Let me preface by saying if you read this and still think chad Henne is the problem and not Dan Henning then I pity your inability to grasp the obvious. Also if you don't read this ENTIRE post, you should be legally barred from bitching about Chad Henne or talking about how Pennington would have won more than 4 of those first 8 games.
This is a fact-based review that is going to focus on the whole picture to showcase just why we are not better than a .500 team. The simple answer is we never were better than that to begin with. I know, I know I just committed sacriledge by talking down about our magnificent 2008 season. First off, let me say that 2008 was magical and I in no way mean to disrespect the efforts and accomplishments of that team. However, everyone here (especially after Pennington was named starter) is focusing on this season as all negatives and 2008 as all positives. Many are even thinking that we will now go 7-1 or 8-0 the rest of the way and make the playoffs just because Pennington is back in the saddle again. I want this just as much as every one of you does, but I can't ignore that it is not that easy. Henne has his haters, he has his supporters, and he has those that wish he was Dan Marino but know even Marino would be lessened by our offensive gameplan. Please follow along and let's take off the blinders and recognise we have some big changes that need to come in the offseason because they aren't going to happen before April.
2008 - The Magical Turnaround
We brought in Bill Parcells and he brought in Chad Pennington. We unleashed the wildcat on an unsuspecting league and took the NFL by storm winning our first AFC East title in 8 seasons and our first since the divisional realignment. Like I said I don't want to dump on the accomplishments of that squad. The 08 Dolphins beat who was put in front of them and set a NFL record for fewest offensive turnovers (Equaled by the Giants that same year). This is a testament to that teams poise but also a damning piece of insight.We had a +17 turnover differential (#1 in the NFL) meaning we took the ball on average at least one more time per game than we turned it over. This is a hallmark of a disciplined inteligent team. However, it also calls into question how many games we would have lost without that discipline. This is likely the main reason Sparano and Co. emphasized to Chad Henne not to turn the ball over. In 2009, that +17 became a -8 and is currently -7 which took us from the NFL's best to 26th and now 25th.
In terms of opponents, the 2008 Dolphins faced competition which was a combined 118-138 (.460). Of our wins, our opponents were a combined 70-106 (.398). Of our Losses, our opponents were a combined 48-32 (.600). Elminating our divisional opponents (Split with NE & NY, sweep of Buffalo), we beat teams who were a combined 36-76 (.321) and lost to 3 teams who were a combined 28-20 (.583).This means our average win (outside of the division) was against a 5-11 team while our average loss was to a 9-7 team. In terms of all opponents our average win was against a 6-10 team while our losses were against an average of a 10-6 team. We beat who was put in front of us and CANNOT be penalised for that but if we are going to evaluate progress over the last 3 years we have to take into account who we beat.
Our average margin of victory was 8.18. This means that on average, we were within 1 score from being tied. This average is also HEAVILY inflated by our win @ NE (6.5 without NE blowout). Excluding our wins over NE & Buffalo, we won 8 games by a combined 43 points (5.375 avg). We defeated 4 teams by 5 points or less and 3 teams by 7 points. In short we won close games by the skin of our teeth. The 2007 team, by contrast, lost 6 games by a field goal and 2 games by 10 points. This is not trying to say the 2007 team was as good as the 08 Dolphins. Clearly a good team turns those 3 point losses into victories while a terrible team turns them into continual losses. The point is that playing close games and trying to pull it out at the end is not a recipe for continual success but a hit or miss strategy that can go wither way. 2007 went horribly, 2008 went almost perfect (we only lost 2 games by a FG or less), 2009 was middle of the road and skewed by late mistakes (the 4 INTs @ Buffalo for example), and so far 2010 has been more of the same but clearly seperated along the lines of falling to Elite teams (save GB) and beating crap teams in disarray. What, are you calling Brandon Marshall a liar?! Yeah, me niether.
Beyond 2008 - Where have we gone?
As stated, that 08 squad beat who was put in front of them however their schedule was beneficial. Given our points scored vs points allowed, Pro Football Reference suggests we should have been 9-7 in 08. In 2009, that stat changed to 7-9. Alas so did our record. Currently, the same site says we should be 3-5 (Our win against GB aided heavily by the injuries on their defense). Basically, we have been a slightly better than .500 team since Parcell's first year and have declined since. We are on pace for a 6-10 (3-5 doubled) year according to PFR's formula. Those that might want to blame this on Chad Henne should look at one very important statistical string. In 2008, we averaged 21.6 points per game. In 2009, that average increased to 22.5 with Chad Henne at the helm (The avg with CP10 was 14.3 PPG & 24.5 PPG w/ Henne). However this season the average points per game is 17.9. Is anyone here really beleiving that Henne went from 24.5ppg to 17.9ppg on his own??? Doesn't anyone but me find it odd that Pennington is supposed to be the answer but in 3 games with CP10 in 2009 we averaged 3.6 points less per game than we are averaging right now???
Passing - This will SHOCK you (Especially the Henne haters).
Chad Pennington had a phenomenal 2008. I love Chad Pennington (My brother has loved him since his Marshall days) but 2008 was not the typical Chad Pennington season. For example, CP10 threw 7 INTs or 1 INT every 2.29 games. THAT IS PHENOMENAL!! To put that in perspective, Peyton Manning has NEVER done that in his 12 year career and is currently on pace for 1 INT every 2 games which would be HIS personal best. Tom Brady=Same Thing! Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers and Eli Manning have NEVER done it. I am not saying this was historic and unprecedented but Otto Graham, Warren Moon, Joe Montana, Kurt Warner, Fran Tarkenton and Dan Fouts never did it either. Even our boy Dan Marino never got close. Have I left anyone out that people think might have done it? The only other QBs that I have ever found throw 7 INTs in a 16 game season or average 1 INT ever 2.29 games started were Troy Aikman in 1995 (Won the Super Bowl) and Brett Favre (SHOCKING I KNOW!) in 2009 (Lost NFC Championship). Only Phil Simms has ever had better than 1 INT in 2.29 games and that was when he averaged 1 every 3.5 games(!) in 1990 (Won the Super Bowl). To put it simply, it took a Super Bowl Season type of performance by CP10 to get us into the playoffs where we were hastily shown the door by the Ravens. The other 3 guys to perform like that either won or just missed playing in the Super Bowl. Obviously, the team was not as good as that 11-5 record would indicate.
That was all meant to indicate that Chad Henne CANNOT AND WILL NOT EVER be Chad Pennington 2008. Hell, Chad Pennington will never again be Chad Pennington 2008!!! Therefore we must compare Henne 2010 to Henne 2009. Henne's stats are superior in 2010 to 2009 accross the board save for interceptions. Here's the proof:
Comp %= 60.8% ('09), 63.5% ('10)
YPC= 9.58 ('09), 10.35 ('10)
Net YPA (Subtracting sack yardage)= 5.5 ('09), 6.2('10)
YPA= 5.82 ('09), 6.4 ('10)
1st Downs by Passing/game= 11.75 ('09), 12.38 ('10)
Passing TDs/game= .938 ('09), 1.00 ('10)
INTs/game= 1.19 ('09), 1.38 ('10)
INTs/Attempt= .031-1 every 32.2 attempts ('09), .036-1 every 27.7 attempts ('10)
Clearly henne has to work on protecting the football but his change in INT's should not be enough to sink the team since that team went 7-6 with him last season (.538). That same % would yield a .500 season this year with no improvement anywhere on the team. With all the additions, this team should be better than 2009 and be able to win at leat 9 and closer to 10 games. So how the HELL are we at 4-4 and benching Henne? Is Henne the problem? If not what is? We are averaging 3 yards pssing more per game than in '08. We are averaging more pass TDs/game this year. We are 2nd in the NFL converting 49.0% of our third downs (Indy-49.2%) and 56.5% of our 1st downs are by passing (38.2% by running). We are also 2nd in 4th down conversions (72.2%). This begs the question what big change occurred from 2009 to 2010?
Rushing - "Houston we have a Problem"
The biggest difference has been that deterioration of our run game. This is partly because of the wildcat but that is just a symptom of the greater problem. What is killing this team is our interior offensive line. Our O-line in 2008 brutalised almost every team they faced (Baltimore the lone example) and they were still exceptional last season. This season is a night and day fiasco by comparison. In 2008 we averaged 28 rush attempts per game. That number jumped to just under 32 for 2009 but is at only 27 for 2010. The big difference between 2008, 2009 and 2010 is the 4.2 to 4.4 to 3.9 yards per carry. This means we averaged 118.6 ypg rushing in 2008, 139.4 ypg in 2009, and currently are averaging 106.5 ypg in 2010. 33 ypg in rushing is a huge dropoff. For example, the #32 ranked Rushing offense would jump to 20th just by adding those 33 yards. Miami would go from 16th to 5th behind only KC, Oakland, the Giants and the Jets (Combined 22-11 record). Here's the real killer, in 2008 we averaged 1.125 rush TDs/game, in 2009 we averaged 1.375 rush TDs/game and so far in 2010 we are averaging 0.375 rush TDs/game!!!!! You don't have a dropoff of 1 rush TD/game from one year to another and blame it on the QB. Add 7 points to EACH of our 8 games thus far and we go from 4-4 to 6-2 (7-1 AT BEST). If you want to know why we are 4-4 well take a look, there it is!!! Henne has had more INTs/game but he has also had more TDs/game. The running game however (DESPITE having both Ronnie and Ricky healthy) is a shell of itself due to all the overhaul along the offensive line. The reality is the wildcat didn't confuse anyone last season! In 2008, people didn't know what to make of the wildcat but defenses adapted for last year. Our offensive line personnel merely used the extra blocker to plow the road for Ricky and Ronnie defensive schemes be damned. That has not happened this season which is why tha Cat has been permanently exiled to the litter box and why we have gone from 4th in the NFL in rushing to 16th.
As pass-happy as this league is, a dominant running attack is extremely important especially if you don't have an elite QB. The passing game for 2008 averaged 227 yds/gm. So far, we are averaging 230 yds/gm in 2010. The biggest issue has be the turnovers and the lack of a run game. Our defense in 2008 averaged 1.88 turnovers per game (2 shy of an even 2 TOs per game). In 2010, that average is an even 1 per game. Perhaps more damning is that in 2008, our defense had only 5 games without a takeaway. Thus far, we have 4 such games in 2010. In those games without takeaways we wer 4-1 in 2008 and are 1-3 in 2010.
Here's more interesting facts: Turnovers and Play Selection
We are 3-1 when forcing a turnover (The loss was to Pittsburgh) and 1-3 when we fail to generate a takeaway (The one win being Buffalo). When turning the ball over 2 times or fewer, we are 4-2. We are 3-1 (Pitt, we should've won) when winning the turnover battle or breaking even. In short, this team WILL win when it doens't have to erase mistakes, but is not good enough to win when putting itself behind the 8-ball. This means that if Pennington protects the ball and everything is Henne's fault, we should go 7-1 or 8-0 the rest of the way. Factor in that our first half has been against teams combined for a 35-31 record (.530) and our second half is against teams with a combined 32-33 record (.492) and 7-1 seems highly unlikely. In 2010 we are beating teams averaging a .333 win %. Remember we are 4-2 when having 2 turnovers or less. Henne has thrown more than 2 INTs only twice this season and in both games one of the 3 was the fault of the WR. NE was long lost when Henne threw that 3rd pick (40-14 at the time) and the other two happened in the 1st half which ended with us up 7-6. In other words, Chad Henne's 3 INTs didn't cost us the New England game. Chad Henne has exceeded a QB rating of 81.5 in EVERY Loss we have had this season. IE. The problem isn't Chad Henne. In 2009, Dan Henning called, on average, 32 run plays and 34 pass plays per game (48.5% Run / 51.5% Pass). So far in 2010, Henning has called 27 run plays and 36 pass plays per game (43.3% Run / 56.7% Pass). In 2008, the calls went 28 runs/gm vs 31 pass/gm (47.7% Run / 52.3% Pass). Is it really surprising to anyone that the closer we were to 50/50 in our play selection, the more points we averaged?? No? How about that when rushing for more than 100 yards we are 4-0 this season?? This is just another sign that Dan Henning has changed for the worse as opposed to it being all Henne's fault. That being said, I personally GUARANTEE that Miami calls a minimum of 20 run plays and gains over 100 yrds on the ground in at least 2 of the next 3 games (Tenn is questionable but they average more than 100 given up) and win each of the games we do so. Of our next 5 opponents only 1 allows less than 100 yards rushing/game and 3 allow on average over 144 yds/game. Therefore, if we don't win 3 of the next 5 games, Dan Henning should be fired on the spot!
Is there something wrong with Miami that I didn't cover? Oh yeah, SPECIAL (ED) TEAMS!!! Do I even need to go into detail about the problems we have had there??? DC$''s Pro Bowl trip aside, our special teams has been the second worst in the NFL. The only other team that has been worse is the equally woeful San Diego Chargers (Yes, shockingly they have been worse than us). The coaches have been working on this all season and 2 defense/special teams specialist have already been fired along with the original coach. That speaks volumes about a teams desire to straighten itself out. The big question is when do they address the other flaws??
The Future of 2010 - I'm tossing salt, rubbing the lucky rabbit's foot, praying to God, and kissing my lucky Irish coin.
Of our remaining schedule, only 2 teams are currently under the .333 line (Combined win % of those teams we've beaten) and only 1 more is under .600. Bearing this in mind we look like we can win 3 more games. Throw in an any given sunday and we should be able to win 3-5 more games. This means if we finish at more than 9 wins, Henning and Pennington works but Henne cannot function under Henning (Unless the play calling changes dramatically) so we can either scrap the Henne project and draft a guy similar to Pennington to take over for him (Christian Ponder perhaps) or we can scrap Dan Henning and bring in an OC who runs an offense that will better utilise our QB and his weapons. If we finish at 7-9 or worse, Dan Henning is the problem and must be terminated and Chad Henne re-instated. If we finish at 8-8, it is clear that Dan Henning will not get us to a playoff caliber offense and he should be removed. At this point Henne should be given one more season to prove whether or not he can get the job done since he would be a combine 11-10 as a starter going from 7-6 to 4-4 and having shown improvement in almost every category from last season to this.
Sorry for the length but don't blame me, instead blame all of the problems I had to talk about. Who you blame for those is up to you (*COUGH Jeff Ireland, *COUGH Dan Henning, *COUGH Tony Sparano*).