There is a quarterback controversy brewing in New York and fans are divided between veteran Chad Pennington and third-year QB Kellen Clemens.
A Chad Pennington supporter on the NYJetsFan.com forums 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! It's the smart thing to do.
Is it really a preference to start the quarterback who completes 68-percent of his passes in the first three quarters but can't finish the job in the fourth?
The Chad Pennington Era began with fire in 2002 when the young quarterback of the future replaced a struggling Vinny Testaverde. That miraculous 22 touchdown, six-interception season is the lone saving grace in a career filled with Pennington-led disappointments.
Sadly, his supporters are holding fast to dreams of a healthy 25-year-old QB who no longer exists. Dreams are lovely, but need to be abandoned when reality sets in.
Pennington sits out the first six games of the regular season after breaking his hand in a preseason game against the Giants. Pennington returns mid-season and the fans expect an even better show than the one he put on in 2002.
- December 7th, 2003: Pennington goes 15-of-29 against Buffalo's No. 2 defense. He's sacked five times, fumbles once and tosses an interception.
- December 22nd, 2003: Not much to say here, except five interceptions in one game against New England.
But 2003 was a long time ago, right?
The Jets went to the playoffs, so Pennington must be good again! He starts off strong, only to get injured in Buffalo, and spark the true downward spiral of his career. When he returned to action, the Jets' season wasn't a total wash like 2003 as there were still meaningful games to play in December.
- December 12, 2004: 17-of-31 and three interceptions against Pittsburgh's No. 1 defense.
- December 26, 2004: 22-of-36 and two interceptions with one fumble in a home loss to the Patriots while fighting to stay alive for the playoffs.
- January 2, 2005: The Jets were helped into the playoffs, but received none from Pennington. They lost to the Rams, and Chad finished 21-of-36, taking six sacks.
- January 14, 2005: This day lives in infamy after Doug Brien's two botched field goals that would have lifted the Jets into the next round of the playoffs. But a 5.5-yard per pass average, with no scores and one pick in Pittsburgh, didn't exactly put the Steelers on the brink of elimination either.
Pennington waits an entire month following the loss in Pittsburgh to have surgery on his torn rotator cuff. He finally starts throwing again in August and assures everyone that he's back and ready to play.
- September 11, 2005: He fumbles the ball six times in the season opener at Kansas City, most of them on snaps from future Hall of Fame center Kevin Mawae. He finishes 21-of-34 with a paltry 7.8-yard average, one pick, and three sacks.
- September 25, 2005: The Jets are at home against the Jaguars and he's injured for the season again. Pennington was 9-of-19, with a four-yard average, two picks, four sacks, and two fumbles.
It is worth noting that the "hit" that ended his season was what most other quarterbacks in the league call pressure. He dropped back to pass and, as he was preparing to throw, the ball was knocked out of his hand.
Chad ate his Wheaties, sprinkled sawdust on them, and drank it down with Jack Daniels! He started off the season with back-to-back 300-yard games. He received Comeback Player of the Year honors and took the team to the playoffs with a rookie head coach, Eric Mangini.
- October 8, 2006: The Jets were destroyed by the Jacksonville Jaguars and their No. 2 defense. Chad is ineffective with a 10-of-17 day and a 4.2 average, with three picks and four sacks. Ouch. That's good for a 41-0 loss.
- October 29, 2006: The setting: Cleveland. Chris Baker's touchdown is called incomplete by the referees, Browns' fans rejoice, and Jets' fans cry. But the details were forgotten. Those very crucial and brutal details! Details like, Pennington struggling against a No. 27 ranked defense and finishing 11-of-28 with a 3.8-yard average and two picks.
- January 7, 2007: The Jets drew New England in the first round of the playoffs after upsetting them at Gilette Stadium a month and a half prior. Apparently, Mangini had their number! And then Tom Brady showed the world what it's like when the quarterback isn't one dimensional.
The final score of the Patriots game was ugly, but it was a lot closer than the total suggested. The closeness only lasted until Pennington forgot Asante Samuel played for the other team. And that is when it became common knowledge that Pennington's short, out-route passes can be jumped.
The Kevan Barlow experiment is finished, and the team finally fiund a running back who should keep the opposing defense honest in Thomas Jones. 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 was sacked four times. He did end up injuring his ankle, opening the door for Kellen Clemens' first start in Baltimore the next week.
- September 30, 2007: The Jets are losing to Buffalo with 11 seconds left in the game. The ball is in their territory and Pennington tosses an interception. Two plays before that, he under threw a ball to Thomas Jones in the flats.
- October 7, 2007: Pennington gives three interceptions to the New York Giants and their seventh-ranked defense. Two of those interceptions fell into the arms of rookie Aaron Ross.
- October 14, 2007: Pennington is 11-of-21 with two picks to the Philadelphia Eagles and their tenth-ranked defense.
- October 21, 2007: Chad is intercepted on the Jets 42 with 46 seconds remaining in the game with victory within reach. The interception goes for six the other way. The Cincinnati Bengals win in overtime.
Point made? There's a lot to be said about playing against a top defense. A top defense becomes what they are by consistently shutting down their opponents, so being held in check by a top-ranked D shouldn't really be embarrassing. But when your franchise QB consistently ends up playing the defense's game plan and forfeiting his own strategy, then fans lose the will to cheer for him.
If he can't inspire a little bit of faith against a top defense, then all the fun in watching the game is sucked right out.