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The Dolphins Should Bench Brandon Marshall

Miami has benched it’s quarterback.  Chad Henne is headed to the headset role, in deference to veteran Chad Pennington.

Chad Pennington is a good player, so this isn’t going to be a season killing decision.  At age 35, Pennington is best suited to a relief role, which is exactly what this is.  Given how injury prone Pennington has been in his career, it’s hard to believe this is a permanent move either for the Dolphins.  They’ll need Chad Henne at some point in this season, and Henne will play well.

Henne’s “struggles” are the main reason that the QB rating stat is bunk.  Henne has been a strong contributor to the Dolphins offense in consecutive years now.  The achillies heel of the Dolphins offense in 2009 was that they played in a division with excellent pass defenses of the Bills and Jets, as well as against the NFC and AFC south divisions and their excellent pass defenses.  This year, the Dolphins have faced a far more moderate schedule of defenses and Henne’s numbers are up across the board.  Miami has an above average passing attack for the third year in a row, and though great pass defenses caused them to struggle in 2009, it’s hard to frame this year’s passing attack as anything but a net positive.

QB rating suggests an issue though.  On the back of a rising interception rate, Henne’s improvement across the board has resulted in a net improvement to QB rating of 3 points, from 75.2 to 78.2.  It doesn’t know that Henne is making up for it with fewer sacks, and more yards per pass, which has increased TD opportunities.  All the Dolphins know is that their offense can’t turn it’s red zone opportunities into points, and turns the ball over via interception too much to justify its passing game, which as I’ve pointed out above, is a clear net positive.

There’s an issue here that has nothing to do with the quarterback that is causing the Dolphins issues in the red zone and isn’t being corrected by this move is Brandon Marshall, who is on pace for all of his normal benchmarks previously seen with Denver: 104 receptions, 1,240 receiving yards, 12 yards per catch, 6.5 catches per game.  His team is on pace to finish 8-8, again.  His statline has translated almost perfectly from Denver.  There’s just one problem: he has one TD in those 52 catches and those 87 targets.  That’s by far the worst rate in the league of anyone who as scored this year.

This is also completely in line with Marshall’s career of being unable to find the end zone or get open in the red zone.  There’s just one exception to his TD woes, which was last year, when Marshall scored 10 times, a career high.  In Denver last year, he was playing the slot receiver in a spread offense, and offered a sliver of positive value thanks mostly to his ability to pay off the effort the Broncos put into throwing him the football with scores.

There’s not a whole lot to say about Marshall that hasn’t been said.  This is a guy who, on average for his career, has commanded the ball 11 times per game each year from three different coordinators.  That’s consistently among the highest totals in the league, and results in close to 175 targets in a 16 game season.  For those targets, Brandon Marshall gives you below average production, but it looks good in the stat sheet because you throw it to him so much.

You have to ask yourself at some point why a guy who finishes in the top five in receiving targets every year has never finished in the top five in receiving yards in any year, not to mention why Brandon Marshall is such a horrendous target in the red zone.  Well, you should, at least.  The Dolphins aren’t asking themselves these questions, and they are still throwing the ball to Marshall 11 times per game, all too often wasting the play.  They instead have concluded that the young quarterback is doing something wrong that’s causing fewer points and more turnovers than the Dolphins offense would want.

It’s the wrong conclusion.  The Dolphins have enjoyed a nice offense under Chad Henne.  It would be even better had they not acquired Brandon Marshall.  If this was ever to be an accountable team, Marshall MUST lose playing time to more deserving but less paid receivers.

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