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The Pat White Conundrum: Why so divisive?

Let's be honest for a moment.  All sports fans are very fickle.  I know this because, like all of you, I too am a fickle fan.  And as sports fans, we are entitled to our own opinions just like everybody else is.  We have a right to feel however we want about any particular player, team, topic, or idea.  But sometimes I just don't understand why some fans feel the way they do.

Miami's selection of Pat White with the 44th pick last Saturday has created one of those situations that I just don't understand.

Why are so many Dolphin fans seemingly rooting against this kid?  Why does it seem like so many Dolphin fans can't get excited over what Pat White might become?

After thinking about it, I think I figured it out.  I think it's the blind support of Chad Henne that is causing some fans to have a dislike towards White.  I think it's a situation where so many people want to believe that Chad Henne is this team's franchise quarterback that they can't fathom a short, skinny draft pick possibly coming in here to Miami and beating out Henne down the road as the team's starting signal caller.

But we don't even know how White is going to be used in Miami.  Is he going to get a shot at playing quarterback?  Probably.  But we can't just pigeonhole White as a quarterback candidate because of how versatile he is.  And the fact is, the Dolphins probably don't even fully know how they will use him.  GM Jeff Ireland said just as much on Saturday following the day's draft festivities:

"Pat White has an unusual set of skills that can help us. He enhances our offense, and enhances how we'll play [on] offense. He has an unusual skill-set, whether he'll play quarterback, or whether he'll play another position. There will be a lot said about how we'll utilize him. I think we're creative enough as a coaching staff that he'll be able to enhance our offense in a multitude of ways. We're excited to have him and I'm excited to see what this young man can do not only as a quarterback, but in other ways."

White as a full-time quarterback

I know.  All the nay-sayers out there will point to his height, or lack thereof, and tell me Pat White can't play quarterback in the NFL effectively.  But I'd guess that 99% of those who will tell me that will also be big believers in Chad Henne - even though he hasn't proven much, either.

Don't get me wrong - I really like Chad Henne as well.  And I'm not saying that Pat White is going to be an effective full-time starting quarterback.  All I'm saying is that I'm not so sure White can't be an effective full-time starting quarterback.

Outside of his height and the "spread" system that he played in at West Virginia, White has all the other factors you look for in a starting quarterback.  The two key stats, according to many, in attempting to predict a college quarterback's NFL success are games started and completion percentage.  Well White started 42 games at the collegiate level (with a 34-8 record), has the 6th most career victories in NCAA history by a starting quarterback, was 4-0 in bowl games (2 of them being BCS bowl games), and has a career completion percentage of 64.8%.

So what about his physical abilities as a quarterback?  While many want to knock them, all I keep hearing and reading is how physically talented White is as a quarterback.

When White was selected by the Dolphins on Saturday, the NFL Network's Mike Mayock said, "I love this pick.  If you're betting against this kidbeing a full-time quarterback - don't.  He's got a big arm; more accurate than I thought he was."

ESPN's Ron Jaworski echoes those sentiments, saying, "What I saw was a quarterback.  Everyone talks about (White as a) wide receiver or a Wildcat quarterback.  What I saw was a quarterback with outstanding fundamentals who threw the ball very well.”

Even back in February at the Scouting Combine, it was Pat White - not Mark Sanchez or Josh Freeman - who turned heads in the quarterback drills.  I remember hearing a lot from analysts on television raving about White's workout.  And SI's Don Banks wrote:

Don't forget, on "money day'' at this year's combine, when the quarterbacks worked out, White was the most impressive passer on the field. True, Stafford skipped the workout, but Sanchez and Freeman didn't. White forced teams to see him as a quarterback that afternoon, not just a receiver-return man who could also add some razzle-dazzle to their attack.

It's true that White lacks that ideal height.  But he doesn't get many balls batted down at the line of scrimmage thanks to a nice overhand delivery.  One thing I keep hearing, though, is that White will have to shorten his delivery and release - something the coaching staff will likely work on with him.

Pat White as the 'Wildcat'

Of course, this is the initial thought everybody had when they heard Pat White's name called with that 44th selection by the Dolphins.  Makes sense, of course, when you consider the offense that was run at West Virginia and White's staggering rushing stats.  His 4,480 yards rushing is an all-time NCAA record for a quarterback.

As former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden explained on NFL Network following White's selection, this will now force defensive coordinators to make a decision when they face the 'wildcat' formation against the Dolphins with Pat White in the backfield.  Will  they continue to bring up the free safety in run support, leaving the corners in one-on-one coverage with Miami's receievers?  Or will they keep the free safety back due to White's ability to throw the ball - especially a terrific deep ball - and simply be "out-gapped", likely giving White running room?  That's the kind of question that will keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night when they are preparing for the Dolphins.

Former Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson said it best, telling WQAM, "For the 30 minutes it takes to put in a Wildcat play it takes a defense a day to figure it out and work on how to stop it."

Perhaps Mike Mayock puts it best.  He told Don Banks last week:

"Pat White is not a gimmick. He's the type of kid who you want the ball in his hands. I don't care if he's running it, throwing it, or catching it. I want the ball in his hands.

Then, during NFL Network's draft telecast, Mayock added:

Do I think he should play "slash" for a year or two? I do. I want the ball in his hands. I don't care how you look at it or how you evaluate it. He's got that "it" factor.

Was White a "reach" at pick 44?

Like I said in the past, it's hard to say a player is or isn't a "reach" because we have no idea how each NFL team has set their draft board.  But I don't think this was a reach.  And, clearly, neither do many others.

Mike Mayock felt he was a second round talent:

"I'd take him in the second round with no hesitation, use him as a Wildcat this season, and try to develop him as a full-time quarterback, because I think he's got that kind of ability."

Jim Mandich also believes that White's selection wasn't a reach:

"If the Dolphins didn't select Pat White when they did, how long would he have lasted? I think he would have been gone when Miami selected next. They did not want to have any regrets if they waited too long."

And even a personnel director for another NFL team admitted that they had White highly rated:

"He's no gimmick. He's dynamic. He's a little bit raw as a [quarterback] but has a good foundation. He's going to get better," one player personnel director said, admitting White was rated among the top-50 players on his team's draft board. "He wasn't going to be there in the third round."

Sit back and just enjoy

I know that we all would prefer for each player to have a defined role on our favorite team.  But it just isn't that simple with Pat White.  I love the idea of using him as a multi-dimensional player - especially in the 'wildcat' - for a year or two while developing him as a quarterback.

To all of those who are big Chad Henne supporters, I'd say this: If Henne is as good as we all think he is - myself included - then he'll simply beat out White as the team's quarterback to follow Chad Pennington when his time is up as starter in Miami.  And my money would be on Henne over White - don't get me wrong.  But Mike Mayock warns us - don't forget about the explosive White in terms of Miami's long-term QB situation:

"Don't put it past him - in two of three years when Chad [Pennington] is gone - that he beats out Chad Henne or any other Chad that's hanging out in Miami."

Agree or disagree with Mayock about that statement, one thing we can all agree on is that Pat White is going to bring an excitement that this Dolphin offense hasn't seen in a long time.