DMN: Henne is a work in progress

QUOTE: “ ‘There is,’ said an Italian philosopher, ‘nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.’ Yet this is the measure of the task of your generation and the road is strewn with many dangers.” -- Robert F. Kennedy

Today would have been the 84th birthday of former U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. As many who read my columns know, Bobby Kennedy is my hero. I actually have more photos of him in my office than football pictures as his words his deeds have been impactful in my life. I greatly admire his willingness to change his views along with his willingness to take on sensitive issues in America in the 1960s. He believed everyone should guide their life with principles, not ambition. And he lived those words every day.

November is a special month for me. Special because many people I care greatly about celebrate their birthdays this month, and in my world, birthdays are to be celebrated whether the person is here or not. Memories never die, and neither should birthday celebrations. Happy birthday, RFK.

Did you like the game Thursday night? I loved it -- a physical game featuring two stubborn teams that had to play their style of football. What impressed me the most was the play of Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne. I’ve always loved Henne -- in fact, when I wrote a column for Sports Illustrated online, I made a few suggestions to the Jets, (Yahoo Dave would’ve been proud), but of course, Eric Mangini had his mind set on Vernon Gholston, or at least he is getting blamed for it. Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote, based on the events around the top of the draft.

If I worked for the Jets -- here is what I would do on Saturday:

Now, Plan B. If the Falcons pick Ryan at three, then I stay where I am and pick Jonathan Stewart (I assume the Raiders picked McFadden). I will still work my plan to get back into the first round get Chad Henne. But now I know Baltimore will be serious competition. So I may have to move further into the first round calling the Redskins at 21 and the Steelers at 23. I have to work ever single one of my options and keep applying the pressure on all the teams to finalize a deal. My goal is to come out of this draft with a running back and quarterback -- two cornerstones of the future for my team. Nothing can stop me from achieving that goal.

The Jets did listen to an extent. They actually made a move to get into the first round but picked tight end Dustin Keller. I still think they would be better today had they picked Stewart and Henne instead of Gholston and Keller.

OK, back to Thursday night’s game….

Henne is by no means a finished product, but his arm and his movement are very impressive. In fact, his arm is exactly the kind of arm the Buffalo Bills need to handle the wind and elements in their stadium. Henne is not always accurate on the touch throws and tends to overthrow every ball, but he’s getting better each week, and the Dolphins can build their team around his skill level. Last night, they were without the wildcat element and still were able to move the ball and score 24 points.

But Ricky Williams has found the fountain of youth and is running better and fumbling less than I’ve ever seen him in his career. His speed, his burst, appear better now than when he came out of college. Had Bill Parcells been the guy so many portray him to be – someone who cleans out the locker room upon arrival -- Williams would have been gone. But Parcells is calculated with his locker room cleansing program and knows who he can change and who is not worth changing. There lies the difference between what’s happening in Kansas City and Cleveland right now.

The Fins have to get more explosive on the second level of their defense. They have to be more diverse in their coverages (why didn’t the Panthers run the quarterback draw 10 times?) and they’ll be a very good team. Injuries are taking a toll on them, and losing nose tackle Jason Ferguson last night hurt them badly. Henne gives this team a legitimate future.

The Panthers play hard and play physical, but until they become a more diversified passing team, they’ll never be able to consistently win in the NFL. Look at the list below of teams that throw the ball effectively and teams that struggle with the passing game. The NFL is a passing league:

Most Pass YPG
This season

Colts 315.1 9-0
Patriots 302.7 6-3
Texans 284.1 5-4
Saints 275.0 9-0
Cardinals 271.0 6-3
Cowboys 260.4 6-3
Chargers 259.8 6-3
Steelers 253.3 6-3
Eagles 250.1 5-4

Fewest Pass YPG
This season

Browns 116.2 1-8
Raiders 118.6 2-7
Dolphins 160.0 4-5
Bills 160.6 3-6
Chiefs 166.6 2-7
Jets 169.8 4-5
Titans 170.2 3-6
Panthers 174.7 4-5
49ers 175.6 4-5
Buccaneers 177.6 1-8
Rams 185.0 1-8
Lions 190.8 1-8
Redskins 200.9 3-6

Many people might say that John Fox’s job is in jeopardy, but I think he’s a good coach who’s managing the situation well in Carolina. They just need to make some changes to their offensive approach before they can think about turning this around. That starts with a new quarterback, but more than that, they need a broader philosophy to the passing game. They must find a complement to Steve Smith so that he’s not doubled all the time and there’s an alternative target for the quarterback.

Then what do they do with Julius Peppers? He is taking up a huge sum of cap room, which handcuffs their ability to make moves and places them in a win-now mode. Trading away this year’s first-round pick (to San Francisco for Everette Brown) was a risky move, clearly signaling that they went “all in.” But what do they do next year? Do they place the franchise tag on Peppers and pay him 110 percent of his already overblown salary? Do they let him walk and get a modest third-round compensatory pick in return? Once they went for the huge deal this year, they’re almost obligated to keep Peppers on the team, but what benefit does he have in a long-term deal? This pay as he goes works better for Peppers, but the Panthers have not gained any benefit from the huge outlay they committed this year. My sense of this is that it will be tied to the organization’s decision on whether to keep Fox or make a move in another direction. From my viewpoint, these two moves are dependent on each other.

This weekend, I’m in Dallas for the Redskins-Cowboys game on the same day we remember the death of JFK. Come back to the NFP for Sunday at the Post and have a great weekend (you too, Yahoo Dave).

Foll ow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

To see why passing success has improved as the decade has progressed, check out this piece from Bleacher Report.

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