Why Miami Dolphins' Dan Henning, If Not Tony Sparano, Should Be Fired

Erick JamesContributor INovember 22, 2010

MIAMI - 2009:  Dan Henning of the Miami Dolphins poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by NFL Photos)
NFL Photos/Getty Images

I’ve grown up in South Florida all of my life.  I lived with my family in the Countyline Road area (which separates Broward and Miami-Dade County) up until I was eight years old.  My dad would take me up onto the roof sometimes before kickoff, and from there we could actually see Joe Robbie Stadium (prior to the multiple ensuing name changes) just southwest of where our house was.

My earliest Dolphins memory came to me at the age of six, where my school would have daily Dolphin rallies during lunch everyday before the 1993 AFC Championship game against the Buffalo Bills.  The week before, Miami had stomped the San Diego Chargers 31-0 and were projected to be the clear favorites against the wild-card Bills at home. 

History would prove to repeat itself in numerous ways, as the Bills earned their third consecutive trip to the Super Bowl against a third NFC East opponent in the Dallas Cowboys.  I turned seven on the day of Super Bowl XXVII.

History would continue to repeat itself, stemming from a third Super Bowl loss for the Buffalo Bills, and the tradition would carry on, once again, in the next year, in another Super Bowl loss against the same Jimmy Johnson-coached Cowboys.

Despite these constant Buffalo vs. [insert your NFC East team name here] showdowns, the most glaring and apparent pattern here was that of yet another Miami Dolphins letdown.  It has been 38 years since the Miami Dolphins have raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and despite Stephen Ross’ predicated 2011 Super Bowl appearance in June of this year, there seems to be little to no truth currently backing his statement up.

In recent years, Dolfans have complained about Don Shula’s age, then a lack of talent to compliment Dan Marino’s arm, then Marino’s age, Wayne Huizenga, Dave Wannstedt’s abuse of Ricky Williams, Ricky Williams’ abuse of marijuana, Nick Saban’s half-hearted departure, the Cam Cameron episode and years of mediocre-to-horrible draft picks.

But in 2008, as Stephen Ross took ownership rights of the team, he brought in Bill Parcells, who brought Tony Sparano and Dan Henning along with him, and a feeling of hope and rejoice fell upon Miami football fans for the remainder of that season.

An 11-5 run under Sparano, as opposed to 2007’s horrific 1-15 performance, tied an NFL record for the greatest turn-around season.  The Miami Dolphins won the AFC East title for the first time in close to a decade.  Chad Pennington won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year for the second time in his career.  Dan Henning unleashed the wild-cat on opposing defenses. 

Things truly seemed to look right on track.

Now where do the Dolphins find themselves? 

After the signings of Brandon Marshall and Karlos Dansby in the off-season, the Miami Dolphins seemed to go through a slew of wild rides with a number of DUIs, domestic battery charges and weird, inexplicable depth chart changes.

As training camp rolled around, Chad Henne was named the starter over the 2008-09 starter, Chad Pennington, without there being much of a competition for the position.  It was clearly noticeable that both Pennington and third stringer Tyler Thigpen had out-played Henne throughout this year's preseason, yet, via this young-blood-or-die roster development, it was more so given to him without question.

As the regular season rolled around, four things became very clear. 

First, Mike Nolan’s defense ran ship-shape.  Secondly, the only exception to it was Jason Allen, who had not earned his spot, but rather, second year cornerback Sean Smith had slipped from his game.  Third, Henne struggled, BADLY.  Lastly, the Wild-Cat was NO LONGER EFFECTIVE. 

No team in the NFL is or will be surprised by the Wild-Cat, as long as it is run as predictably as Dan Henning farts it out on nothing more than four-yard gains.

When former Special Teams Coach John Bonamego was fired after Week 4’s atrocious performance at home against the New England Patriots, one other thing became very clear: Why is Dan Henning still on the coaching staff?!

The check-downs, the Wild-Cat on third and long, hand-offs to FB Lousaka Polite on third and 17.  All of this while force-feeding the starting job to Chad Henne when he was clearly under-performing and not the best qualified QB for the job.  Something is definitely wrong in this organization, and no one seems to be taking any action towards resolving the issue.

Miami Dolphins Offensive Coordinator Dan Henning is 68 years-old.  If that isn’t enough to be said, he was of legal drinking age by the time Super Bowl I was played.  His offensive scheme is dated and his play-calling reminds me of a five-year-old playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

What direction is the offense heading towards?  Are they a run-first, hard-nosed, smash-mouth team?  Or are they a pass-first team who only managed to run the ball six times between standout RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams against the Chicago Bears on Thursday night?

Why would they persist upon throwing the ball with third-stringer Tyler Thigpen with only six recorded passes in the previous game against the Tennessee Titans and a couple more in a short stint that included an interception against the Patriots as well?

You can only blame player personnel for so long. 

Ronnie and Ricky don’t choose to run up the gut 19 out of every 20 running plays without reason.  Henning seems to be a firm believer in the fact that no one notices that he advocates running the ball up the middle on just about every running play he goes with.

The Miami Dolphins coaching staff refuses to acknowledge that Chad Henne is not, and was not, the best choice at quarterback from the very beginning, and neither Tony Sparano nor Jeff Ireland comprehend that Dan Henning is sadly just an old man who has lost touch with a game he once understood.

Why are teams who boast rosters with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees (counting his 5,000+ passing yard performance in 2008) consistently successful?  It is because this is a pass-first league.  Stretching the field is the way to create opportunities and win this game, not running at chunks of 1-4 yards a carry (if that), which kills time and slows the Dolphins down, breaking the backs of their running backs and linemen.

The offensive play-calling is making the Miami Dolphins out to be the most boring team to watch in the NFL, with an offense that ranks at number 32 in the entire league.

Dan Henning is proving to be a cancer for the Miami Dolphins organization.  If Tony Sparano fails to see that himself, he is clearly not fit to be the leader of the coaching staff that all Miami fans were hoping for, and deserves to be fired right along with Henning.

Sparano can’t be held accountable to control everything; this is understandable.  Despite that, how many players were getting into trouble with the police?  How glaring was the lack of leadership on the field and in the coaching staff?  Bill Parcells clearly held certain standards in this organization to a higher regard, some that Sparano is obviously not holding himself.

Many South Floridians believe the 1972 perfect season (not perfect REGULAR season, sorry Belichick) is not so much a boastful accolade, but more of a curse they cannot seem to rid themselves of.  Is this all the Dolphins are?  38-year-old has-beens?

With yet another playoff berth steadily distancing itself out of the Dolphins' reach, the offseason not approaching soon enough, and former Super Bowl Champion head coaches Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden very much available, I hope Stephen Ross takes notice of the situation his team is in and proceeds to takes action.

He is fairly new at owning this franchise, and if he would like to be successful, it doesn't start with throwing parties and building clubs inside of Sun Life Stadium.  It begins with a hard-nosed head coach, leader and general, who will run this team like a fearless war-machine going relentlessly into battle against the world.

The Dolphins are beginning to look like the 2010 Dallas Cowboys 2.0, and everyone, along with Wade Phillips, is well aware of how that tragically ended.


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