Disclaimer: I am a Miami fan. I'll put it right out front and center for the inevitable disagreements citing author bias. Though I watched Chad Henne lead the Dolphins to two straight losing seasons, I will do my best to put my frustrations with him aside for this story.
The two quarterbacks have been compared against each other since the beginning of the 2009 season. They're both young, began starting for AFC East rivals at the same time and have similar statistics.
Let's start with those stats. In their two years as starters, Henne has held a slight advantage in almost all statistical categories:
Henne's passing yards: 6,179. Sanchez: 5,735.
Henne's touchdowns: 27. Sanchez: 29.
Henne's completion percentage: 61.1 percent. Sanchez: 54.4.
Henne's interceptions: 33. Sanchez: 33.
Henne's quarterback rating: 75.3. Sanchez: 70.2
Henne's fumbles: three. Sanchez: 13.
Passing statistics don't tell the whole story.
Henne's win-loss record: 13-14. Sanchez: 19-12
Henne's starting record is far worse than Sanchez's. Of course, it's fair to say that the Jets had a better overall team than Miami.
Henne's playoff wins: zero. Sanchez: four.
A quarterback can have great statistics, but without achieving ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl, his career isn't complete. Even if that player doesn't agree, every football analyst in America will never let him forget it. Henne doesn't have great statistics (they're not even that good), and he hasn't even gotten close to a Super Bowl. This is why Sanchez is usually thought of as the better player, he's led his team to the AFC Championship twice in his first two years.
Both quarterbacks have excellent receiving corps, though Sanchez might lose some of those targets to the offseason. Miami's running back situation might not offer much support for Henne, depending on how well rookie Daniel Thomas plays.
New York's offensive line played well last season, blocking for the running attack with the eight-highest yards per carry average in the league, while Miami was 31st in the same category. Yes, much of that credit is due the running backs themselves, but the offensive line is just as important in creating holes to run through.
In passing situations, New York gave up 10 less sacks and 18 less hits on the quarterback than Miami; part of that falls on the difference in quarterback mobility, and partly on the blocking. Miami's line will be better in 2011, when they will have T Nate Garner back from injury and G/C Mike Pouncey from the draft.
Who is the better quarterback?
Both offenses should be well-equipped in 2011, setting the two quarterbacks up for a good year.
Sanchez improved from the 2009 season to 2010. Five more touchdowns and seven fewer interceptions not only improved his team's record by two wins but improve his side in this argument. Henne's stats declined a bit, and his team kept the same record as before.
More was expected from Henne when he took over for Chad Pennington. He's a more traditional quarterback with a big arm and four years of college experience, compared to Sanchez's 16 games.
Henne had one full year on the bench in 2008, learning from Pennington's superb leadership skills as he turned the 1-15 Dolphins into 11-5 division champions. Sanchez started straight out of college. All of these facts must be considered, but how can you really factor them into the comparison objectively and concretely?
Something I've learned about football fans is that no one else can criticize their team's quarterback but themselves. I know I'm that way. I voiced my disappointment with Chad Henne several times last season but am quick to defend his potential if a Patriots fan or Bills writer questions his abilities.
Both quarterbacks need to improve for their teams to contend for a Super Bowl (Miami needs a little more than that).
Though Sanchez does pull out wins in close matches, he needs to work on his consistency, accuracy and leadership. New York didn't score a touchdown in four games last season (side note: Miami failed to score a touchdown in 2010 only once, against Chicago. Henne didn't play due to injury). That can't happen on a Super Bowl team.
Chad Henne also needs to work on similar areas, as it seemed that with each poor decision and momentum-killing interception, the Dolphins lost a little more faith in him as a leader and as a quarterback. He is on the tightest of leashes this year and must deliver.
For as long as these two quarterbacks stay in the division, they will be compared against one another. If Henne and the Dolphins improve, and I think they will (explained in other articles), this question might become much easier to answer.
Who is the better quarterback? Henne, statistically.
But any guy who can lead his team to four playoff victories in his first two seasons deserves extra credit. Sanchez wins games.
Wins are more important than stats, and until Henne can produce both, Sanchez gets the advantage in what is just the early stages of what should be a long-term AFC East rivalry.