Posted: 10:14 am Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
By Post Staff
Chad Henne’s tenure as the Dolphins’ unquestioned quarterback of the future is over after one disappointing season.
But the Dolphins haven’t given up on Henne, either. Tony Sparano said Tuesday morning at the NFL owners’ meetings that while the Dolphins will open the quarterback position to a competition in 2011, Henne, entering his fourth season, “absolutely deserves a chance” to prove himself again next season.
“From our end, does he deserve the opportunity? No question about it,” said Sparano, speaking publicly about the 2010 season for the first time since the season ended. “There’s other players that are pretty good quarterbacks in this league, that if I remember correctly, like their first year in the league were 3-13 (Peyton Manning). So when you come in and you’re trying to get this thing done, all you have to do is you have to go back through the 900 and something snaps that this guy has played, and say, ‘Did he show progress, did he get better in different areas? And yes, he did.’”
The message from the Dolphins’ brass about Henne has been consistent – he is the guy for now, but he has to win the job come training camp.
General manager Jeff Ireland said at the NFL Scouting Combine that quarterback “is obviously a position we’re going to look hard at” but that “we’re committed to (Henne) right now.” Owner Stephen Ross said Monday at the owners’ meetings that “He’ll be competing with someone, I know that. If he’s the best guy that we can find to put in that position, and he’s demonstrated that, I have no problem with that.”
Sparano, though, supported Henne more than his bosses did. Sparano said he understands why the expectations are higher for Henne – the quarterback often takes a disproportionate amount of credit in the good times and blame in the bad times – but reiterated that Henne, with just 27 career starts (and a 13-14 record), is still developing.
“What you’re trying to do is develop young players, and I realize that the quarterback position everyone wants to happen yesterday,” Sparano said. “Sometimes Chad, he gets hit over the head with a baseball bat through some of this, but it comes with the nature of the position.”
No player was more outwardly frustrated with Henne and the 2010 season than Brandon Marshall. The Dolphins’ star receiver was seen arguing with Henne on the sideline several times at the end of the season, then ignored him completely in the season finale at New England, then said in a post-mortem radio interview that he felt more comfortable with Tyler Thigpen at quarterback.
“All year we’ve been on different pages,” Marshall said after the season-ending loss to the Patriots.
But Sparano defended Marshall’s outbursts and said he isn’t worried about Henne and Marshall co-existing next year.
“Who doesn’t yell at Henne, right? Maybe the head coach is the only one,” Sparano said. “Of course everybody was frustrated. … I give them both credit, because they have the ability to speak their mind to each other, but then at the same time put their arm around each other and yuk it up.”
“What Chad has been really good about has been keeping a level head on the sideline and really making sure that he’s getting the information from the coaches more than anything else.”
Sparano said he hasn’t talked to Henne much this offseason, even though Henne said earlier this month that he has been working feverishly with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to learn the new playbook before the lockout began. Sparano certainly didn’t mention anything about Henne taking a vacation to the Bahamas, where he got caught having a little harmless fun by the gossip website TMZ.
“Honestly, I haven’t talked to him and I don’t really know where he is right now,” Sparano said. “If I know him how I know Chad, I would just say he’s about his business, doing whatever it is that they’re doing right now and working.”
Sparano said that Henne, who threw 15 touchdowns against 19 interceptions in 2010, improved in a handful of areas in 2010 – particularly with completion percentage (career-high 61.4), intermediate-range passes and in decision-making.
“He completed a higher percentage of intermediate passes, which doesn’t make the fans happy and doesn’t make evidently a lot of people happy, but it should because it’s a sign of progress,” Sparano said. “Other areas I thought he improved on was his ability to move in the pocket and create space. When you look at the number of sacks we had and the number of sacks avoided, the throwaways (league-high 26), those were the areas that he improved on.”
But Sparano conceded that Henne still has room to improve, particularly with the “impulse throw” that could lead to an interception, and with passes over 20 yards, in which Henne was just 10-of-40 for one touchdown and three interceptions.
“What he didn’t do was complete the deep pass more frequently,” Sparano said. “Some of that is on us for the number of opportunities. There’s just a lot of factors, but when you get the green light, you’ve got to make the play, and Chad would tell you that.”