I really liked Big Dave's blog this morning on the Jake Long/Chad Henne vs. Matt Ryan debate. I thought we could have a good discussion on the subject.
I was a big supporter of taking Matty Ice, but I knew Jake Long would be an anchor of our line as well. I was just worried about if he was too stiff in pass protection.
Of all the moves that Bill Parcells has made with the Dolphins he will always be judged for taking LT Jake Long over QB Matt Ryan at the overall #1 draft position in 2008 NFL Draft. Most analysts thought Long was the safe pick but not the correct pick as you just do not pass up on a franchise quarterback if you lack one. The Dolphins had not had a franchise quarterback since Dan the Man, but an argument could be made for Jay Fiedler's leadership and smarts. Parcells hoped to balance that out by drafting QB Chad Henne in the 2nd round.
I try to be an avid observer of the ACC as I work at NCSU getting free passes to the games, so, I was not sold on whether Ryan would be worth the overall #1 pick in the draft. The reason? I have always admired BC's offensive coordinator Steve Logan, and he installed a very quarterback friendly system at BC. That, mixed with "Matty Ice" 's talent, I expected Ryan to find the end zone ... and he did 31 times. He also scored a 32 on the over-rated Wonderlic which was the highest for any quarterback entering the draft in 2008. Most teams will not draft a quarterback who gets less than 21 on the Wonderlic. You will all remember that Dan Marino scored a 13 on his.
I think what bothered me the most about Ryan was his 19 interceptions that he threw as a senior at Boston College. He had a very good offensive line, and he seemed to make rash decisions at times. What would he do at the NFL level? Well, I am the first to admit that Ryan has played better than I expected and is deserving of a first round selection in that draft. #3 overall? I am still not so sure about that, but he has deserved the nickname "Matty Ice".
In a comparison between Matt Ryan and Chad Henne's 2009 performances, Pro Football Focus rates them as good quarterbacks, but not elite quarterbacks. Keep in mind that Ryan was only in his 2nd year as a starter and looked even better than he did in 2008 showing improvement everywhere, and that Henne was starting his first season.
So, what about Jake Long? Was he the right choice? If you are Bill Parcells then you made the right choice. Look at everywhere that he has coached. All of his teams win for several years after he has left them. They are all known for having mauling offensive lines. Why does no one else seem to get it?
ESPN's KC Joyner is one of those analysts who thinks the Left Tackle is over-rated. He calls himself "The Football Scientist" and points out that "of the past nine Super Bowl winners, only one featured a first-round pick at left tackle". Also, "overall, four of the last nine Super Bowl winners had a left tackle who was drafted in the third round or later".
I like to look back at the great Don Shula, the holder of the most wins in NFL history. His offensive lines always were one of the best in the league, and he invested highly for elite left tackles and offensive linemen ... the same formula that Parcells uses. If you ever want to win consistently in the NFL then you need to have an offensive line that protects your quarterback's blind side and an offensive line that opens up gaping holes for your running backs. Look no further than the 72 Dolphins. People remember FB Larry Csonka dragging linebackers and cornerbacks down the field, but he also had some nice holes to run through.
Now, Jake Long has been everything the Dolphins expected from him ... maybe more. He has been in the league for 2 years and made the Pro Bowl both years. By making the Pro Bowl in his rookie season he kicked in some nice incentives that were written into his contract that makes him very highly paid for his position. Parcells considers him to be worth it.
CBS Sportsline's Pete Prisco rated his top 50 players in the NFL. Jake Long made his list:
29. Jake Long, T, Miami Dolphins: He's a rock on the left side of the Miami line. He's improved greatly as a run blocker, and he excels in pass protection. He had one bad game -- the opener against the Falcons -- and then played at a high level in 2009.
I think this year should define whether taking Jake Long over Matt Ryan was the right choice as we will see whether Chad Henne is indeed the answer at quarterback. Most analysts are saying that Henne will make a major move forward in his development this year and most are saying that he is our franchise quarterback. Personally, I think Jake Long's play has all ready answered that question.
One thing to think about is that a lot was made of the fact that Parcells drafted team leaders this year. Well, both Henne and Long were team leaders themselves of their college teams. I like that formula as well.