Dolphins' best chance to win in '11 is with Henne as QB

Posted April 18, 2011 @ 3:01 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Chad Henne is not Dan Marino. Nor will he ever be as good as Marino.

In fact, none of the 15 quarterbacks who have started under center in Miami since Marino's career ended in 1999 could hold a candle to the first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Dolphins fans still are pining for the next Marino, but taking a quarterback with the 15th pick is not going to solve the QB curse in South Beach. In fact, the Dolphins' best chance to win in 2011, whether their fans, head coach Tony Sparano or GM Jeff Ireland like it or not, is with Henne as the signalcaller.

The lockout has put Miami in a tough predicament. Considering Henne's struggles in '10, there's not a whole lot of confidence in him, and another QB will be (and should be) brought in to compete with him. Coming off back-to-back 7-9 seasons that led owner Stephen Ross to court Jim Harbaugh for the head-coaching job, many in Miami believe this is a must-win season for Sparano.

With that in mind, normally, the Dolphins' best option would be to acquire one of the veteran QBs who might be available, such as Marc Bulger (via free agency) or Carson Palmer and Kevin Kolb (via trade). The lockout has had an even more significant impact, though, on Miami's offense. Henne cannot work with new coordinator Brian Daboll — although he did get the team in trouble for meeting with Daboll in February.

Not only are the Dolphins unable to bring in veteran competition ahead of the draft but Henne hurriedly will have to learn an entirely new offense. Ross made it clear that points need to be scored in Miami, and with a solid defense in place, the pressure is squarely on Henne to produce. Mike Nolan's defense, which ranked sixth overall last season, gives the team every reason to believe it can compete for the playoffs if Henne gets the job done.

But that's a big "if."

Henne's biggest problem in 2010 was his inconsistency. He opened some games by methodically leading the Dolphins downfield, but often struggled when the game was on the line late, with eight fourth-quarter interceptions. His failures cost him the confidence of the fan base, and most important his own coach, who benched Henne twice — before Week 10 and in the season finale.

When you consider how Henne performed, especially in pressure-packed situations in '10, it's not a surprise fans are clamoring for a quarterback at No. 15. The QBs likely to be available would be reaches at that spot, but with the team lacking a second-round pick (lost in the Brandon Marshall trade), that would be the Dolphins' best chance to add a young competitor for Henne's job.

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks Ryan Mallett or Jake Locker, among others, can be the next Marino that Miami fans have long desired. The Dolphins have to make the best of a tough situation because of the lockout, and taking a QB that early is not going to vault them to the top of the AFC East.

The Dolphins' best chance to win now is to do what they did heading into 2010 — put the eggs back in Henne's basket. That's not to say they shouldn't bring in competition to push Henne — they need to. But not at the 15th pick, not if this is a team that needs to win now. Sparano likely doesn't have time to develop a rookie, plus it would be difficult getting a new QB to quickly establish a rapport with Marshall, the team's top offensive playmaker.

The Dolphins have a need on the interior of the offensive line, something that would make Henne's life easier, and that is a position that can be addressed at No. 15, possibly with Florida's Mike Pouncey. Another option would be trading the 15th pick for a later first-round pick and adding the second-rounder they lack, where they can take one of the middle-tier QBs — someone good enough to challenge Henne, but not someone who will be expected to start. Options there include Florida State's Christian Ponder, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick or Iowa's Ricky Stanzi.

All of this should not be reason for doom and gloom for Dolphins fans. As well-documented as Henne's struggles were, he did show some flashes last season, and that was with his offensive line and running game not doing him any favors.

In Week Three, he threw for 363 yards against the Jets' stout defense, and was a couple yards from punching in a potential game-tying touchdown before throwing an interception on the last play of the game. He threw for 305 yards and two scores against the Patriots, but three errant throws that went to Pats defenders turned that game, which the 'Fins led early, into a blowout.

He threw for 257 yards against the Steelers and responded to his benching with 240 yards, a TD and 67.9 percent accuracy against the Titans. When the Dolphins needed a win in Oakland, he responded by throwing for 307 yards and two TDs. His 33-for-45 passing performance for 276 yards was not the reason Miami fell to Buffalo in Week 15.

All that said, his mistakes did cost the Dolphins often. But it is not ridiculous to think that Henne — the one we saw with the ability to move the football with ease against quality competition, not the one who crumbled late in games — can combine with solid receivers and a top-10 defense to bring the Dolphins back into the playoffs.

Dolphins fans and the organization have to put their faith in Henne, and you know what? That's not a bad thing.

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