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Miami Dolphins: A closer look at Henne-Henning-Sparano arguments

OAKLAND CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Tony Sparano of the Miami Dolphins shouts to his team during their game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on November 28 2010 in Oakland California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND CA - NOVEMBER 28: Head coach Tony Sparano of the Miami Dolphins shouts to his team during their game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on November 28 2010 in Oakland California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The Miami Dolphins are out of the playoffs.  Two more games, and this Dolphins football season is over.

But what do all good football fans do at the end of their team's season?  They start looking to next season!  And having our season officially end a couple of weeks early just gives us all a jump on the offseason speculation.

I have read most of the arguments for offseason changes, and - of course - they come down to three main areas this year:

1) The overall ability/potential of the Fins QB, Chad Henne

2) Offensive play caller Dan Henning's ability to design and implement a winning Offensive strategy

3) Head Coach Tony Sparano's overall effectiveness and suitability for the position.

So I am not going to (or I am going to TRY not to) get too much into my own opinions about how these issues should be resolved in this coming offseason, but rather I am going to attempt to just lay out the arguments as I understand them, and discuss the merits of each.

Because, let's face it.... what we decide here is probably not going to carry much weight in the minds of the folks who will actually be making the real decisions about how to address these issues this offseason. 

Let's start with the big discussion about the current Miami Dolphins quarterback, Chad Henne.  There are two schools of thought on him: 

  • First, that he is still developing, and should not be written off as the Dolphins' "QB of the Future".
  • Second, is the belief by many that Chad Henne just does not have the tools of talents necessary to ever become that franchise QB that Fin fans have been looking for since Dan Marino retired

While just about every Fin fan knows that there will never be a second coming of Dan Marino, there are still very high standards that we have for acceptable quarterback play.  But considering the dearth of good quarterback play we have suffered through over the past 10+ years since Danny boy left us, I think it is fair to say that MOST Miami Dolphins fans today are not being unrealistic in their expectations about what a starting quarterback should be able to accomplish. 

I wanted to bring up this point because many folks will quickly point out that expecting someone to come in and play to the standard set by Marino will simply result in disappointment.  I agree.  And I don't think anyone is judging Chad Henne's performance according to an unrealistic standard. 

The discussions around Henne have to do with his ability to be consistent in his accuracy and make good decisions at the line and when going through his reads.  Overall, this all boils down to an evaluation of whether he will improve in these areas based upon his progress over the past season and a half.  No one is really expecting him to be fully developed at this point in his career, but has he shown enough constant improvement in his game to make you think that he would be even better next season?


Pleading for Patience - Keeping Henne

On the one hand, Henne is still pretty young, and sat on the bench for his first season.  So it is not unreasonable to think that he is making mistakes today that he will be able to learn from and correct as he gets more games under his belt.  Those folks pleading for patience are generally in this camp, reminding everyone that even at the end of this season, Henne will not have two full years as a starter.

The other part of this discussion on sticking with Henne next season revolves around Dan Henning as the Offensive coordinator.  Many of the folks who are willing to give Henne the benefit of the doubt are also laying much of the blame for Henne's slow development and/or poor performance on the play calling.  I don't want to get into this discussion here, because we will be discussing Henning independently below, but let me just as a question:

If you kept everything else the same this season, but simply replaced Chad Henne with Tom Brady, how do you think the Miami Offense would have performed?

Lastly on this topic, the folks who want to keep Henne like to point out that we have few alternatives.  There aren't likely to be any quarterbacks available in free agency that would be a clear upgrade, or have more upside, than Henne.  And to move up in the 2011 NFL Draft high enough to get a starting caliber QB would require giving away most of our draft picks, and they stress that there are other important or even MORE important team needs to address in the draft.



The people who are calling for a replacement to Chad Henne next season claim that by watching Henne's level of play this season, and rate of development, that it can be determined that he will never develop into a quality starter in this league.  This position mainly derives from a few consistently poor habits that Henne seems to exhibit.  First, it has been noted that Henne like to "lock on to his receivers".  Secondly, he seems to make poor decisions at times which result in sacks or interceptions. For what it's worth, I have decided that I don't think Henne simply locks onto his WRs, but actually never even goes through his reads.  I have been watching him the past few games, and it looks to me like he makes a decision of where he is going to go with the ball based on the play call.  He doesn't even appear to look anywhere else.  But whether this is poor development on his part, or a result of the coaching, I couldn't say.  I do know that if it is a flaw in Henne's game, it might be correctable with good coaching, but that isn't a given.

The most reasonable argumentfor not allowing Henne another season as the starter is the one that suggests that there is no good reason to wait,when waiting will only set the entire team development back.  Because the QB position is the most important (with very few exceptions, teams do not win Super Bowls with average QBs), and the hardest to fill, why would you not double down and try to fix it immediately?  Drafting a top quarterback in this next draft does not guarantee success, but you just keep turning over rocks until you find that gold nugget, and the quicker you do it, the quicker you get your team back into playoff contention.  And it hedges your bets if you decide to keep Henne around for another season to see if he can improve.


Henning-way - For Whom The Bell Tolls!

I have to admit it, this is a tough one for me to be objective about. I have been upset, annoyed, incensed, dumbfounded, and more than a little confused by the Miami Dolphins play caller, Dan Henning's, choice of offensive game plans and play calling throughout the season.  I have found myself hollering at the T.V. "What the *bleep* are you THINKING?!?" more than once during this past season.  There is, in fact, only ONE argument that can even come close to explaining/excusing this deficient area of the offense.  Henning has gotten closer and closer as the season goes on to suggesting that Henne is the reason that the game plan isn't working.  And as much as I dislike that type of attempt at teflon coating yourself, Henning has a valid point. In a perfect world, if everyone on offense executes a play correctly, the odds are in their favor that the play will be successful - at least to the tune of a few yards.  The two people of whom have put forth opinions that suggest that Henning is not to blame for the lack of offensive success, cling to this argument.

Here's the problem:  If you have a young, struggling offense, and struggling QB in particular, you have to count on the guy running the offense to identify the things they can do well - the strengths of the players - and call an appropriate game.  You don't just call YOUR game, and hope that all the players can execute it.  This is a failing of the coaching.  And Tony Sparano being the official "Dan Henning" apologist only highlights the coaching problems.


Tony Sparano - Is Bill Cowher an upgrade?

Ignore the sub-title -of course Cowher is an upgrade.  I have read people talking about how because Miami has problems on offense, and Bill Cowher is a defensively minded coach, that he would not be a good fit.  That is SO silly, I can hardly address it with a straight face.

Let me just say that I really like Tony Sparano.  And if fist pumping field goals, and slapping players coming off the field on the butt with his clipboard was the key to success, Sparano would be... well, he would be Bill Belichick!  I know he cares about his players.  I know he is a straight shooter and tries to keep the business side of the business as "un-sleazy" as possible - and I respect him greatly for this.  Seriously!  But I have come to believe that a head coach in this league must be at least partly a... jerk (I was actually thinking of another, compound word, beginning with the letter "A", and ending in "E").

Sparano is defending Henning, but the REAL problem is that Sparano did NOT take this matter in hand and correct it during the season.  So Cowher can't get it done because he is primarily a DEFENSIVE coach....?  How'd Tony Sparano work out?  Offensive line coach who, for some unknown reason, ruins the offensive line during the offseason, when simply standing pat on the progress from last season would have constituted success?  Bill Cowher might not call the Offensive plays either, but I guarantee you he would not be shy about calling the responsible party or parties (ahem... Henning) on the carpet if needed.

The truth is that Henning should NEVER have had the free reign to screw up the offensive game plans.  Do you think Bill Belichick would sit by with that sort of weak game planning and play calling was happening?  I think not.  Oh and by the way, Sparano did the SAME thing with Paul Pasqualoni!  He let him screw things up for the whole season because Tony Sparano is a NICE GUY!  Oh and BTW, part duex!  Those of you claiming that Tyler Thigpen had his shot and failed, and can't even beat out Henne for the starting job....?  Guess what?  Thigpen not only did not get a fair shake in his one start behind an O-line comprised of backups to backups, but regardless of what happened in the game,Tony Sparano does NOT take risks like giving Thigpen a chance to start based on his practice performance!  Really!  By the time he pulled Henne in favor or Chad Pennington, I am sure he had the consensus approval of every leader in the Front office, locker room, Miami Beach Kiwanis Club, and the local chapter of the Cub Scouts!  We don't yet KNOW what Thigpen could do with a starting offense, because he hasn't had the chance (personally, I still think Thiggy might be better than Henne).

Sparano is a nice guy.... too nice to be a successful head coach, IMO.

And just a side note -to all you DolFans who got so upset about losing the last game and getting knocked out of the playoffs?  You guys/gals who made claims about giving up on the team, and not rooting for the Fins anymore because they are all screwed up?  Kudos to you.  You go right ahead and vent.  I have no problem with an over-the-top, emotional, passionate football fan.  Go blow off some steam, and be back for the offseason!

The so-called fans that annoy me are the ones that losing DOESN'T bother!  It's those guys that I can't relate to!


So much for me trying to keep it objective and not voicing my opinion... now I'm all verklempt.... talk amongst yourselves.....