Henne is out in Miami, who wins the NFC South and who will Jerry target? The editors debate.
Athlon's Steven Lassan, Nathan Rush and Braden Gall debate five burning questions for Week 10 in the NFL:
1. Should Chad Pennington be starting at quarterback for the Dolphins?
Steven: No. I think this benching is a bad move by the Dolphins. Chad Henne's career numbers aren't great - 20 touchdowns and 24 interceptions - but the Dolphins need to know if he is the long-term answer at quarterback. I didn't think Henne was particularly awful and it seems like an overreaction to Sunday's loss to Baltimore. Changing quarterbacks isn't the answer in Miami - it's getting back to establishing the run with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.
Braden: Certainly the Dolphins would like to see better play from their starting quarterback. And Chad Pennington has knack for winning football games. Yet, Henne is the future for the Dolphins under center. It is a brutal year in the AFC East, and the conference in general, so some growing pains are expected for a guy who has only 21 career starts under his belt. He has a huge arm and has gone toe-to-toe with the league's best in primetime settings in the past. Let the young porpoise sink or swim on his own — he needs to be under center to get better, doesn't he?
Nathan: Call the Supreme Court, there are hanging Chads in Florida. This could get even uglier. The move from Chad Henne to Chad Pennington is a mistake, both for the short and long term. The Dolphins are essentially saying that Henne is not their franchise quarterback. And obviously Pennington is not the solution, either. I respect the two-time Comeback Player of the Year Award winner and maybe he can win the trophy a third time this season. But this is a panic move of desperation that does not bode well for the future in Miami.
2. Will Matthew Stafford ever be healthy enough to play a full season?
Steven: It's concerning for Stafford and the Lions to see shoulder problems end his first two years in the NFL, but I doubt every season will be ended year by injuries. At some point, Stafford will stay healthy for the full 16-game season. A big part of Stafford's future is tied to the Detroit offensive line and the targets around him. The Lions need to upgrade at receiver and build a better offensive line to take some of the pressure off of Stafford. As Stafford gets more experience, expect him to get rid of the ball quicker and eliminate some of the hits he is taking now.
Braden: It is very concerning that Stafford continues to have the same injury. Could they be related and not fully healed and therefore impacting his ability to stay healthy? Sure. Could this be an isolated incident in which a player experiences an unlucky set of events to start a career? Let's hope. Stafford has the makings of a great quarterback and could save a franchise, but he has to be on the field to do so. It is interesting that the likely Rookie of the Year (Sam Bradford) was supposed to be the player who had glaring injury concerns.
Nathan: I thought the Rams’ Sam Bradford was the quarterback made of glass, after this year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner injured his throwing shoulder twice at Oklahoma last season. Instead, it looks like the Lions’ Matthew Stafford is the one who needs a Medic Alert bracelet. After healthy, productive careers at Highland Park HS in Dallas and at Georgia, there were no warning signs prior to the thus-far injury-riddled NFL career for the No. 1 overall pick in 2009. Throwing shoulder issues are the worst kind for a professional passer. But he’s only 22 years old and has shown flashes of greatness, so I’d be willing to invest my money in Stafford.
3. Who would you target for the Cowboys job?
Steven: Although Wade Phillips wasn't the greatest coach in the NFL, there are a lot of other problems for this team that you could place on for the struggles of 2010. However, Dallas needs someone who can command respect in the locker room and isn't necessarily a player's coach. Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden would be a good fit, but could they co-exist with Jerry Jones? I also think the Cowboys need to hire a true general manager and keep Jones from making the day-to-day decisions about the roster.
Braden: Bill Cowher is the flashing name who would succeed and make the Cowboys, who have loads of other problems, instantly better. However, he appears earmarked for the Carolina Panthers job and I am not sure how his personality would mesh with Jerry Jones. In fact, Jones might be the issue. The Dallas War Room has been run by Jones for years — not well at that. The drafting, free agent signings, trades and coach selections have largely been mediocre-to-subpar, and that is all on Jones. It might not matter if Vince Lombardi walks through the doors at Valley Ranch, the Cowboys might be in trouble as long as the meddling owner is still involved in the daily operations. Otherwise, Jon Gruden, Nick Saban, Jim Harbaugh, Jeff Fisher, Gregg Williams and Darrell Bevell would all get calls from me.
Nathan: I would go after Jim Harbaugh. He may not want to leave the Farm at Stanford. And if he does, he may prefer the Chargers gig on the beach (you know, hypothetically, if Norv Turner doesn’t return in 2011) over the Cowboys job in the psych ward. Harbaugh — whose brother, John, coaches the Ravens and whose father, Jack, coached Western Kentucky to a I-AA national title — played at Michigan, was a quarterback in the NFL from 1987-2001, had a 29–6 record as coach at the University of San Diego and has gone 25–21 at Stanford 8–1 this season). For me, there’s no better candidate — unless Jerry Jones can steal Jeff Fisher away from the Titans, which has long been rumored.
4. Who will lead the NFL in rushing at the end of the year?
Steven: I don't see Arian Foster, Ahmad Bradshaw and Darren McFadden slowing down much if they stay healthy, but I'll take the proven commodity in Adrian Peterson. Peterson ranks second in the NFL with 857 yards, and with Sidney Rice giving the receiving corps a boost, the passing attack could open up more over the final half of the season.
Braden: The best, most physically gifted running back on the planet is Adrian — A.D. not A.P. — Peterson. Let's go with him. The Giants appear to be working the re-energized Brandon Jacobs more and more into the game plan, so Ahmad Bradshaw is a tough pick. Arian Foster is off to a great start but can he sustain it in his first full season come Weeks 14-17? Chris Johnson is certainly not the CJ2K (as my counterpart likes to say) of last fall — and will never be again in my opinion. Keep an eye on one Mr. Frank Gore. The Niners' schedule isn't bad at all, and you know he will get the rock plenty.
Nathan: CJ2K may not get back to the 2,000-yard mark, but Titans track star Chris Johnson should lead the league in rushing — especially now that Randy Moss is in Music City, forcing teams to respect the deep threat rather than load the box with eight (or even nine) to stop Johnson.
5. Who is the best team in the NFC South?
Steven: Atlanta was my preseason pick to win the NFC South, and I've seen nothing to change my mind. I like the Saints as a playoff team, but the Falcons already have a win in New Orleans and their only losses are to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - two very good teams. Once the Saints get Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas back in the lineup, it should help Drew Brees and the passing attack. Both teams are likely playoff bound, but I'll give the edge to the Falcons to win the NFC South.
Braden: I picked the Saints in the preseason to return to the Super Bowl. I picked the Falcons, also in the preseason, to win the division however. Removing the overachieving Bucs from the coversation, the division might come down to Week 16 and the Saints trip to the Georgia Dome — where Matt Ryan is virtually unbeatable. If the Falcons survive the three-game road trip to Tampa, Carolina and Seattle (nothing too scary), then those final two games at home could give them 12 wins and a divison crown. That being said, the question said "best," and until proven otherwise, the Super Bowl champs are still tops.
Nathan: The Super Bowl Saints are the most reliable team, but the Falcons have the biggest bandwagon and the Buccaneers are the biggest surprise. Still, I’ll ride with a coach who has no fear (Sean Payton), one of the coolest passers under pressure (Drew Brees) and an aggressive coordinator (Gregg Williams) with a loaded defense (Will Smith, Sedrick Ellis, Jonathan Vilma, Darren Sharper, etc.). Plus, New Orleans has invaluable experience; they’ve been there, done that and can do it again.