Monday, September 28, 2009

Week 3 @ Chargers Recap

I got an email right before the game on Sunday which read:
"If the Dolphins fail to win against the Chargers, at what point do you consider giving Henne a shot?"

Well, it looks like that question has been answered for us.

With Chad Pennington likely to miss at least a game and probably more than one with his shoulder injury, Chad Henne's chance to establish himself as this team's starting quarterback is starting right now.
But before I get into a discussion of Henne, let's talk briefly about the game.
  • Even with all of their significant injuries, the Chargers were still the better team - and it wasn't really close either. That's a bit scary and shows just how much of an aberration last season was and how much farther this team still has to go.
  • The offense consistently bogs down in the redzone because the threat of a pass to a wide receiver is laughable in those areas. Who on this team is honestly a threat down near the goal line? No one. And so while Ronnie and Ricky might be able to carve out huge chunks of yardage between the twenties against most teams, their job gets a whole lot harder down inside the ten. It also doesn't help that Anthony Fasano has essentially disappeared this year, which is very disappointing after such a fantastic season last year.
  • The middle of the field is still wide open against this defense.
  • The run defense did an excellent job bottling up Sproles and preventing him from seeing any kind of daylight.
Now I'm going to veer away from the game talk for a bit because I'd just like to point out how hypocritical a lot of writers and fans are who write about and comment on this team. In the offseason, all I heard from pretty much every Dolphins blogger or commenter was how strong this team was across the board. I was amazed at how easily some pretty obvious areas of concern were simply whitewashed and explained away. (ex. Gibril Wilson might struggle in his switch to FS? Pish posh! He played FS for a team that won the Super Bowl - he must be great!; or, Ted Ginn is in his third year and we all know every WR in his third year suddenly becomes elite, despite the fact that nothing in his statistical profile would support that notion; or CB Eric Green will make a fine CB for this team - all he needed was a new environment and a chance to show what he's really got, etc.)

(Please note the dripping sarcasm in the previous examples)

I strive to be as honest as possible about the team and I'm not afraid to call out problem areas when I see them, even if it's the offseason and I'm simply projecting what is likely to happen. And see, that's the problem. Far too many fans (and writers who are fans) are so clouded by blissful ignorance that they can't accept that something might be an issue until the season rolls around and slaps them in the face with a proclamation of, "HEY, THIS HAS BECOME AN ISSUE!" Anyone can watch a game and see what is happening and then choose to react to something negative after the fact. It takes a tad bit more prescience and willingness to suspend hope in favor of reality in order to get a sense of these things before the season rolls around.

Now I'm not saying that I'm always right about the predictions I do make. But I'm certainly more accurate than the majority of writers and commenters who meet every story with a stamp of approval and who find ways to overvalue every player on the roster. What's the point of even talking about the team during the offseason if everyone's automatic response to any personnel move or bit of news is met with an unthinking, "Yup, that's a good move," or "Wow, according to every player interview I've heard, it seems like the entire team has made great leaps forward in their abilities. I smell Super Bowl!"

The disgusting thing is that the people who actually stuck their necks out and criticized certain moves and players during the offseason were themselves heavily criticized by the head in the sand crowd. Only now, it seems that almost all those people who wouldn't stand to hear any criticism of their darling perfect team back then have already made the abrupt switch in mentality when conveniently confronted with reality. Talk about a lack of conviction!


Also, after this game I read something that almost made me spit out the water I was drinking. The writer (I won't point them out specifically) wondered whether Miami's last two games might show that the NFL is in transition - from a run-oriented league to a pass-oriented one.

Are. You. Kidding. Me?

Actually, I shouldn't be all that surprised, since this is one of the most common (yet ridiculous) notions that a lot of fans have about the game. Too many people believe that the grinding ground games of the 1970s represent the traditional style of the NFL and that a pass-oriented mode of play is some new-fangled idea that is sweeping in a new era of play. That couldn't be farther from the truth. I'll let Football Outsiders explain it best:

Most of the current crop of NFL analysts came of age or actually played the game during the 1970s. They believe that the run-heavy game of that decade is how football is meant to be, and today's pass-first game is an aberration. As we addressed in an essay in last year's book on the history of NFL stats, it was actually the game of the 1970s that was the aberration. The seventies were far more slanted towards the run than any era since the arrival of Paul Brown, Otto Graham, and the Cleveland Browns in 1946. Optimal strategies from 1974 are not optimal strategies for today's game.

The NFL has been a passing league for a long long time. So the answer to that writer is "No." The league is not in a transition away from run-heavy tactics in favor of passing. That transition has already been made. Those teams (like our Dolphins!) who are based on pounding the ball on the ground as often as possible are the ones clinging to a past that doesn't exist anymore. And no disrespect meant, but it's no coincidence that the guy running the franchise (Parcells) is straight out of the era when run dominance was in vogue more than any other time in history. Unfortunately, that style of play may not mesh well in today's game.

Well, I've rambled enough for one post, but check back later when I get a post up about Chad Henne and what the Dolphins should do at QB for the rest of the year.

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