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Finding hope for Chad Henne

Some might think we are spending far too much time discussing the state of the Miami Dolphins quarterback position. And truth be told, we are spending an inordinate amount of time on the position. But I don't think you can ever spend too much time talking quarterbacks because, well, it's pretty much the single most important position in all of sports. Until your team has a good one, some might say your team will never be a legitimate contender.

Last week I wrote a piece essentially stating the obvious - that even though the Dolphins did not draft a quarterback - incumbent starter Chad Henne was far from a lock to be the week one starter in 2011 (assuming there is a 2011 season, that is). The team made it clear they will at least pursue some of the veteran options that may be available either through a trade or via free agency once the new league year finally begins.

This weekend I decided to ask our community of Dolphins fans who you would want the Dolphins to aggressively pursue once the new league year does begin. The top choice turned out to be Cincinnati's Carson Palmer, followed by Vince Young, Kyle Orton, and Kevin Kolb. The problem, though, is that we don't even know if Palmer - who has threatened to retire if the Bengals do not trade him - will be on the market. And if he is, what kind of compensation would the Bengals be asking for in return?

The same questions can be asked about both Orton and Kolb. Young, meanwhile, has his own set of issues that the Dolphins would have to deal with if they were serious in acquiring him. Can he be a leader? Is he mentally tough enough to play in this league? Is he a quitter? Can he lead a locker room?

Depending on how comfortable the Dolphins are with those obvious question marks will determine if the Dolphins will have any interest in Young.

The rest of the quarterbacks available might not even be upgrades over Chad Henne. Marc Bulger? Matt Flynn? Matt Hasselbeck? Brady Quinn? Who of this group is even a lock to beat out Henne for the starting job in what will be a shortened offseason?

The bottom line here is that there's probably a better than 50/50 chance that Henne will be the starting quarterback of the Miami Dolphins in 2011. The quicker we accept this, the better we all will be. Love him or hate him, it's likely the success of this team will come down to Henne and his ability to bounce back from a disappointing 2010.

The flashes of brilliance in 2009

That means we all, as fans, have got to find a way to stop the bickering and support Henne. It's not like we are talking about an untalented quarterback who is hopeless. Far from it. For just a moment, think back to 2009 - when Henne was prematurely thrust into the starting role after Chad Pennington was lost for the season.

Remember that young quarterback who, despite having barely any experience in the NFL, orchestrated that thrilling fourth quarter comeback on Monday Night Football against the hated New York Jets in just his second career start? Or how about the kid who sliced up a Bill Belichick defense for 335 yards and two touchdowns to pull off another fourth quarter comeback over the Patriots?

One thing I've heard from the so-called experts out there is that it's better to judge a young starting quarterback not on their first few career starts but rather after he has started eight games. The theory is that it's tough for opposing defenses to game plan for a quarterback who has limited tape in the NFL. But after eight games or so, opposing teams now have some film to break down the kid's tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses and then game plan around that film.

Chad Henne started 13 games in 2009. And if you look at his final five games of the year, it's easy to see why many of us thought that Henne could be the guy this organization has been looking for. He completed over 64% of his passes while averaging 273 yards per game and just under 6.8 yards per attempt. The Dolphins, though, only won two of those final five - thanks in large part to defensive collapses against Tennessee and Houston as well as a Henne injury that kept him out of the second half of the season finale against Pittsburgh.

Still, outside of his touchdown to interception ratio (5:7), there was a lot to be excited about - or so we thought.

The nightmare of 2010

Yes, the 2010 season was a bit of a disaster. Henne just never looked comfortable. The team had issues in the red zone. He committed far too many turnovers. It was ugly. It was especially disappointing considering our expectations for the offense following the acquisition of Brandon Marshall.

So what the hell went wrong for Henne?

I hate to make excuses for anyone. But for the sake of trying to find some hope for Henne, I'm going to bring up a couple of possible explanations.

First of all, the running game was a failure. The Dolphins averaged a miserable 3.7 yards per carry. Only the Bengals had a less productive running game. Second of all, the offense was stale and predictable. And third of all, Brandon Marshall just might have been more of a problem than he was part of the solution - though no fault of his own.

Marshall wasn't being utilized properly by Dan Henning. But Marshall, being the star receiver he is, wanted the football. Henne, being the young quarterback he is, seemed to go into a metaphoric shell. The result was Henne either forcing the football to Marshall when he shouldn't have or playing it conservatively and not looking Brandon's way when he should have. Simply put, the two were just never in sync.

Rally around Henne

The hope for 2011? A new offensive coordinator with a new offense. A stronger offensive line with a (hopefully) more productive rushing attack. And a new role for Henne in the offseason - as a leader helping organize player-only workouts during the lockout.

The Dolphins are going to explore all of the veteran quarterback options once the league year begins. But it's far from a lock that they will bring in a guy who will beat out Chad Henne for the starting job. That means we all better start accepting Henne as the likely starter and hope this offense can rally around their maligned signal caller.

Or else we'll be having a far bigger search next offseason - not for a quarterback but for a new head coach.