The Miami Dolphins believed that their quarterback of the future, Chad Henne, and big offseason pickup, Brandon Marshall, made them contenders.
Fast forward a few weeks and the Dolphins are sitting at 4-4, 1-2 in the division, and have road games against the Pats and Jets on the schedule.
Things don't look particularly hopeful.
With that in mind, Tony Sparano has gone ahead and replaced Henne with veteran backup Chad Pennington. Pennington, as you may remember, was the starter in Miami before injuring himself in Week 3 last season.
Henne's not the problem
At first glance, it does look like replacing Henne is the right move. Despite picking up another weapon in the offseason, Henne has thrown only eight touchdowns against ten interceptions.
The offense as a whole has scored only 11 touchdowns, tied for second worst in the league.
But, if you really look at the losses, it becomes clear that the Dolphins are more a victim of their schedule than anything else.
Two of the best teams in the AFC play in their division. The Jets and Patriots have both beaten them.
The Jets needed a fourth quarter comeback to beat the Dolphins.
Against the Patriots, Henne did make mistakes, but the loss was more a product of special teams failure than anything else.
The Fins other two losses are at the hands of the Steelers and Ravens, both dominant defensive teams. And, if we want to get nit-picky, it can be argued that the Dolphins probably should have won the game against the Steelers but for some hazy officiating/rules. (I know they technically enforced the rule correctly).
Pennington isn't the answer
Chad Pennington is a solid starter. His record with the Jets and Dolphins is a testament to his ability. That said, he is 34 and has already had three shoulder surgeries.
Arm strength has never been Pennington's calling card, and he will have even more difficult pushing the ball down field than Henne.
After not playing for more than a full season, and having taken minimal reps with the starters due to injury, Pennington is unlikely to have the chemistry he will need. He doesn't have nearly the same amount of reps with Marshal, Bess and Hartline that Henne has had.
Additionally, there are still lingering concerns about his shoulder. Sparano has even admitted that his shoulder wont be 100% this year. While Pennington is certainly a classy, hardworking guy after winning the "Comeback Player of the Year" award twice, he does not solve the problems these Dolphins have.
Long Term Effect
The NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league, and Henne hasn't quite lived up to expectations.
But, he remains their quarterback of the future.
Henne can play at a high level and should be allowed to play out the season as the starter. Pennington, given the status of his shoulder and age, should continue to mentor Henne and replace him if injured. Otherwise, Henne should remain the starter and be given the chance to learn.
Hopefully this move by Sparano won't shake his confidence.
The Dolphins have been victimized by one of the most difficult schedules in the NFL and to replace Chad Henne with Chad Pennington is a move that won't solve the Dolphins' woes.