Class— Informal. Elegance, grace, or dignity, as in dress and behavior (dictionary.com). It’s hard to find many who fit this prototype in the NFL any more. It would seem the vast majority is more concerned about class as a reference to their dressing habits rather than their professional attitudes. In a league increasingly becoming filled with prima dona’s, ego maniacs, and players all too familiar with the law (not in a good way) some players deserving of more publicity are falling through the cracks.
The media has a habit of beating a dead horse with continual reports on players granted third and fourth chances in the league after run-ins with the law, or adding fuel to the fire for locker room cancers that can deteriorate teams. But for every Adam Jones, Chris Henry, Tank Johnson, Cedric Benson, or Terrell Owens there’s a Chad Pennington.
Pennington, who currently has the highest career completion percentage in NFL history, has received his share of publicity over the years. After all, he did spend his first seven seasons in New York, but his press over the last few years has not been fair. Pennington suffered a few injury plagued seasons in which he endured much public criticism, even from his own coaching staff. This summer he became the odd man out in a deal that transplanted him to Miami after the Jets made a move for Hall-Of-Fame quarterback Brett Favre.
To many the move was not surprising, including Pennington. In his first public commentary with the New York Post about the deal he said he was “at peace” and went on to say “I always knew this could be a possibility…Right now I’m just focused on the next opportunity.”
Pennington was selected 18th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, but his tenure there had been somewhat of an enigma. In 2002 Pennington took over the starting job after the team got off to a 1-3 start, but Pennington would lead them to an AFC East title an overall record of 9-7, and a playoff birth where the team would eventually lose in the second round.
Then a slew of injuries of the next few seasons would drastically effect the rest time spent in New York. In 2003 Pennington missed the first six games due to a fracture in his non-throwing hand, the Jets would finish 6-10. The team started 5-0 the next season, but Pennington injured his rotator cuff and missed three games.
He would return and play through injury, leading his team to the playoffs where they would lose a heartbreaker to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was revealed after the season just how severe the injury was. Pennington had a torn rotator cuff and bone spurs in his throwing shoulder and required offseason surgery. Less than a year later he would require a second surgery due to another tear in the same shoulder. The shoulder injuries and the inability to make any serious advances in the playoffs increased public scrutiny towards Pennington.
Pennington relied heavily on his intelligence, play action abilities and accuracy in the mid range passing game and questions about physical ability, most notably his arm strength, increased. His accuracy farther downfield and less than average arm strength nearly eliminated him as a deep ball threat, and his shoulder injuries sure didn’t help him.
Undeterred by his public persona Pennington took a pay cut heading into the 2006 season. Think about that, his fans wanted Kellen Clemens to take over the reigns…Kellen Clemens.
Terrell Owens and pay cut are words you’ll never see together in a sentence besides this one. All Pennington did after the pay cut was play a complete healthy season, win 10 games and make the playoffs, and win the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award.
After a stellar 2006 the next season injuries struck again. Pennington sprained his ankle in week one and after eight games he was replaced by Kellen Clemens, effectively ending his Jets career.
Pennington was 32-29 as a Jets starter, a respectable record considering what he dealt with. What people failed to realize was that when 100 percent healthy, Pennington-led teams won games. Fans were too caught up in his physical tools and overlooked important tangibles.
Bill Parcells quickly added Chad to the Dolphins roster. They needed the veteran leadership and big game experience he provides. Although he may not be the most vocal leader he most definitely is a leader by example.
Pennington currently has a 98.8 QB rating sixth highest in the NFL, and fourth in completion percentage, and is nine of 13 on pass attempts of 31 or more yards. Once again Pennington has forced his way into the public’s eye, proving himself to be the most-undervalued quarterback in the NFL.