Quarterback Chad Pennington has been missed this season. There is no question about that.
Even if you are big Chad Henne fan and realize that the transition to Henne was necessary, you have to realize the Dolphins have not gotten the type of quarterback play this year they enjoyed last year.
That's not a knock on Henne, it's just that his 10 TDs and 12 INTs and 59.3 completion percentage and 73.8 QB rating don't compare favorably to the 19 TDs and 7 INTs with a 67.4 completion percentage and 97.4 QB rating Pennington posted last season.
Even folks that expected Henne's stronger arm to deliver more long passes has to concede that Pennington had a 7.7 yard per attempt average while Henne's has delivered 6.43 yards per attempt. Henne's longest completion this year is 67 yards. Pennington's longest completion in 2008 was 80 yards.
So the statistics say Pennington played better for the Dolphins even as reality states the change from one QB to the next would have become necessary eventually had Pennington not suffered a dislocated shoulder Sept. 27.
Now it is Henne's team for the foreseeable future.
But a couple of questions remain about Pennington.
First, is he going to play again after undergoing a third surgery on his throwing shoulder?
In this interview conducted with WSAZ-3 in Huntington, W. Va., Pennington seems very optimistic about continuing his pro career.
"My plan is certainly to play again in the NFL," Pennington says at one point.
He is proceeding with his rehabilitation and hopes to have full range of motion of his throwing arm by Jan. 1. Then he'll begin his routine breakneck offseason training regimen and "get ready to try out for some teams and throw for teams," says Pennington, who is an unrestricted free agent past this season.
Pennington is ready to move on if he has to. But he doesn't discount the possibility of returning to the Dolphins, which obviously means he doesn't discount coming back as a backup, because he knows the starting job is already filled.
(No, there will be no competition next year if Pennington comes back. The job belongs to Henne. So don't bother posting those comments as they are not based on reality.)
I think having Pennington as a backup would be great. He's experienced. He's a leader. He's a team player and plays his role -- whatever that is -- perfectly.
The issue I have is that the Dolphins don't seem to be making the most of his abilities now. I know I earlier this season, I agreed with coach Tony Sparano about not having Pennington on the sidelines. It is a Dolphins commandment or something that injured players, those on IR, aren't allowed to travel or be on the sideline with teammates. Most don't even attend the games at all.
But I think the time has come to make the exception with Pennington.
Look, Henne has had a couple of games now where he's basically melted down in a very quick and ugly span.
The Buffalo game was one such incident. Tennessee was another.
My belief is it would benefit Henne to have Pennington calming him down, talking him through his progressions and reads. I think it would only help to add that resource that neither QB coach David Lee nor offensive coordinator Dan Henning can provide because neither have been on the field, rushed by large, angry men anytime lately.
Having Pennington talk to Henne and pour confidence and logic and right-thinking into him at a time the game is going bonkers might be a help.
The idea was considered and rejected by Sparano earlier. At a time when the Dolphins are calling for all hands on deck as they push for a playoff berth, maybe it's time to reconsider.
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