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  No Hanging Chads at QB
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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Penny and Henne. That’s what GM Jeff Ireland calls them.


He means Chad Pennington and Chad Henne, the present and, maybe, the future at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins.


This time last week, it was a three way battle between Josh McCown, John Beck, and rookie Henne. No one had really distinguished himself beyond the others, though Henne was praised for his poise and for his strong arm.


Overall, however, the situation was uninspiring and worrisome. Not only was there no clear winner, there was no viable option at the position.


Then, suddenly, came the unexpected signing of ex-Jet Pennington, who was made expendable as a result of the Brett Favre trade.


Then came preseason game #1 against the Bucs, as Mssrs. Beck and Henne took turns while McCown all but took to a clipboard. Beck was solid, but it was Henne’s laser shots that once again turned heads.


Now it’s Penny and Henne getting all the work. Just like that. Such is the strange and unpredictable world that is the National Football League.


Pennington a Dolphin? Preposterous! It’s akin to predicting Thurman Thomas ending his career as a Dolphin…you’d be a fool to even suggest it could happen.


Yet here he is, wearing a new #10 jersey and showing off his renowned accuracy at practice, getting the bulk of the snaps as the starter-to-be, with Henne handling the rest.


Beck and McCown? Standing on the sidelines, watching the parade pass them by, wondering just how much longer they are for this team.


In all fairness, they got their chance. But the state of the passing game was awful, to the point where opponents were going to be able to get away with showing an eight man front. That’s a ridiculous predicament for any professional team to be in, even a rebuilding one. So it truly is a fortunate happenstance that the Dolphins were able to get Pennington, without having to give up a single draft pick.


As predicted last week, something had to be changed.


But let’s not get too carried away. The concerns about Pennington’s arm strength are real. His ability to hit deep third routes is, shall we say, questionable.


The important thing here, though, is that the Dolphins now have a realistic chance to get back to their winning ways. The offensive line is looking better with each practice, with the godsend of camp being sixth rounder Donald Thomas at the starting right guard. Receivers are coming around, with Derek Hagan finally showing the talent that made him a third round pick in 2006. Runners are looking good as expected, with one Ricky Williams looking like the Ricky of old. The defense should be reasonably solid once Vonnie Holliday, Joey Porter, and Michael Lehan assume their posts.


What was needed was a dependable QB. They have that now in Pennington.


Just keep in mind that “now” and “Pennington” are synonymous.


Today...and I emphasize “today” in an oxymoronic way…the future of this team is Henne. He’s looked good in practice and in an exhibition game facing a vanilla defense. This doesn’t mean that Beck is history. Remember, this time last year it was Beck who was heir Marino, tearing into preseason defenses. Those were heady days as well, before the real games started, before the rude introduction came, as it almost always does for rookie QBs. In other words, stay tuned.


As for McCown, he is all but finished. The only remaining question is “when”. His potential role, the veteran who minded the store while the young-ins developed, was completely usurped by Pennington.


Yes, head coach Tony Sparano did suggest that the Dolphins could keep four QBs. Perhaps, but not for the duration. And sure, there’s a chance that it’s Beck who meets the Turk. But that wouldn’t make sense, not for a highly drafted player who is still getting better.


Then again, a good trade offer might come along. Just remember, Bill Parcells is a value guy and won’t likely part with Beck for a lowball offer.


McCown, on the other hand, has no trade value and no upside. For now, the Dolphins will hang on to him, at least until they are convinced that Pennington will be OK.


Meanwhile, it’s getting starting to get late in the hour. Sparano knows it, which is why Pennington’s arrival was timely. Now they can focus on putting the offense together.


Said Sparano, “We're kind of out of the hurting people's feelings business right now. We're getting into the real deal here.”


“We have three preseason games left and really after today we'll have nine true practice days left before we get into game week (season opener). We've got to get people ready to play that we think are going to be headed to the game and get enough guys work that are on the bubble as we look at it and see guys that still have a legitimate chance to make this team. There are a lot of guys that have that chance to make this team. Really, there are very few things that are set in stone but we got to get guys ready to play."


Having the QB situation settled goes a long way towards making that possible.

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