By Bob Bonett
Jets Staff Writer
December 20th, 2007
Jets QB Chad Pennington is excited to be back in the saddle where he feels he belongs. (Jets Photo)
Jets QB Chad Pennington is excited to be back in the saddle where he feels he belongs. (Jets Photo)
Rarely does a 3-11 team engage in a quarterback controversy that has hit such a boil as the one New York is encountering this year. However, with the future of the franchise on the line, trade talks on the front burner and a pair of quarterbacks that would like to be starting somewhere—even if it is not New York—next year, it is not a surprise that there is so much anticipation surrounding who will be behind center this weekend.

The veteran of the duo, QB Chad Pennington, spoke with the media today regarding the opportunity he had to play against New England last week, and his desire to once again start on an NFL franchise. And, once again, Pennington reiterated the fact that he feels he is a No. 1 QB in the NFL, and should he should not be a backup for a professional football organization.

“I certainly feel that I’m a starter, absolutely, no question in my mind,” Pennington said.

Instead of taking the role of a cock-eyed optimist, though, Pennington opted to take the form of a realist, something that coach Eric Mangini has opted not to do this season. Pennington admitted that leaving New York is a possibility, even hinting that leaving town may be the best decision for the lifelong Jet.

“That’s something I’d have to sit down and think about in the off-season,” Pennington said referring to whether or not he would want to return to the Jets next year. “I don’t have control over that, though. I can sit here and give a ‘rah rah’ speech on why I want to be a Jet, but I don’t control that.

“I understand the business of this game, and the most important thing is what happens between the white lines and what is best for this team,” he continued. “I’ll say this; I’ve really enjoyed my time here in New York.”

Following the press conference, reporters swarmed WR Laveranues Coles, one of Pennington’s biggest friends and fans. Coles complemented Pennington for his handling of the situation, and continued to heed his allegiance to the veteran.

“It can’t get no higher,” Coles said regarding his admiration for Pennington, “because there aren’t many people that can do what Chad does. There aren’t many people that can calm me down when I’m riled up, and he’s one of them.

“Just his presence—even when he walks into the room you know he’s there, some people just have the vibe,” he continued. “It’s great, I’m just glad, him actually getting a chance to get out there and do whatever this past game because I know it was tough on him standing on the sideline and not being able to compete.”

One of the biggest stories in the Pennington saga is the fact that the Marshall product has trade value as a veteran quarterback for an NFL organization in need of a signal-caller. Trade rumors have popped up everywhere, some even suggesting Pennington and Coles would leave New York together. And from the way Coles spoke about his desire to play with Pennington, it would not be surprising to see the two unite down the road if Pennington were to leave town.

“No, no,” he said when asked if he thought about this being the last time he and Pennington would play together again, “I won’t look at it like that, that’s for sure.

“We made it a point the last time I left here to play together again, and I’m back,” he added with a smile.

Mangini, meanwhile, remained completely mum on the situation during his press conference, reiterating the same remarks he has made all week regarding Pennington and Kellen Clemens, saying that Clemens will be reevaluated, as well as the situation, over and over again prior to game time.

Whatever happens in the off-season is anybody’s guess; however, it is a true, eerie possibility that if Pennington starts Sunday and Coles is able to play, it could be the last time No. 10 and No. 87 hook up in green and white.

Insider Tidbits

Pennington defensive on play-calling

Noticeably absent from the Jets’ offensive scheme against New England last weekend was the presence of any sort of attempt to throw the ball downfield. Even on the final drive of the game, with under 1:00 left and New York down two possessions, out routes and short crossing patterns still highlighted the team’s game plan. Pennington defended offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s play calling with a serious look on his face.

“The coverage dictated that a lot,” Pennington said, also referencing the weather and game plan. “If it’s not there, No. 10’s not throwing it downfield, because that’s bad football. You can’t just chuck it down the field, and hope on a wing and a prayer that it’s going to happen.

“Believe me, we’ve had this discussion 1,000 times. I look forward to throwing the ball down the field. I don’t enjoy checking down,” he added, “but if that’s what I have to do to keep a drive going and keep the chains moving, that’s what I have to do.”

Mangini reacts to Mawae

Yesterday, former Jet and current Titans offensive lineman Kevin Mawae hinted that he was run out of town by Mangini due to his outspoken nature and willingness to voice what is on his mind. Today, Mangini responded to the veteran’s remarks.

“All the decisions that we make are made for the same reasons; the best interest of the club,” Mangini said. “I knew Kevin from when I was hear the first time, respect him as a player and a person, and I’m happy he’s very happy with his situation.

Tennessee signed Mawae on March 14th of last year, nine days after New York cut the veteran.

Baker’s getting better

One of the lone bright spots on New York’s offense this year has been the emergence of TE Chris Baker in the receiving game, specifically of late. The sixth year pro out of Michigan State achieved career highs in receptions and receiving yards in a season last week against the Patriots, upping his totals to 37 catches totaling 369 yards.

Specifically of late, Baker has shown that he could turn into a weapon in the receiving game with 11 catches for 112 yards in the last two weeks combined. Mangini said that he has been pleased with the progression of Baker.

“Chris has done a really good job this year. He’s always been very good as an in-line blocker and an on-the-line tight end, whether it’s the running game or the passing game in terms of blocking,” Mangini said. “He’s got very good hands. I’ve liked his progress, and I think he’ll continue to make progress based on the way he works not just during the season, but also the off-season.”

Last year against Tennessee, Baker had four receptions for 34 yards, including a touchdown.

Parcells reportedly Miami-bound for four years

It appears as though the reports that began to surface yesterday are true, as it looks to be all but a done deal that Bill Parcells is headed south to join the Miami Dolphins’ organization. The deal is reportedly four years in length, and will make Parcells the Phins’ executive vice president of football operations.

Mangini has had a close relationship with Parcells over the years, coming from his coaching tree. He said that whenever a friend becomes an opponent, though, relationships inevitably change.

“How I feel about Bill isn’t going to change,” Mangini said. “He’s been very helpful, he’s been a good resource for us, he’s been a very good asset. If he’s going to another team, that may change to some degree, but we’ll keep in contact.”

The Dolphins are the fifth NFL organization Parcells has been a part of, joining the New York Giants, New England Patriots, Jets and Dallas Cowboys.

Clemens limited in practice

For the second consecutive day, Clemens looked severely limited in practice, participating in very few repetitions during the media session while favoring the left side of his body greatly. While receiving passes with third-string QB Marques Tuiasosopo from Pennington, Clemens looked to grimace in pain numerous times.

Mangini conceded that it is a very good possibility that the decision on who starts at quarterback against the Titans will be game-time.

Injury Report (as of Wednesday)

New York Jets

Limited Participation in Practice

TE Chris Baker (back), QB Kellen Clemens (rib), WR Laveranues Coles (ankle), TE/LS James Dearth (foot), Justin McCareins (thigh), OL Brandon Moore (neck), DL Dewayne Robertson (knee)

Full Participation in Practice

WR Jerricho Cotchery (finger), WR Brad Smith (back)

Tennessee Titans

Did Not Participate in Practice

LB Keith Bullock (knee), LB Gilbert Gardner (calf), DL Albert Haynesworth (hamstring), C Kevin Mawae (calf), OL Benji Olsen (thigh), LB David Thornton (knee), RB LenDale White (knee)

Limited Participation in Practice

S Vincent Fuller (shoulder)

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