The news probably came as a surprise to both players. They’re good friends and teammates, and when it came down that Chad Pennington would return as the Miami Dolphins quarterback this week – and that Chad Henne, the quarterback of the future, would sit – it was a bittersweet moment they shared together.
“We got teary-eyed, because we have a really good relationship,” Pennington, the 34-year-old veteran, said Wednesday. “The good thing about this situation is he's on the front end of his career and I'm on the back end of mine. So we're not two dogs fighting over the same piece of meat.”
Even so, it was a significant announcement for coach Tony Sparano, who said he was pulling Henne and returning Pennington to the starting job he held until a shoulder injury knocked him out for the season in Week 3 last year. Pennington had even considered retirement.
“It’s time to move,” said Sparano, whose 4-4 Dolphins trail the New England Patriots and New York Jets by two games in the AFC East. “If you don’t move during this month, you’re going to be in the also-rans.”
In eight starts this season, Henne has completed 176 of 277 passes but has 10 interceptions compared 8 touchdowns. The Miami offense has scored just 11 TDs, tied for second fewest in the NFL.
“This is not an indictment on Chad Henne at all,” Sparano said. “It’s not an indictment on his future. This player has gotten an awful lot better. But at this particular time, it’s something I believe I need to do for our team.”
In 21 career starts, Henne, 25, has an 11-10 record with 23 interceptions and 20 touchdowns. He threw three interceptions in a 26-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday.
“There are obviously things that I can want back,” Henne said. “Turnovers glare at you, and some of the decision-making.”
He may still get a chance to redeem himself, but it’s not going to come this week.
In the NFL, revolving quarterbacks have become the rule this season. In Detroit, Shaun Hill is expected to get another start for injured Matthew Stafford, who may be out for the season with a shoulder injury; in Carolina, rookie Jimmy Clausen will get his second consecutive start ahead of another rookie, Tony Pike, despite four interceptions, two lost fumbles and a 48.0 passer rating in six games; in Cleveland, look for Colt McCoy to get his fourth start in a row even though Seneca Wallace returned to practice; and in San Francisco, Troy Smith is the likely starter over injured Alex Smith.