Chad Henne coming off the bench to relieve Chad Pennington in Week 3 this season won't likely play out to be as memorable an event as Tom Brady-for-Drew Bledsoe in 2001. But just because the Dolphins are 3-4 at this point in the season, not all is lost in South Beach.
Henne, in his second pro season, has sprinted out of the gate since grabbing the starting reins and has put up a 3-1 record since doing so. In fact, Henne's lone loss came against the high-flying Saints, a game in which his offense put up 34 points against New Orleans.
Head coach Tony Sparano credits Henne's success to his observation of Pennington and his ability to develop as the weeks progress.
"I think one of the good things with Chad Henne is that he was able to watch and learn from Chad Pennington. It also gave him time to get a good grasp of the entire offense," the coach said via conference call Wednesday. "We had no reservation — hesitation I should say — when Henne came in to hold any of the playbook back or any of those things. He was very comfortable with all that we were doing."
With Henne under center, the Dolphins' Wildcat offense has a signal-caller with a stronger arm who is more mobile — a term very rarely, if ever, used to describe Pennington.
"The other thing — and this is not to slight Chad Pennington at all — he [Henne] can advance the ball down the field a little bit, too. Those are things he does well."
One problem the Fins faced when handing the playbook to Henne was how to use the Michigan alum in their offense. Pennington, known for his precision, was counted on to make simple completions and hand the ball off. With his aging and banged-up arm, Pennington was not expected to unleash anything over 20 yards, so the passing offense was very simplified.
But Henne didn't get much opportunity during his rookie year to show his coaches what he could do at the NFL level.
"One of the biggest issues in making this switch to Henne when Pennington got hurt is identifying the things that [Henne] did well, because we didn’t have him in any of those games last year," Sparano said. "We didn’t have the luxury of getting him in the games. We won a lot of games in the fourth quarter last year, so unfortunately, we weren’t able to get him in the ball games."
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