Whether Dolfans like it or not, the fate of the Miami Dolphins in 2011 rests on the shoulders of quarterback Chad Henne. When the Dolphins used a second-rounder on Henne, they believed that after a year of grooming under Chad Pennington, he would be ready to take over and become what every team in the NFL looks for to become a legit Super Bowl contender – The Franchise Quarterback.
No one doubts that Henne has the "tangibles" to be "The Guy" in the NFL. He’s huge, has a strong pocket presence, and has a cannon arm. People envisioned his experience at Michigan helping him make an easy transition into the NFL. But as many of us witnessed in 2010, that is just not the case. Henne made some costly mistakes at the end of games, and at points really hindered the Dolphins from being in a prime position to win games. The home game against Detroit was a prime example of Henne getting flustered and making key mistakes when it mattered most – the fourth quarter.
I’ll compare Henne to his AFC East rival Mark Sanchez of the Jets, who both obtained the full starting QB job of their respective teams at the same time. In 2010, Henne finished with 15 TDs and 19 INTs, while throwing for 3, 301 yards. Sanchez (who started 2 more games than Henne) finished with 17 TDs and 13 INTs. With relatively similar numbers, looking at their records is quite telling. Sanchez is a career 20-14 in the regular season and 4-2 in the playoffs (leading his team to 2 AFC Championship games), while Henne is 14-15 as a starter and has never reached the playoffs.
Sanchez has always had a much better team surrounding him than Henne. He has had a better receiving corps, a better offensive line, a better running game, and a better defense than Henne. But this year, I really believe that the Dolphins have a better team surrounding Henne than the Jets have surrounding Sanchez. Henne has much better targets going into 2011, with Marshall, Bess, Hartline, and rookie Edmond Gates. Every element of a good receiving corps is there, and with Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes situation with the Jets in limbo, Sanchez could be in trouble. I really believe that the Dolphins will have a top 5 defense this year, as our young corners have another year of experience, and we have one of the best front 7s in the NFL. Signing Paul Soliai was a huge step for this defense, establishing the middle of our line. This defense should be able to put Henne and the offense is great position to score touchdowns this year.
Henne is only 25, and still has time to develop into a good quarterback. He has the skill, and the team around him to be great. In 2010, Henne’s greatest downfall was his late game decision making, and his check-down mentality. This lack of confidence was due to the horrible system he was put in. Getting rid of Dan Henning’s old style in exchange for Brian Daboll’s young, spread, and deep threat offense will benefit Henne a lot. I really believe that this new offense will allow Henne to play to his strengths. This will also really bring up his confidence in those late game situations. This is why I believe bringing in a new starting QB via trade/free agency is not the right move for the Dolphins. It is too costly, and would show that this organization has no confidence in Henne.
Bringing in a QB like Kyle Orton or even Kevin Kolb is not beneficial. There is not one QB on the market right now that can bring their new team to the next level and compete for a Super Bowl. Orton is good, but not great, and Kolb is unproven and has played with one of the best offenses in the league when in he has played. Henne has shown that he is trying to be a leader, by leading the workouts with the new offense during the lockout, and he knows his team better than anyone else. Also, giving up a future first, second or third round pick is not worth getting a QB that is just good, when we already have one on the roster.
Back to the Sanchez comparison, I really do believe that Henne is more talented than Sanchez. But the biggest difference is that Sanchez has the confidence to be a winner. His coaches, teammates, his city, and he believe that he will put his team in a position to win every game, and this confidence has turned Mark Sanchez into a winner. From the second he was a Jet, he was given the reigns and put in a position to be the best he can be. The same cannot be said for Henne.
For the Dolphins to take the next step, they do have to put the ball in the hands of Henne, and let him win ball games, just like every great team in the NFL does with their QB. He needs one more year to show us that he can be great, because every team is only as good as their QB in today’s NFL. For Henne to succeed, they must address the tight end position, and their young o-line must be a cohesive unit and protect him. Maybe Orton is a better QB than Henne right now, but Henne has more upside, and Orton is not a guy who will be hoisting a Lombardi Trophy. If Henne doesn’t become the QB that we want him to be, that is an issue that should be addressed next offseason. Orton is a "band-aid" solution to the Dolphins QB problems, whereas keeping Henne is less risky, has high-reward, and is a much less costly solution