You might not remember what happened last Oct. 16 because it was a blip on the radar screen during a time the Dolphins were bombarding us with good news and a playoff run and a great turnaround season.
On that October day last year, Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning was asked about the rookie QBs -- Matt Ryan in Atlanta and Joe Flacco in Baltimore -- making a sudden and surprising impact on the NFL.
And Henning said this: "We think Chad Henne can play just as well as [Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco] can. I'll tell you that right now. I think when he gets his opportunity he will play well. Every time we've given him an opportunity, he has played well. We also like Chad Pennington. So I think the quarterback situation here as it stands right now is better than it was Feb. 1st. I'll tell you that right now."
Well, Chad Pennington is out of the lineup for the Dolphins and so Henne's opportunity has come. So, by Henning's reckoning, we should expect the quarterback with all of 17 NFL completions to play well.
But who are we kidding?
Asking Henne to play as well as Ryan and Flacco did last year is plainly unfair and illogical because, well, a gun cannot fire unless it's loaded with bullets. And the Dolphins offense, particularly the passing game, is a popgun firing blanks.
Think about this for a second. Flacco last season could throw the ball to Derrick Mason, who has seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons in his career. He could throw the ball to Todd Heap, who is a perennial Pro Bowl-caliber tight end. And he could rely on a defense that not only erased a lot of his mistakes, but scored points to help him out.
Ryan? He could throw the ball to Roddy White, who is better than any receiver on Miami's roster. He could throw the ball to Michael Jenkins, who is better than any receiver on Miami's roster. He could throw the ball to Jerious Norwood, who caught 36 passes a season ago. And now he's got future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez to throw to, also!
And I didn't even mention the fact the Atlanta running game that supported Ryan during his rookie season was No. 2 in the NFL.
So while Flacco and Ryan were good and did improve as rookies, they had tons and tons and tons of help doing it.
What help is Henne likely to get?
Well, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are playing very well, as both are running downhill with confidence and desire and aggression. But that is where it stops for Miami's offense now.
Tight end Athony Fasano, a revelation in 2008, is MIA in 2009. He has three catches this season and that is good only because his catches outnumber his two lost fumbles after two of those catches.
Alleged No. 1 receiver Ted Ginn Jr. has been inconsistent, often ineffective, rarely dominant and never elite since being drafted No. 9 overall in 2007. He is coming off two games in which he dropped two touchdown potential touchdown passes versus Indianapolis, including the possible game-winner. And then he responded to that adversity by catching zero passes despite being targetted six times versus San Diego.
In that San Diego game, Henne misfired on several passes to Ginn. That was on Henne. But Ginn dropped two of those nonetheless catchable attempts. One hit him in the chest, the other on the hands. On another throw, Ginn ran the ugliest, most rounded off out-route I've seen in a long time by an NFL wide receiver. He just kind of looped off the route and, not surprisingly, he wasn't open when the ball came his way.
I know many fans believe Henne will bring out the best in Ginn because the new quarterback's arm can finally make use of Ginn's appreciable trait -- straight line speed.
But I would tell you that rare is the effective WR-QB combination where only one or the other player is playing to par. If you guys are hoping Ginn will suddenly start to light it up simply because Henne is in there, you are mistaken. Ginn has to get much, much, much better to begin being a viable consistent threat for Henne.
Ginn will not instantly get better because he's hitching a ride on Henne's coattails. He's got to do the work to get his job done.
Henne will, of course, have other options in the passing game. But those players are also limited to one degree or another.
Davone Bess is a solid complementary player who might catch a ton of passes but also might never break one because he lacks break-away speed.
Greg Camarillo is a solid complementary player who might catch a ton of passes also, but let's be frank, he wouldn't start on three-quarters of the NFL's teams.
Brian Hartline is a rookie and he's still learning. Patrick Turner is a rookie and he can't get active on Sundays.
So how, exactly, can we expect Henne to be as good as Flacco and Ryan if the players around him aren't in the same conversation with the players around Flacco and Ryan?
Tell me. I want to know. And yes, I will be asking this of Henning on Thursday.