EA: Proud Pennington Exits GracefullyPublished: Fri, August 8, 2008 - 6:10pm EST
By Eric Allen
08/08 — Needless to say, the past day has been difficult for Chad Pennington.
“The most difficult part of the last 24 hours is coming to the realization that you’re no longer wanted by your organization,” said the former Jet, who was released Thursday. “You spend eight years with an organization and then in a blink of an eye you are no longer wanted there. That’s just the crude part of the business that’s sometimes hard to accept emotionally.”
If Brett Favre, one of the greatest passers to ever play in this league, had not been available, then Pennington’s probably still here. But Favre was on the market and the Jets made a bold move, acquiring the prolific Packer in a move to upgrade their roster.
“I found out about 11:30 Wednesday night. Coach Mangini and I had a good conversation,” he told reporters this afternoon during a conference call. “Not a lot of football was discussed. It was more about life and how to approach it and my thoughts on this great game of football.”
Penny, whose 65.6 completion percentage ranks No.1 all-time in NFL history, compiled a 32-29 record as a starter. His 88.9 passer rating is tops in team history and he led the Jets to the playoffs in each of the three seasons (2002, ’04 and ’06) he started at least 12 games.
When Pennington assumed the role of starting QB in 2002, he experienced immediate and improbable success. He went 8-4 as a starter, completing an astounding 68.9 percent of his passes and pacing the NFL with a 104.2 rating. The Jets came from behind to win the AFC East and they crushed the Colts, 41-0, in an opening-round playoff game at the Meadowlands.
But Pennington endured three serious injuries over the next three seasons and would have surgeries on his throwing shoulder twice in an eight-month period back in ’05. Skeptics thought he was done prior to 2006, but the resilient Pennington rallied and was selected AP Comeback Player of the Year after starting 16 games for the first time in his career.
“I have enjoyed it, I’ve learned a lot, I’ve become a better professional and a better man because of my experience and my time in New York,” he said. “I don’t regret or feel ashamed about anything that has happened to me within my time in New York.”
The Favre rumors began early in camp but Pennington continued to focus on the task at hand. He was intent on winning a QB competition with Kellen Clemens and had performed steadily until his final practice, which was Tuesday.
“With all the speculation up until this point, I always knew that this could be a possibility. Emotionally I don’t think I was totally prepared but at least mentally I was prepared and I knew I could handle the situation no matter what it would be,” he said.
The now free agent, a Marshall product who was selected No. 18 overall in the 2000 draft, says he’s found an inner peace. He wishes this would have had happened sooner but he won’t be out of work long.
“I certainly don’t want to discuss any of that to compromise my position and the things that are going on as far as myself as well as the teams that are interested,” he said. “I’m glad to have another opportunity and I’m excited about that and I look forward to that.”
Criticized by many for a lack of arm strength, Pennington never lacked for character. The 32-year-old, who established the 1st and 10 Foundation with his wife, Robin, in ’03, has helped make a difference here in the New York metro area along with his native Tennessee and West Virginia.
On his way out, he had a parting shot for Jets fans. It was a gesture of thanks as CP took the high road even on one of his darkest professional days.
“Just as many negative opinions that I may have received from fans, I’ve received double or triple the positive,” he said. “I’ve talked to numerous fans who’ve enjoyed me being a Jet and I’ve enjoyed them being fans.”
Wherever the road takes him next, here's wishing Chad Pennington nothing but the best.
Update: Late Friday evening, the Associated Press reported that Pennington and the Miami Dolphins had reached agreement on a deal. The Jets won't have to wait long to see him either as Pennington and the Dolphins host the Green & White in Week One.