One of the questions often asked of me when discussing the Dolphins is whether Chad Henne is indeed Miami's quarterback of the future or just a first-year starter whose future is not yet certain. The Dolphins get the same question from folks like me -- the media.
"I still think of him as a first year starter, yeah," coach Tony Sparano said this week. "I think that we’d be making a mistake to think otherwise right now. I think that I want to let the whole process happen here. Whenever we flip the calendar, I'll say he's a second year starter, or whatever the case is then. I just want to let the whole process happen and sit down and evaluate the whole body of work at the end of this. I think that's really fair for Chad.
"He's doing a tremendous job right now. I see him getting better, and better, and better. I just want to see this thing go, and really be able to break down some of the good things he's done, and some of the not so good things at the end of this whole thing, and then we'll go from there. To me, he's a first year starter that's getting better and better every week."
That's fair. The Dolphins will assess Henne when the season is over. A novel idea in today's give-it-to-me-yesterday digital world.
But here is the truth the Dolphins won't tell you yet. Henne is indeed their quarterback for the next couple of years. That simple. Henne is 7-3 as a starter in his first year starting. That has bought him much good will this year, but it has also bought him the starting job for 2010.
Simply put, the Dolphins cannot have a first-year quarterback help raise the team from the depths of an 0-3 start to playoff contention in 2009 and not reward him with the starting job the following year. So Henne is your guy for 2010.
But 2010 will determine if Henne is indeed the guy longterm. If Henne continues to improve, continues to win, he will continue buying himself more commitment from the team. If he struggles, questions will creep in to his future.
So Henne needs to improve to make certain he puts up a Jake Long block on the possible questions.
Next season Henne will have to correct the glitches and holes in his game he has at times shown the past 10 games. Those issues?
He has to cut down on interceptions. He has 9 interceptions versus 9 TDs this year.
"The turnovers obviously come out at you," Henne said. "I think we have nine interceptions at this point. A lot of those are coming at the end of the game. For me it is more of a focus and concentration at the end of the game knowing what the situation is to begin with and not to force the ball.
"Yes, for me, some of them are forced balls, some of them are tipped. I think as a quarterback with a lot of interceptions you really have to correct it yourself."
Henne has to find a touch pass to go with his line-drive throws.
"I think overall it is coming along," Henne said. "We work on it all the time at practice and getting it over the linebackers’ heads. It showed up on Sunday against Jacksonville making some of those completions over the linebackers' heads and making some throws. That is a big improvement for me and I just got to keep working on it. It is just going to come along with experience."
He has to improve his accuracy as the Dolphins expect their QB to complete 64-66 percent of his passes compared to the 58.8 percent Henne is currently completing.
Henne also needs to get through his progression of reads quicker than he has at times this year. Reading the field quicker means you take fewer sacks because the football is out faster. Henne has already taken 20 sacks this season in 10 games, while Chad Pennington absorbed 24 sacks in 16 games last year with an inferior offensive line. So the process has to speed up a bit for Henne.
Finally, Henne has to get to the point where the Dolphins can rely on him to win them games. Obviously he needs help in this regard. The Dolphins need to put more talent around him. But the truly elite quarterbacks are not game-managers. The offense is on their shoulders.
Henne has done that at times this year -- against the Jets in the first game and the second outing versus New England come to mind -- but he's also failed at it in games the Dolphins needed more points late to pull out a victory.
All told, you cannot be displeased with what Henne has done in his first 10 games. At no time has the moment been bigger than him. At no time did anyone suggest he's not smart enough. At no point has he thrown a pass that everyone agreed is beyond the capability of his arm-strength.
And after the three-interception meltdown at Buffalo, Henne responded with a very good game against New England.
So is Chad Henne Miami's quarterback the next decade? No one knows yet. But he definitely has already bought himself the starting job in 2010. No question.
[Update: I am told by a club source that Joe Berger will start for the Dolphins at center against the Titans Sunday. It will mark the fourth consecutive start for Berger since Jake Grove suffered a high ankle sprain against Carolina.
Also, I got my Dolphins holiday card in the mail today. Check it out below.]
Follow me on twitter. You'll get updates when I post new blog entries. You'll get news first. You'll also have a merrier Christmas! I promise.