Posted: 1:34 pm Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
By Post Staff
Whether he was throwing check-downs in the 2-minute drill against Buffalo and Detroit, or completing just 5-of-18 passes against the Jets, or losing his job at two different points of the season, it was clear by the end of the 2010 season that Chad Henne had lost confidence in himself and the Dolphins’ offense.
“It was obvious that down the stretch there was some sort of disconnect for Chad Henne, because he knew what was at stake,” said NFL Network analyst Charles Davis, who called the Miami-Detroit game for Fox. “He had multiple opportunities to make something good happen when the game was on the line, and things didn’t go very well.”
No, they didn’t. Henne threw four touchdowns and seven interceptions in his final five games as the Dolphins went 1-4 and fell out of the playoff race.
“I don’t know that the guy had a ton of confidence in the people around him, in terms of personnel and the system and what he was asked to do,” said former quarterback Rich Gannon, who called a handful of Dolphins games for CBS last year.
But the Dolphins may need Henne to re-discover that confidence this summer. While general manager Jeff Ireland has promised to look for other quarterback options for 2011 – both in free agency and the draft – the team is not ready to kick Henne to the curb.
“I would guess the Dolphins are going to think about bringing people in for competition, and see if (Henne) can re-emerge as that guy again, see if his confidence level is at the stage they need it,” Davis said. “Because I think talent-wise, they feel like there’s an opportunity with the guy. But where is he mentally? Where is his confidence level? And will he beat back the challenges that you know are coming?”
Gaining back that confidence is possible, Gannon and Davis said, but it’s certainly not easy.
“There’s no set formula,” Davis said. “Sometimes tough love works, sometimes you need the velvet hammer.”
Gannon said most quarterbacks deal with a loss of confidence at some point in his career. Gannon kicked around the NFL for a decade before finally winning a starting job in Kansas City, and he ended his career with four Pro Bowl selections and a trip to the Super Bowl.
The first step for Henne, both analysts said, is to surround him with people he trusts. Henne’s relationships with offensive coordinator Dan Henning, quarterbacks coach David Lee and receiver Brandon Marshall all soured at the end of the season.
For Henne to improve in 2011, he needs to be able to trust his new coaches – offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and quarterbacks coach Karl Dorrell – and smooth things over with Marshall this offseason.
“Brian Daboll has to find out what (Henne) does well, what he’s comfortable doing, and really focus on those things,” Gannon said. “Brandon Marshall was banged up last summer, so they didn’t get the reps they needed. So now they need to have more reps this offseason. (Also) get on the same page as the playcaller, being a year older. All that stuff helps.”
Gannon said Henne also needs “a better understanding of the protection, a better understanding of the system, a better understanding of what defenses are doing and how they’re trying to attack you, which makes you a more comfortable and confident player.”
Fortunately for the Dolphins, they may have found just the person to help Henne improve in those areas. Daboll began his coaching career as a defensive coach for the Patriots before switching to offense, and Chad Pennington, who played for Daboll with the Jets in 2007, raved about Daboll’s ability to teach a quarterback how the defense is trying to attack.
Aside from becoming more comfortable with his new coaches, though, Davis said Henne would be well-served to watch his old highlight tape from Michigan.
“I asked a quarterback about that this year, and he said, ‘Yeah, I actually popped in my college highlight tape to remind myself I was pretty good,’” Davis said. “I know Vince Young did it in college. They pulled out his high school highlight tape and said, ‘That’s the guy we want.’ It seems like a cheesy thing, but trust me, it’s not a bad idea. (Henne) has to remember he was drafted in the second round for a reason.”
The Dolphins also have to make sure Henne has success early in training camp (whenever that happens). In 2010, Henne and the offense struggled in the first intrasquad scrimmage of camp, and the struggles continued throughout the preseason and never improved in the regular season.
“You get him going in camp, then he starts to feel good about himself again, and maybe it can come out and unlock that potential again,” Davis said. “There’s no set formula. Sometimes tough love works, sometimes you need the velvet hammer. But the biggest thing is he has to be successful at some point in order to have confidence in himself. And Chad has had success in the NFL. He just has to remember those games.”