every week and is when Sparano gets a chance to take the temperature of his players inside that locker room.
If this is indeed the case, then we could very well see an inspired and rejuvenated offense take the field starting on Sunday against the Titans.
The other aspect to consider here is how Pennington fits into Dan Henning's offense. Let's be honest - Pennington is a far better fit for this conservative offense than Henne is.
Right off the bat, you have to wonder how Chad Henne is going to react. Is he going to lose trust in his coaches? Is he going to lose confidence in himself? Henne seems like the kind of guy that wouldn't have his confidence shaken easily. But I think there might be something to the idea that Henne will lose faith in his coaches - which could be a problem down the road.
The biggest issue I have with this move - and something I touched on earlier this week - is what this benching will do to Henne's long-term outlook. Logic would dictate that the Dolphins are not going to reach the Super Bowl this season regardless of who is quarterbacking this team. So it them comes down to weighing what is more important - possibly winning a few more games and sneaking into the playoffs, or using these eight games to evaluate Chad Henne and come to some kind of determination on if he is indeed the long-term answer at quarterback for this franchise.
We all know that this franchise has been looking for the answer to their quarterback problem since Dan Marino retired. Clearly, though, this regime has placed more of an emphasis on winning a couple of extra football games than identifying the long-term solution at the quarterback position. In my opinion, that is simply the wrong decision.
An interesting dynamic
Much like the situation in Philadelphia involving Mike Vick and Kevin Kolb, the situation here in Miami is quite unique. It's rare that two players who are battling over one job become friends - genuine friends. But that's what has happened in Miami, creating a fascinating dynamic within that locker room.
This situation clearly is not easy for either player involved. But Pennington made the point of saying that "the good thing about this situation is he’s on the front end of his career, and I’m on the back end of mine. We’re not two dogs fighting over the same piece of meat."
Perhaps even more interesting was learning that HHenne and Pennington shared a teary-eyed heart-to-heart on Tuesday morning after Sparano informed each of them separately that the change was being made. This isn't something that occurs often within NFL meeting rooms - so it's certainly noteworthy and a great example of how close these two are.
if nothing else, one thing we can all agree on today is how classy both of these two men have been about the change. You may not like both guys as players - but you have to respect each as men.
The optimistic fan comes out
So there are probably more reasons to dislike this move than there are to like it. That's a fair belief, truth be told. But that doesn't mean that our spirits should be broken by this change.
For those that are not aware because you weren't around this site back in 2008 and early 2009, I'm certainly a card carrying member of the Chad Pennington fan club. I disliked him as much as anyone until he proved to us all his worth back during that magical 2008 season.
While I am not fully on board with this decision by any means, I'm going to allow the "homer" in me to come out real quick.
Because of what Pennington did for this franchise back in 2008, there's an aura that surrounds the man affectionately known as "CP10" around these parts. And maybe, just maybe, there is still some magic still left in Pennington. Maybe this change is indeed the spark this team needs. Maybe Pennington can lead this team to a playoff appearance.
Pennington is also taking over a team that is in a similar situation to where he was back in 2008. The Dolphins were 4-4 midway through that season as well - before running off seven wins in eight games.
Of course Miami's schedule was less challenging in '08. But the team still had to go to the Meadowlands and beat the Jets - which they have to do this year. They also won up in New England - which the Dolphins will have to do this year.
Crazier things have happened, folks. While there's a lot to disagree with regarding the change at quarterback, let's see how these final eight games shake out before taking pitchforks to the team's headquarters in Davie.