I caught some flack via e-mail for my Kellen Clemens for QB article from Chad supporters insisting that I was wrong and fellow Clemens supporters feeling like I talked about Pennington a bit too much. I’m a Jets’ fan, friends. I’m never going to outright insult any player that wears our colors unless he disrespects our organization first. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t be immensely critical of their skills. With that said, a very interesting discussion was brought up on our message boards, and I felt compelled to share my reply in that topic on the main site for those of you that choose to steer clear of message board politics¹.
My reply will be slightly modified for the official purpose of this article, but the content will remain the same. A member I respect, kelticwizard, made a comment that’s consistent among many Pennington supporters. He asked, “What the hell has Kellen proven? [That] when the team is in total collapse, he can arguably look a bit better than Chad… ? You’re going to hand the future of the team over to a guy on the basis of that?”
My response: Absolutely!
I will gladly support the man who performs best under the worst of conditions. If he can play well in those situations, then that’s all that matters to me. What these arguments need to be about is which QB can give the team a real fighting chance when the game is on the line! Which QB can “arguably” provide that spark that can bolster a potential come back! If that’s not enough for the fans, then I don’t know what is. Would you really prefer to have the QB that can complete 66% of his passes in the first three quarters, but can’t finish the job in the fourth?! That’s crazy talk.
How many more chances are we supposed to give the QB that squeaks by teams we should beat and struggles against the good ones?
We can try and compare the circumstances under which Kellen was given the starting position last season to when Chad took over in mid-season of 2002, but that wouldn’t be fair. Those two seasons were played by totally different teams and the QB change came under completely different circumstances. We all knew Vinny Testaverde was on a short leash and on his way out in 2002 if he didn’t perform. Chad Pennington was already being groomed to start. But Kellen Clemens took over halfway through a season after Chad just won Comeback Player of the Year!
In case anyone has forgotten, when Chad’s starting we’ve rarely ever won the big games that we shouldn’t have. He’s had a history of folding under pressure. Allow me to strike 2002 from the record, because it seems as if that miraculous 22 Touchdown and 6 Interception season is the one thing keeping Pennington supporters vocal. They will point to the 41-0 destruction of the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs, but that doesn’t hold as much validity to me when Indy is infamous for collapsing in the playoffs anyway.
I’m sorry to say it, but Chad supporters are holding fast to dreams of a healthy 25 year old QB that just doesn’t exist anymore.
Chad sits out the first 6 games of the regular season after breaking his hand in the preseason. He comes back mid-season and the fans expect an even better show than the one he put on in 2002.
- December 7th, 2003: Pennington goes 15/29 against Buffalo’s #2 ranked defense. He’s sacked 5 times, fumbling once and tossing an interception.
- December 22nd, 2003 — 5 interceptions in one game against New England.
But 2003 is a long time ago, right?
This one is a playoff year! Chad MUST be good again! He starts off strong only to get injured in Buffalo, sparking the true downward spiral of his career. Mind you now, when he returned to action our season wasn’t a total wash like 2003 and there were still meaningful games to play in December.
- December 12, 2004: 17/31 and 3 interceptions against Pittsburgh’s #1 defense.
- December 26, 2004: 22/36 and 2 interceptions, 1 fumble lost against New England at home while we’re fighting to stay alive for the playoffs.
- January 2, 2005: We got help getting into the playoffs, but none from Pennington. We lose to the Rams, and Chad goes 21/36, sacked 6 times.
- January 14, 2005: Doug Brien may have missed 2 crucial kicks, but a 5.5yd per pass average, with no TDs and one INT in Pittsburgh didn’t exactly put the Steelers on the brink of elimination either, did it?
Chad goes ahead and waits for a month after the loss in Pittsburgh to have surgery on his torn rotator cuff. He finally starts throwing again in August and assures everyone from fans to reporters that he’s back and ready to play.
- September 11, 2005: The first game of the season in Kansas City, and he fumbles the ball SIX times, most of them on snaps from Kevin Mawae! He goes 21/34, 7.8 avg, 1 INT, and 3 sacks.
- September 25, 2005: The Jets are at home against the Jaguars and he gets injured again. It didn’t come as a shock this time, because we were all watching him play and knew he wasn’t performing at even 60% of his abilities. Now he’s really out for the season. But before he got the injury that ended his season, he was 9/19, with a 4 yd avg, 2 INTs, 4 sacks, and 2 fumbles. It may be worth noting that the “hit” that ended his season was what most other QBs in the league would call “pressure.” He dropped back to pass and as he was preparing to throw, the ball got knocked out of his hands.
But in the spirit of fairness, I will strike 2005 from the record for you, just as I’m striking the 2002 season from the record.
Uh oh! Chad got his Wheaties, sprinkled saw dust on them, and drank it down with Jack Daniels! He starts off the season with back to back 300+ yard games. He receives Comeback Player of the Year and takes us into the playoffs with a new Head Coach.
- October 8, 2006: We are destroyed by the Jacksonville Jaguars and their #2 ranked defense. Chad is ineffective. 10/17 with a 4.2 avg, 3 INTs and 4 sacks. Ouch. We lose 41-0.
- October 29, 2006: This day lives in infamy for Jets fans. The setting: Cleveland. Chris Baker’s TD is called incomplete by the referees, Browns’ fans rejoice, Jets’ fans cry. But the details have been forgotten; those very crucial and brutal details! Things like Pennington struggling against a #27 ranked defense and going 11/28 with a 3.8 yd avg and 2 INTs. I remember being angry at the end of that game; but I also remember feeling like we didn’t deserve a win anyway with how poorly we played.
- November 19, 2006: We lose to the Bears, 10-0. It was a fairly close game, very defensive. But it’s another prime example of how Pennington doesn’t show up against top defenses. They couldn’t do anything against us until one fortunate pass where our defensive back got burned. But Pennington could never capitalize against a pretty hot team that our defense held in check.
- January 7, 2007: First round of the Playoffs, baby! We’re against New England and to hell with them! We beat them a month and a half before, so we had their number! And then Tom Brady showed us what it’s like when your QB isn’t one-dimensional. The final score was ugly, but the game was a lot closer than the total suggested. That was only until Pennington forgot that Asante Samuel played for the other team. And that, my friends, is when it became common knowledge that CBs can jump his short, out-route passes.
The Kevan Barlow experiment is finished, and we finally got a running back that should keep the opposing defense honest. Chad is supposed to be ready to pick it back up, right?
- September 9, 2007: Statistically he wasn’t horrible. But that doesn’t tell the tale of the game. Spygate was uncovered as Chad got sacked 4 times. He did end up injuring his ankle though, allowing Clemens to do what we all know he did against Baltimore the next week.
- September 30, 2007: The Jets are losing to Buffalo with :11 left in the game in their territory and Chad tosses an interception. Two plays before that he underthrew a ball to Thomas Jones in the flats who had some daylight.
- October 7, 2007: Chad Pennington gives three interceptions to the New York Giants and their #7 ranked defense. Two of those interceptions fell into the arms of a rookie Aaron Ross.
- October 14, 2007: 11/21 and 2 INTS to the Philadelphia Eagles and their #10 defense.
- October 21, 2007: Chad is intercepted on our 42 with :46 left in the game while victory is within reach. That interception goes for 6 the other way. The Cincinnati Bengals won in overtime.
Point made? There’s a lot to be said about playing against a top defense. They can only get there by consistently shutting down their opponents. So being held in check by a top ranked D shouldn’t really be embarrassing. But when your QB consistently ends up playing the defense’s game plan and forfeiting his own strategy, then I lose the will to cheer for him! If he can’t even inspire a little bit of faith against a top Defense, then all the fun in watching the game is sucked right out!
A QB is supposed to be the general: the man that leads his team into battle that the entire offense can rally around, right? When the game is on the line is when the real quarterbacks show up. Kellen may not have won us a whole lot last year, but his instincts when there was a game to be won brought us closer than Chad could have… even in his better days!
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