Pre-draft madness must be spreading like the plague, because all of a sudden there's silly talk of a quarterback controversy in Miami. Are we that bored?
There's a plan in place for the Dolphins, and it's a good one.
It involves a veteran starter -- and a very capable one at that -- in Chad Pennington. Pennington signed a two-year contract before the 2008 season, and is entering his 10th NFL season as the most statistically accurate passer in league history. He finished second in the MVP voting, behind only Peyton Manning, after leading a formerly 1-15 team to the AFC East Championship and the playoffs. He was named Comeback Player of the Year (which he'd already won in 2006, so...shouldn't that mean he can't come back again so soon?) Not too shabby, really. He's quite good.
But at 33, Pennington won't last forever. Which brings us to phase two: succession.
That involves a star in the making in Chad Henne. Drafted in round two of last year's draft out of Michigan, 23-year-old Henne is the one chosen to continue the work Pennington is doing now as the Dolphins morph from ugly duckling to swan. Or, at least, the 'Phins will be doing everything in their power to mold him for the job. He was signed to a four-year contract, and the Dolphins have long had 2010 penciled in as the time by which he should be able to step up into the starting role and give them the best years of his life. How will they prepare him? Playing time, obviously, both in spring and fall.
Even Pennington is well aware of the plan, responding to talk of a premature coup in 2009 with, "It's not news. Coach [Tony] Sparano, Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland have been up front since day one about my future...I'm comfortable where I am.'' That's not to say he isn't going to fight for the job, and isn't capable of hanging on to it. But he's aware that this is what smart teams do, and have done forever, and is prepared to share time like a grown-up.
So why is anyone even talking about this? Well, for one, Dolphins brass are speaking publicly of getting Henne ready, and such talk always gives Newton's third law a run for its money among rabid fans.
But spurring all the commotion, wafting in from the west, comes the tantalizing aroma of the combo platter. Jay Cutler, on the outs with Denver and looking for a trade, is potentially the best of both Pennington and Henne: young, but with two-and-a-half years of starting experience. Oooh, shiny!
Certainly Cutler's a sexy option, but veering off the plan is a dangerous move. We all know what happens to coaches who can't see the Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks in front of their noses while searching incessantly for the new hot model, don't we, Jon Gruden? No consistency, no confidence, no wins. And Cutler won't come cheap at all at a time when there's more desperate holes to fill (the Dolphins happen to be a bad day away from using a traffic cone at cornerback) and no desire to leave positions thin and competition-less.
There's better results in rebuilding for the long haul rather than going after the shiniest, costliest bait at every turn, and the Dolphins are in good hands with Pennington and Henne. Bill Parcells shouldn't stop short gawking and throw the whole thing out the window.
Janie Campbell doesn't trust Jay Cutler's wispy bangs. Her work has appeared in irreverent sports sites around the Internet.