Sticking with the scheme: 1984 vs. 2010

We're all probably scratching our heads over the mid-week QB changed announced by Sparano.  Regardless of whether you agree with the move or not, it is clear that in the short-term, Pennington is a much better fit in Dan Henning's offensive scheme than Henne currently is.  For that reason, I have been asking myself whether it is more important for a coaching staff to have a system and force players to fit into it, or should a coach recognize the talent he has and modify his system to suit his player's strengths?

Let's take a little stroll back memory lane, to the 1981 Miami Dolphins....

I'm using the 1981 Dolphins as a statistical reference point because the 1982 Super Bowl team only played nine games in a strike-shortened year.  The 1981 squad went 11-4-1 and was led by the combination of David Woodley and Don Strock at QB.  Woodley was a mobile QB who posted the following stats for the season:

Comp Att Comp% Yds Y/Att TD Int Rating

191 366 52.2 2470 6.75 12 13 69.8

That year, the Dolphins had 5,578 yards of total offense, and passing represented 60.9% of the total.  Running back was by the committee of Andra Franklin, Woody Bennett, and others; it should be noted that Woodley rushed for 272 yards that year.  In 1982, Woodley led this same team to the AFC Championship and Super Bowl XVII.

In 1983, we all remember how Woodley lost his starting job to a certain rookie destined for the Hall of Fame.   However, the 1983 Dolphins were still a running team, with a 60/40 split pass to run percentage of total yards.  Marino only threw for 2210 yards and 7.47 yds/att in 1983, when the team was built around running the ball more than throwing it. 

Then came the magical Super Bowl season of 1984.  Marino put up record numbers:

Comp Att Comp% Yds Y/Att TD Int Rating

362 564 62.4 5084 9.01 48 17 108.9

The 1984 Dolphins racked up 7064 yards of offense, and nearly 73% of those yards (5146) were through the air.

The question, then, is what happened in the offseason before the 1984 season? Clearly, the coaching staff recognized their talent at QB and changed the entire offensive scheme to benefit Marino's arm.  It's not like they went out and drafted WRs (In 1984, our top two picks were LB's Jackie Shipp and Jay Brophy).  

Fast forward to 2009.  Chad Pennington is hurt, so we have to go with Chad Henne, a strong-armed QB who can throw every big-league pass but needs to work on his touch and accuracy.  At the end of the season, the coaching staff all but declares that this will be Henne's team in 2010, and then goes out and gets a beast WR in Brandon Marshall.  So what the heck happened?  People are still griping about Henne's accuracy, INTs, and lack of "touch."  Now it seems that the coaching staff wants to go back to Pennington, as he is a "better fit" for Dan Henning's scheme.

I contend that while Henne still has a way to go to fully establish himself as the leader of this team, his lack of production can also be attributed, in part, to the simple fact that the coaching staff wants to play offense a-la 2008 (dink and dunk), and has no intention of optimizing or changing up the offensive scheme to maximize Henne's positives.  Sure, the kid isn't perfect, and he's going to make mistakes.  But also consider that Drew Brees didn't get to the Super Bowl until his ninth year in the league.  Brett Favre? Sixth Season.  The jury may still be out on Chad Henne, but until the coaching staff modifies the offensive scheme to play to his strengths instead of trying to make him a younger, stronger Chad Pennington, the kid is not being put into a position to succeed with this team.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.

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