Would The Jets Be AFC East Favorites If Pennington Was Still Their Quarterback?

Kyle RichardsonCorrespondent IJuly 26, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 28:  Chad Pennington #10 of The Miami Dolphins looks to pass against the New York Jets during their game on December 28, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Chad Pennington was drafted 18th overall by the New York Jets in 2000, the same year they saw the departure of Bill Parcells.

At the time, Vinny Testaverde was the quarterback and led the team to a 9-7 record.

Utilizing Jets all-time great running back Curtis Martin and getting the ball to speedy and relentless wide receiver Wayne Chrebet, the Jets went 10-6 and made the playoffs in ’01.

Testaverde was benched early in the ’02 season with the team at 1–4, and it was time for Pennington to step in. He did admirably, throwing for 3,120 yards, 22 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He finished with a rating of 104.2.

The Jets once again made the playoffs. On top of that, Pennington's team crushed Peyton Manning’s Colts 41-0 that season.

Each year Pennington has been healthy as the starter (’02, ’04, ’06), the Jets made the playoffs. In the years that he went out due to an injury (’03, ’05, ’07), the Jets missed the playoffs. 

After Pennington was exiled to Miami last season, he finished second in MVP voting to future Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning. The Dolphins came literally out of nowhere, stole the division, and went to the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Jets, with heavily criticized to end the season, quarterback Brett Favre, missed the playoffs by one game.

As the Jets prepare for training camp, and with a quarterback competition looming, you have to think that some in the Jets organization wish Pennington was back.  

The Dolphins have no identifiable superstar, but they have a solid team that learned how to win last year. And unlike the Jets, they have the most important position solidified. Additionally, with the return of Jason Taylor, they are ready to make another playoff run.

That doesn't mean that the Jets and Rex Ryan are going to just lay down and accept a mediocre season at the bottom of the division. Besides, in the past few years the AFC East has been anything but predictable.

As he said when he was hired in January, "This team is right there...I expect to win and win early." 

Are his words enough to give Jets fans hope? Or will they spend every waking Sunday thinking about the what-ifs?

If Pennington was still quarterback would the Jets be looked upon as legitimate competition, or even in some people’s eyes, a favorite to win the AFC East?