Everyone is saying and writing that the Dolphins chances of being a playoff contender depend on how well quarterback Chad Henne develops in his third NFL season. Duh. That is an easy column for journalists with little imagination.
The fact of the matter is Miami's playoff chances are not necessarily dependent solely on whether Henne becomes the finest quarterback in franchise history -- as owner Stephen Ross said earlier this offseason he hopes will happen.
Sure, everyone is hoping Henne is the real deal after he delivered 12 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions in his first season as a starter in 2009. But frankly, the Dolphins have fallback positions they can resort to if Henne is ...
A. Only mediocre.
If Henne is not the next coming of Dan Marino, the Dolphins can and still throw the ball and expect relative success because receiver Brandon Marshall is a Top 5 wide receiver who has authored three consecutive 100-catch, 1,000-plus-yards seasons -- all while catching from Kyle Orton and Jay Cutler, two quarterbacks with mediocre reputations.
The Dolphins can and will also rely heavily on their running game, which is still their bread and butter and still among the better ones in the NFL as their No 4 overall ranking from a year ago proves.
So the Dolphins have reasonable expectations for some success even if Henne is only mediocre.
Well, what about if he's terrible or injured?
In both cases, he would be out of the lineup. And while not having Henne under center would be a blow to the grand expectations everyone has placed on him, it wouldn't necessarily be a catastrophic blow to Miami's playoff chances.
The reason the Dolphins could survive without Henne is because they have Chad Pennington. And the chart below strongly suggests Pennington is the NFL's best backup quarterback option.
Think about that.
While everyone in New Orleans, Indianapolis, San Diego, New England, and Houston can count on continued excellence from their starting quarterbacks, they can count on nothing if those quarterbacks aren't around. Those loss of their starting quarterbacks to injury (sorry, but it does happen) would be a train wreck for those teams.
I mean, seriously. Are the Colts a playoff team with Curtis Painter under center? Are the Saints that dangerous with Chase Daniel at quarterback? Are the Patriots even a six-win team with Brian Hoyer replacing Tom Brady?
The Dolphins, meanwhile, are a playoff contender with Chad Henne as their starter. And they're a playoff contender with Chad Pennington as their starter. I'm not saying Pennington has the same ceiling as Henne. I'm saying the last time Pennington was Miami's starter for an entire season, the Dolphins went to the playoffs.
Way I see this list, the next best backup quarterback situation behind Miami is enjoyed by Dallas because they have Jon Kitna behind Tony Romo. Kitna has never been a star. But he has been to the playoffs as a starter and has had some NFL success.
So thinking the Dolphins universe must and will revolve around make-or-break exploits by Henne is simple-minded. It's also wrong.
2010 NFL QUARTERBACKS
Quarterback, College, 2010 NFL Experience (years)
Derek Anderson, Oregon State, 6
Max Hall, BYU, R
Matt Leinart, Southern California, 5
John Skelton, Fordham, R
Chris Redman, Louisville, 8
Matt Ryan, Boston College, 3
John Parker Wilson, Alabama, 2
John Beck, BYU, 4
Marc Bulger, West Virginia, 10
Joe Flacco, Delaware, 3
Troy Smith, Ohio State, 4
Brian Brohm, Louisville, 3
Levi Brown, Troy, R
Trent Edwards, Stanford, 4
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Harvard, 5
Hunter Cantwell, Louisville, 1
Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame, R
Matt Moore, Oregon State, 4
Tony Pike, Cincinnati, R
Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt, 5
Caleb Hanie, Colorado State, 3
Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan, R
J.T. O’Sullivan, California-Davis, 8
Carson Palmer, Southern California, 8
Jordan Palmer, Texas El-Paso, 3
Jake Delhomme, Louisiana-Lafayette, 12
Colt McCoy, Texas, R
Brett Ratliff, Utah, 3
Seneca Wallace, Iowa State, 8
Jon Kitna, Central Washington, 14
Stephen McGee, Texas A&M, 2
Matt Nichols, Eastern Washington, R
Tony Romo, Eastern Illinois, 8
Kyle Orton, Purdue, 6
Brady Quinn, Notre Dame, 4
Tim Tebow, Florida, R
Shaun Hill, Maryland, 9
Matthew Stafford, Georgia, 2
Drew Stanton, Michigan State, 4
Matt Flynn, Louisiana State, 3
Graham Harrell, Texas Tech, 1
Aaron Rodgers, California, 6
John David Booty, Southern California, 1
Dan Orlovsky, Connecticut, 6
Matt Schaub, Virginia, 7
Tom Brandstater, Fresno State, 2
Tim Hiller, Western Michigan, R
Peyton Manning, Tennessee, 13
Curtis Painter, Purdue, 2
David Garrard, East Carolina, 9
Trevor Harris, Edinboro, R
Luke McCown, Louisiana Tech, 7
Matt Cassel, Southern California, 6
Brodie Croyle, Alabama, 5
Tyler Palko, Pittsburgh, 1
Chad Henne, Michigan, 3
Chad Pennington, Marshall, 11
Tyler Thigpen, Coastal Carolina, 4
Pat White, West Virginia, 2
Brett Favre, Southern Mississippi, 20
Tarvaris Jackson, Alabama State, 5
Sage Rosenfels, Iowa State, 10
Joe Webb, Alabama-Birmingham, R
Tom Brady, Michigan, 11
Brian Hoyer, Michigan State, 2
Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State, R
Drew Brees, Purdue, 10
Sean Canfield, Oregon State, R
Chase Daniel, Missouri, 2
NEW YORK GIANTS
Rhett Bomar, Sam Houston State, 2
Eli Manning, Mississippi, 7
Jim Sorgi, Wisconsin, 7
NEW YORK JETS
Erik Ainge, Tennessee, 3
Kellen Clemens, Oregon, 5
Kevin O’Connell, San Diego State, 3
Mark Sanchez, Southern California, 2
Kyle Boller, California, 8
Jason Campbell, Auburn, 6
Charlie Frye, Akron, 6
Bruce Gradkowski, Toledo, 5
Mike Kafka, Northwestern, R
Kevin Kolb, Houston, 4
Michael Vick, Virginia Tech, 9
Charlie Batch, Eastern Michigan, 13
Dennis Dixon, Oregon, 3
Byron Leftwich, Marshall, 8
Ben Roethlisberger, Miami (OH), 7
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma, R
A.J. Feeley, Oregon, 10
Thaddeus Lewis, Duke, R
Keith Null, West Texas A&M, 2
Jonathan Crompton, Tennessee, R
Philip Rivers, North Carolina State, 7
Billy Volek, Fresno State, 11
Jarrett Brown, West Virginia, R
David Carr, Fresno State, 9
Nate Davis, Ball State, 2
Alex Smith, Utah, 6
Matt Hasselbeck, Boston College, 12
J.P. Losman, Tulane, 7
Charlie Whitehurst, Clemson, 5
Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State, 2
Josh Freeman, Kansas State, 2
Josh Johnson, San Diego, 3
Jevan Snead, Mississippi, R
Kerry Collins, Penn State, 16
Chris Simms, Texas, 8
Rusty Smith, Florida Atlantic, R
Vince Young, Texas, 5
Richard Bartel, Tarleton State, 2
Colt Brennan, Hawaii, 3
Rex Grossman, Florida, 8
Donovan McNabb, Syracuse, 12