What will the regular season hold? Will your hopes be dashed early on by a losing streak? Will your team teeter on the edge of playoff contention, only to lose in heart-breaking fashion in Week 17? Or will this be the magical year you remember for the rest of your life, as your team goes all the way?
If you are a Miami Dolphins fan, you had better be prepared for anything and everything. The franchise has won and lost games in snow, rain and mud. They tasted perfection in 1972 and barely avoided a 0-16 season in 2007.
The rivalries of the AFC East are stuff of legend. Each franchise had its ups and downs, but when a division rival loomed on the schedule, each team brought their best. Dolphins’ fans have seen their quarterback use a simple ruse to win a game against the Jets. Dan Marino’s fake spike not only became one of the great moments in NFL history, but sent the hated Gang Green on a downward spiral that would see them lose 33 out of 37 games from 1994 to 1996.
On the other hand, we have been on the wrong side of a Thurman Thomas/Jim Kelly tag-team beat-down way too often.
In the middle of the Dolphins-Jets rivalry are the two Chads the Dolphins have at QB.
Chad Pennington, once nicknamed “The Golden Boy” for his amazing performances at Marshall, now plies his trade as “The Comeback Kid” of the Miami Dolphins. Once (quietly) compared to Joe Montana by a WFAN talk show host, the media he alienated and the coaches whose jobs he couldn't save hung Chad out to dry. He came back from injuries that would have easily ended a lesser man's career. He won in the gusting winds of the Meadowlands and did the same last year in sunny Florida.
Despite his youthful appearance, Pennington is 33 years old, an age when even great quarterbacks start to see their skills decline. Looking over Pennington’s shoulder is Chad Henne, entering his second year in the NFL. The Dolphins have all but officially designated Henne as the heir-apparent once Pennington’s contract ends after this season.
So is 2009 the year for the Dolphins? Or is it merely an extended preseason/tape session for Henne’s viewing pleasure?
It is up to each individual fan to come to his own conclusion. But when Chad Pennington takes the snap from center on Sept. 13 against the Falcons, he will be trying his damnedest to do what he has done throughout his career—win. It would serve us well to remember that Pennington oversaw Marhsall’s successful transition to Division I-A football, won two bowl games and quarterbacked a 13-0 season. Remind yourself that Pennington came from the scrap heap to come in second to Peyton Manning in the MVP race.
Remember that Henne, young and with a gun for an arm, was the first Michigan QB to go 0-4 in the biggest college football rivalry today against Ohio State. In a division where every game is hard fought and every team competitive, Pennington is the Chad you want punched—in 2009 and perhaps beyond.