It should be no secret that the Jets’ relative success at 4-4 through the first half of the season has been directly related to the successful comeback of Chad Pennington.
As Pennington has gone, so have the Jets. When he has struggled, so have the Jets.
Thus places major emphasis on Pennington’s performance in the second half of the season, beginning with Sunday’s rematch with the Patriots in Foxboro. The Jets’ desperately need Pennington to be on his game Sunday, which means very few mistakes and letting it fly to his playmakers.
That was missing in the Jets’ last game, a disappointing loss in Cleveland, where Pennington turned the ball over, didn’t have his usual high completion percentage and was just generally off.
Eric Mangini, for one, believes Pennington is ready for a big bounce-back game.
“Chad does a really good job of processing information,’’ Mangini said. “What gives him a great chance to be successful every week is the prep that he does prior to the game. Like Peyton (Manning) and like Tom (Brady), he's able to slow down the game when he gets into it because he has seen and studied the looks and he anticipates some of the things.
“There are going to be days where you have a bad game. We saw that last week. I'm sure Tom would have liked to have had a few of those throws back (against the Colts), and I'm sure there are games where Chad would, too, and Peyton has had his games like that as well.’’
Pennington surely wants to put the Cleveland debacle behind him.
“It was definitely difficult,’’ he said. “What I tried to do was really analyze the first eight games and see where I can improve and see where I can be more consistent. It's really glaring when you look at the six games compared to the two games, which was Cleveland and Jacksonville, and look at the amount of production and the amount of efficiency and consistency in those six games compared to the two games.
“It's amazing to see the difference. It's like night and day. I think that my goal is to become more consistent and although you're going to have bad plays and bad series, I want to focus on turning those bad plays and bad series, just not letting that carry over to a bad game. I want to try to be on an even keel and keep the team in the game at all times where we have a chance to win at the end.
“Consistency is the common denominator, or lack of consistency, but they were two different games. Jacksonville was more decision-making and having three really bad decisions. Cleveland, it was just a lot of different things, whether it was not being on the same page with my receivers, but a combination of things in Cleveland and Jacksonville was just blatant, three bad decisions.
“One of the hardest things to do as a professional athlete is to be able to take a bad performance and learn from it and then erase it from your memory and move on and be able to have the confidence to play well the next time around,’’ Pennington said. “Tom (Brady) is probably the best in the business when it comes to that aspect, being able bounce back and lead his team to victory. I think the key is his ability to stay on an even keel with his emotions and not get too high or too low no matter what happens.
“I have used Tom as an example and tried to learn from that and make sure whether it is a bad play, a bad series or a bad game you learn from it but then you have to move on because if you don't the game will leave you. Your opportunities will leave you and you will be sitting there wondering what if and what might have been and that is not a good feeling to have.’’
Pennington said he’d like to spend more time with Brady.
“I haven't had a lot of chances to talk to him, especially over the last two years when I have been dealing with the injuries and rehabbing and working as hard as I can to get back, which eliminates a lot of time to have a social life,’’ he said. “We do talk sparingly and I enjoy talking to him because he understands what being a professional is all about and understands how to be a professional. He is a good person to always talk to.’’
INSIDER EXTRA POINTS
Much has been made again this week about the seemingly cool relationship between Mangini and Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick, his mentor.
However, on Friday, Mangini reminisced with a smile about some good times the two have shared.
“I've talked about how important Bill has been to me, and my feelings haven't changed,’’ Mangini said. “Julie (his wife) and I were actually talking about when we were here at the Jets last time and Bill had gotten us backstage passes for Bruce Springsteen.
“She's a huge Springsteen fan, so at one point we're walking with Bill and Springsteen comes by, and he's like, ‘Okay, Julie, don't pass out.’ Those are the types of experiences that we share together. It's those types of positive experiences that won't change. I have a lot of great memories of our friendship, and the way I feel will never change.’’
Mangini, asked about outsiders’ surprise that the Jets are 4-4, said, “As you go into a season, you look at it as its own entity, and things that happen in the past aren't necessarily going to affect the future. You control the future by the way that you work the way that you study, the way that you prepare, the way that you execute.
“Regardless of how the team is viewed or what the perception is, that's really not the significant thing. The significant thing is what you do day in and day out to become a better team.’’