Updated, 1:45 p.m. ET
A familiar face, with that familiar body lean and that familiar touseled blond hair was recognizable on the Jets’ sidelines at today’s training camp practice at SUNY Cortland even without his familiar No. 10 jersey. Chad Pennington is here for a visit and perhaps a little quarterback consultation on the side.
“Coach Sparano, Coach Ryan and Mike asked me to come up for the day,” said Pennington, that old Southern drawl sounding as calm and reassuring as it always did in the early part of the new millennium. “I’m actually going to be making a corporate appearance at MetLife Stadium tomorrow, so it worked out perfectly to come up here, visit training camp and see some familiar faces and friends and watch practice.”
Pennington’s presence resonates on so many levels here today. Besides his ties as a former Jets first-round draft choice — a member of the “Four Aces” draft class of 2000 that then-assistant GM Mike Tannenbaum got signed in time for the ’00 training camp — and their starting signalcaller around those traumatic shoulder injuries from ’02 through ’07, he has that Aqua & Coral connection. When Brett Favre came in, Pennington went to the Dolphins. Who just happened to be led in ’08 by first-time head coach Tony Sparano. And who just happened to be running a little number known as the Wildcat, with Ronnie Brown in the ‘Cat-bird’s seat.
Rex Ryan invited Pennington in to talk to the team and Chad told my partner Eric Allen on newyorkjets.com that his theme was that the game of football is a players’ game.
“With all the analysis that goes on around the game of football, fantasy football, all the entertainment value to the game, it’s still a players’ game,” Pennington said. “That’s where the magic lies, when you take a group of players, mesh them together and go after one common purpose, one goal. That’s what makes the game great.”
Pennington also chatted with reporters today and the early questions were about all those topics, such as Mark Sanchez’s development and Tim Tebow’s arrival and Sparano’s input into this intriguing story of making the Wildcat a significant part of the Jets’ offensive approach for 2012.
For fans who want to hear Chad chatting about Jets football once again, he moved into the studio with my partner, Eric Allen, for today’s Jets Talk Live show on newyorkjets.com. Pennington stepped into the lineup for Mark Sanchez, who was originally scheduled for the show but couldn’t make it. The show began streaming around 12:45 p.m. ET, beginning with EA’s interview with Bart Scott, and will be archived on our site shortly.
For all the rest of you who can’t wait and want to get one more Chad fix, here’s a partial transcript of his impromptu news conference with reporters this morning:
On what he’s seen of Sanchez…
Pennington: I think from what I’ve seen from afar and now being here, Mark is throwing the ball better than I’ve ever seen him throw. He’s got excellent control with his throws and his ball placement, and also just his body language and how he’s carrying himself in and out of the huddle, I think he’s doing an outstanding job. I think he’s definitely gotten better over the offseason and really made a point to take it up to the next level. And kudos to him for doing that because that’s a decision that you have to make as a professional, to listen to the criticism and then do something about it, and he’s certainly done that.”
On his experience with the Wildcat and how it affects quarterbacks…
Pennington: Most of the time in the Wildcat, you’re still calling the play as the quarterback, you’re just lining up different. To me as a quarterback, what’s the difference in taking a snap and handing the ball off and lining up at receiver? There’s really no difference. You’re involved in the game, you’re involved in the playcalling, and really and truly, it’s about finding an edge as a team. And if this can provide a spark and provide an edge for this team, I think it can be a great weapon, because whether you use the Wildcat or not, a team has to prepare for it week in and week out.
And it’s something that you can do so many things with other than your typical Wildcat formation. There’s all kinds of things you can do, personnel groups and plays, so it can become an X-factor. I think the key to the whole system is that the players make it their own. That’s what it’s about. Coaches coach, players play. The game is still about the players in between the white lines. As long as they take ownership in the system and handle it right in the locker room, it can be a neat story and a good, solid, successful story for them going into the season.
On Tim Tebow running the Wildcat compared to Ronnie Brown in Miami…
Pennington: Obviously, Tim adds another threat with the ability to do the zone-read concepts as well as being able to throw the football, and that totally changes a defense’s perspective. Now they always have to have a free safety in the middle of the field because of the threat of the pass. The Wildcat for us in Miami was a great short-yardage package, a great red-zone package. And points are a premium in this league. Games are won and lost by minimal amounts. And so anytime you can find an advantage somewhere, you want to exercise that and use that.
On adjustments a QB has to make in running it…
Pennington: If you are totally focused on winning, there’s no adjusting because you’re going to do what it takes to win. And the beauty about this league is there is no BCS ranking, there’s no computer guru, it’s either a W or it’s an L. And if the package allows you to win and be more successful at winning, you’re going to be all for it as a player. That’s the key, because I can promise you after a win, whether it’s 7-6 or 37-36, it’s much better than a loss on Monday mornings.
On quarterbacks who say the Wildcat inhibits their rhythm during a game…
Pennington: Well, I think that’s selfish. I think if you think as a quarterback that this game is solely about you, you’re sadly mistaken. This is the greatest team game ever invented, and this is not an individual game, and so for a quarterback to grip about whether he’s getting in rhythm or not — grab the football, make a play. That’s what it’s about, that’s what your teammates are asked to do. There are some guys that only get 10 snaps, and their performance and whether or not they have a job on a team is based on those 10 snaps. You think they’re worried about getting into a rhythm? They only have 10 opportunities. So I think that’s something that as a quarterback, I understand that, but at the same time, if you’re truly focused on winning, you’re going to do what it takes to win.
On how Sanchez has handled the situation since the trade for Tebow…
Pennington: I think he’s done a great job and I think the key is their room, how they handle it as a room. It’s not just about the starter, it’s about the quarterback room and having the right relationship with each other as well as with your coaches and your playcaller. You have to be an extension of your coach out there because they can’t walk out there on the field with you. And the most important thing is communication, talking things out, understanding you’re in here for one reason and that’s to win and you’ve got to talk things out. And as long you keep open the lines of communication and you’re up front, I don’t think it’s a problem
On Sparano’s presence in implementing the Wildcat…
Pennington: Well, winning keeps everybody happy, number one, but I think Tony Sparano is a perfect hire for this team. I think he brings an edge to the offense. You can see him. He’s fiery, he’s a go-getter, he’s a grinder. And I think they’re going to like what Tony brings to the table. Tony understands the game is not played on the chalkboard, it’s played out in between the white lines, and it’s a game that has a human element to it. We try to make it Madden/PlayStation all the time and it’s not. They’re not robots out there. There’s a human element to this game. That’s why we love this game, because of all the different stories and intriguing things that come from the game.
On why Sparano’s so good at coaching the ‘Cat…
Pennington: I think what Tony brings to the table is he’s not worried about the next job or he’s not worried about the next promotion. He’s been at every level, be it head coach, coordinator, college, pro, high school. He’s here to win, and whatever it takes to win, he’s not going to allow his own personal interests or anybody else’s personal interests get in the way of the team winning. And that’s what it’s about.
Tags: Bart Scott, Chad Pennington, Mark Sanchez, Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan, Ronnie Brown, SUNY Cortland, Tim Tebow, Tony Sparano, training camp
Posted in Randy Lange | 52 Comments »