Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Football Fields Are No Place for Training Wheels

October 13, 2010

Submitted by: Gabriel Marquez

Remember when you first learned to ride a bike and it had those embarrassing pesky training wheels on it with your dad hovering right behind you? Your balance was nonexistent but your imagination was twice your size. Your mind promised you that soon you'd be able to fly down the street with the cool kids that ruled the block (minus the training wheels and dad of course.)

Well, I think sometimes as we grow older we still yearn for those feelings of independence, that excitement of risk, the trial and error lesson plan, the success attained only by trying your hardest and having a short memory when it comes to those scrapes and bruises. We see the cool kids' whiz past us and feel like we can be that cool, but are still equipped the damned training wheels. Usually because our dads say we aren't ready to take them off.

This theory is especially painful to watch when it pertains most to our home team quarterback. Chad Henne, drafted in the second round of the 2008 draft by our beloved Miami Dolphins, has been babied into the league like most of the quarterbacks are nowadays. During his first year he sat, watched, and learned from Chad Pennington who played the older-but-nice brother role to Henne. Henne watched his 'big bro' turn a doomed 1-15 franchise into an 11-5 playoff team within a year. He was a sponge during this season, just watching the kids on their bikes. The following season started off with Miami struggling early before Pennington suffered a familiar season-ending injury. Henne went from watching the kids on the bikes to being forced onto his, with training wheels at least. Not necessarily baptism by fire considering that the Fins were a run-first team with no threats at wide receiver at that point, and no surprise to anyone in the league.

The Other Kids

The problem was that on Henne's block there's a stud named Tom Brady and a new kid named Mark Sanchez. Brady rides past a lot of kids on his bike like Lance Armstrong in the Tour De France. Sanchez and Henne both peddled along with the help of their training wheels, hoping they could look as fluid and cool as Brady and one day win Super Bowl rings like him. The shaky training wheel period lasted a season before 2010 rolled around, where most people thought things would change in Miami (considering that a new weapon named Brandon Marshall was brought into town to help our young gun-slinger). But the season has begun and the training wheels seem to be on just as tight as last year, despite Marshall's presence.

Not so Fast

On the other side of the fence, Mark Sanchez seems to be unrestricted and trusted. He's off to an amazing start and flying right past Henne. He's taking risks, looking sharp, throwing deep, plating confident, consistent, productive and most importantly winning games. He's becoming someone that opposing defenses are afraid of and must gameplan against. Chad Henne on the other hand is still being babied. His arsenal consists mostly of running plays and check down passes, while regularly being substituted for Miami's suddenly ineffective Wildcat package. I can't help but feel that if you just let the guy ride alone and give him a longer leash he can build some confidence and ride with the best of them. He's shown he can win games, he has the arm strength and he can take a beating. But the Fins still decide to continue their run first strategy despite having a young bright quarterback and one of the most feared recievers in the game.

It seems that everyone except the coaching staff in Miami knows that this is a quarterback-driven, passing league. Another point of interest is how every good quarterback, including Mark Sanchez, uses the pump fake often and looks off defenders with his eyes. Chad Henne has gotten into the troubling trend of locking onto his target as soon as he snaps the ball without taking his eyes off the intended receiver. Then he doesn't pump fake to get the defender out of position, leading to a forced pass into tight and risky coverage. With a few tweaks to minor flaws like this, I believe Henne can be an elite quarterback in this league.

The training wheels should be thrown out. Now. Trust the kid and hope that your guidance will keep him out of trouble. He could be a superstar but we won't know if we keep up the baby act. All we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope that those in charge have a change of heart. The last thing we need is foe Brady and Sanchez stroll by laughing as they pop-a-wheelie over Henne's dream of being the top-tier quarterback he can be. It's time to let the boy play.

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