Dolphins Bench Henne for Pennington
Like most Dolphins fans, I was surprised (somewhat pleasantly) by Coach Tony Sparano’s announcement that quarterback Chad PenningtonÂ will start overÂ Chad Henne going forward.
A little over a year ago, when Miami started 0-3 and Pennington averaged only 138 passing yards per contest while committing four turnovers, the fansÂ wanted him benched in favor of the up-and-coming Henne.Â 21 games later, there’s a growing sense of excitement about Pennington’s return to the field as a 4-4 team clings to its fading Playoff hopes.
According to beat writer Omar Kelly, the coaching staffÂ felt that “Henne had become extremely predictable,” leading toÂ decreasedÂ confidence in locker room.Â Henne made too many bad decisions and committed far too many costlyÂ turnovers, throwing four interceptions without a single touchdown pass in Miami’s last two games.Â Whether he’s still the Dolphins QB of the future remains to be seen,Â butÂ it’s certainly not inconceivable thatÂ TylerÂ ThigpenÂ will get an extended look later this year or during the offseason.
Offensive coordinator Dan Henningâ€™s play calling has certainly raised a lot of validÂ questions, since his system has been more tailored to Pennington’s “water pistol” arm all along.Â Henne averaged 6.9 yards per pass attempt and 10.8 yards per completion his season, both of which are below Pennington’s career averages.Â After three surgeries on his throwing shoulder, Pennington doesn’t have the arm strength to throw deepÂ passes, but then again, Henne has only two completions of over 40 yards in eight games.
One factor that can’t be understated is Pennington’s accuracy, which is miles ahead of Henne’s.Â Pennington holds the highest completion percentage (66.1%) in NFL history among players with at least 1,000 pass attempts, and led the NFL in that category during his last full season in 2008 (67.4%).Â He has the 12th-best careerÂ Passer Rating (90.1), and ranked second in the leagueÂ behind Phillip RiversÂ two years ago.Â Â While Henne has thrownÂ four more INTsÂ than TDs, Pennington has nearly twice as many scores as picks over 11 years (though it should be noted thatÂ he threw four costly INTs against the RavensÂ in Miami’s last Playoff game).
It’ll be interesting to see how the 34-year-old fares against the Tennessee Titans defense,Â which hasÂ given up the 10th most passing yards but leads the league withÂ 3.3 sacks per game.Â Â Â If Pennington improbably leads Miami back into the postseason, heÂ deserves to winÂ an unprecedented third Comeback Player of the Year Award.