Posted: 11:01 am Thursday, November 11th, 2010
By Post Staff
Tony Sparano’s decision to bench Chad Henne and switch to Chad Pennington as his starting quarterback has been hotly debated throughout South Florida and the rest of the NFL universe, but count former head coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards as a big fan of the move.
Edwards, who coached Pennington for five years with the Jets earlier this decade, said Thursday morning on ESPN’s Mike & Mike radio show that Pennington brings “credibility and great leadership” to the position and will be a big boon for Brandon Marshall, who has just one touchdown through eight games and has been all but ignored inside the Red Zone.
“Brandon Marshall will benefit with Chad Pennington being in this offense,” Edwards said. “Brandon Marshall is big, and Chad likes big guys. He will throw it to a big receiver when he’s covered, and Brandon Marshall is a type of guy that he can contest coverage, he can adjust his body, go up and catch the ball. Where other quarterbacks might not throw it because they think the guy is covered, Chad will throw it to you.”
Pennington, 34, has a career 66.1 completion percentage, highest in NFL history. He’s never had a strong arm, and three career shoulder surgeries has made it weaker, but Edwards loves Pennington’s ability to put the ball in the right spot and at the right time. Henne’s 63.5 completion percentage is currently ninth-best in the league, but he is 23rd in yards per attempt (6.8) and his receivers rank just 32nd, 39th and 83rd in the NFL in yards after the catch per reception, according to the website ProFootballFocus.com.
“He’s very good with placing the ball in spots where the receiver can make the catch,” Edwards said of Pennington. “It’s a ‘friendly’ ball, and again, Chad is very smart. When he gets back to his third step, he already knows what you’re in defensively, and he knows where to get the ball.”
Edwards said Pennington fits the Dolphins’ offense better than Henne does. In eight games under Henne, the Dolphins scored just 12 offensive touchdowns, and never more than two in a game.
“He’s great at the playaction pass, and that’s a skillset for this offense,” Edwards said of Pennington. “He’s going to playaction pass you, and he probably throws the best in-cut in football. He has a way of just launching it at the right angle and trajectory where the players can catch the ball.”
“I mean, this guy is unbelievable,” Edwards added. “He’s a student of the game. He’s very smart. He’ll get you lined up. He won’t turn the ball over. He’s not a turnover guy. He will take what you give him. He’ll be very patient. He will take the check-down all day. If you don’t cover it, he’s going to throw it.”
The one knock on Pennington, of course, is his arm strength. He’s coming off his third career shoulder surgery and hasn’t played a game since Week 3 of last year.
But Pennington answered a lot of questions in the preseason, when he was efficient as always, leading the Dolphins to 17 points in just five series, with two punts and no turnovers. And he played with the same players, and against the same defenders, as did Henne, who led the Dolphins to just 23 points in 18 drives, with 10 punts and three turnovers.
Edwards said Pennington can overcome the lack of arm strength, and said Dolphins fans should have faith in Sparano being confident in the health of his new quarterback.
“He’s been on this football team all season. The coaches watch him practice every day,” Edwards said of Pennington. “So are we going to tell coach Sparano, ‘You don’t know what you’re doing?’ They’ve been around the guy. He gets Chad Pennington.”