Pennington: A Work In Progress
By Mark Cannizzaro
JetsInsider.com Head Writer
September 20th, 2005
If you hit the lottery for $1 million, would you complain if the money was sent to you in $10 and $20 bills?
Enjoy every victory, because, even for the best teams in the NFL, there are only so many to enjoy every season.
Where we're coming from here is the over-hype and over-analysis about the lack of zip on several of Chad Pennington's throws in the Jets' win over the Dolphins Sunday.
Too quickly forgotten by too many residents of sports radio nation is the fact that, with the game truly in the balance, Pennington marched the Jets 80 yards down the field and threw the game-clinching touchdown pass. He was 7-of-7 for 74 yards along the way and his passes on that drive looked to have plenty of steam on them.
Pennington is aware that some of the passes he threw were floaters. He even joked that the 37-yarder he somehow completed to Justin McCareins was a "moon ball'' that they "caught on radar, I believe.''
He, too, was made aware of some disparaging remarks coming out of the losing Miami locker room after the Jets' win with players chirping about how Pennington "can't get the ball down the field.''
Pennington has become savvy enough, hip enough to this city to know that even a win isn't good enough for some fans.
"The day I start getting frustrated about a win, I'll retire, I'll just quit,'' Pennington said, "because then you don't truly understand what you're in this business to do, and that's to win. Stats are for Pro Bowls. Stats aren't for championships. That's what I'm concentrating on, winning a championship.''
Jets fans need to remember that, even with a tear in his rotator cuff last season Pennington still came within a Doug Brien field goal of leading the Jets to the AFC Championship game.
There are a number of factors that go into Pennington's lack of zip on the ball.
He and Edwards believe his footwork has hindered him on some passes. Pennington, who's never had a gun for an arm, is a quarterback who needs to be able to step into his throws for them to travel the way they need to en route to his receivers. He doesn't have a strong enough arm to simply flick his arm and send the ball down the field.
"On some he was under duress and couldn't step up and use his legs and throw the ball,'' Edwards said. "That had a lot to do with it, I think. A lot of it's his footwork, getting his feet up underneath him. It's something he's been working hard on doing. When he does it, he spins it real good. When he doesn't, some come out floating.
"Sometimes it's because there's somebody at the guy's legs and he can't step up, use his legs, throw the football. There's a couple he threw where there were guys in his way. They were on him. He was trying to make throws, they were on him. It's tough for any guy.
"If God didn't gift you with a real, real strong arm where you can just stand there and throw it, then you have to use your legs,'' Edwards went on. "Most quarterbacks in this league have to use their legs. There are a couple of them, probably five, that don't have to. They have very strong arms. They can stand and throw it 50 yards on one foot. But most of the guys in the league can't do that. That doesn't mean they can't play quarterback, it just means they don't have the arm to do that.''
Pennington said he's developed some bad habits with his footwork during the last four years that he's trying to get out of.
"It's just going to take some time,'' he said. "It's not going to happen overnight. Hopefully, we can still manufacture some wins while we work on it.
"With no off-season work on the footwork and the things that coach (Heimerdinger) wants me to do in this offense, it's a work in progress,'' Pennington went on. "It's just going to take a lot of time a lot of work, a lot of effort to get it done. Mentally I feel great. I looked at the game mentally and I felt like I was right on the money for every read but one. It's just a matter of putting the mental and the physical together.
"It's just making sure that when you see things mentally you're timing it up physically so you're not there too early and you're not there too late.''
Another factor to the slow-going at times is Pennington's newness to the Mike Heimerdinger offense and Heimerdinger's newness to Pennington himself.
Because Pennington missed all of the offseason workouts while Heimerdinger was installing the offense, Heimerdinger really had little idea about what he was getting physically in Pennington until training camp began.
Surely, as much as Heimerdinger wants to throw the ball down the field compared to how little Paul Hackett wanted to do it, Heimerdinger is still learning what Pennington is capable of and most comfortable doing.
"I think Mike is finding his way with every player we have on offense,'' Edwards said. "That's something you kind of lose sight of when you become a coordinator. It's one thing in the spring; you're playing in shorts, running around. You don't know a whole lot because they don't play a lot. When it really starts, you find out what they are.''
Highly-placed team insiders also acknowledge that Pennington's surgically-repaired shoulder might not be completely right until midseason.
"The guy missed all of the spring,'' Edwards said. "He had major surgery on his shoulder. He was there mentally, but he couldn't take reps. For any good football player, you need reps. I mean, it doesn't matter who you are. You need to go play and practice. He missed all that time.''
Pennington said the wobbly throws are a result of "footwork most of the time, over-striding.''
"When you over-stride you take your hips out of the throw and it becomes all arm. It's not a pretty result sometimes.''
As Edwards said after the game Sunday, though: "Pretty doesn't win.''
Pennington and the Jets are content to win as many ugly games as they have to, and, as long as the Jets keep winning, you should enjoy every one of those victories.