The Difference Maker
By Kevin Newell
Jets Head Writer
December 9th, 2004
The return of #10 is just the spark Jets need to make their post -season run. (Jets Photo)
The return of #10 is just the spark Jets need to make their post -season run. (Jets Photo)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The buzz was everywhere. The aura was in the air. The difference was obvious.

Last Sunday’s game vs. the Houston Texans had a playoff atmosphere. But being this was the first week of December and not the middle of January, that couldn’t have been the case. There could be only one reason: the return of Chad Pennington.

Chad was in the house!

From the moment he popped out of the players tunnel, Pennington made everything all better. The devastating loss to Baltimore and the pitiful offensive output against Cleveland and Arizona were history. His injured rotator cuff was yesterday’s news.

Something was missing the three previous weeks. Not only on the field, but in the stands as well. That something was Pennington. All the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets chants Fireman Ed can muster can’t replace one fist pump by Pennington.

His energy is electrifying. His enthusiasm is exhilarating. His spirit is intoxicating.

We missed him. So, too, did his teammates.

“Sure, if you ever see him out there head-butting guys and getting in our faces a little bit. But that is the kind of player he is,” said wide receiver Wayne Chrebet in response to what Pennington’s presence would mean entering the Texans game. “That is what he brings to the table- a lot of emotion and a lot of command in the huddle.”

Not since the days of Mark Gastineau and his sack dance has a Jets player broken the barrier between the field and the fan. And not since the days of Joe Namath has a player in the green and white been more the face of the organization.

Curtis Martin is a certified Hall of Fame back. Donnie Henderson’s defense is par excellence. Herman Edwards is a master motivator. Jets fans are the best. But without Pennington, the green machine is missing its linchpin, its leader. And dare we say, it’s savior.

That was obvious when Pennington stepped onto the field and completed his first pass, then his next, and the next, and the next, and the… It was obvious when he scrambled for that key first down and punctuated his achievement with that goofy ancient Egyptian-like pose. It was obvious when he guided the team to 22 unanswered points in the second half. And it was obvious to all of us who witnessed number 10’s much-anticipated return.

Tom Brady has is two Super Bowl rings. Peyton Manning has his guaranteed NFL-season touchdown record. Michael Vick has his legs. Donovan McNabb has his God given abilities.

Pennington hasn’t won the Lombardi Trophy, probably won’t set any TD pass records, he’ll never leave defenders grasping for air, and he’s not Superman. What he has are intangibles. They extend beyond his sleight of hand play action passes, what he can do in the Red Zone, or his towel waving on the sidelines.

His absence in Jets Nation has similar ramifications to that of the sun leaving the solar system.

Without either darkness prevails.