Deep Thoughts
By Kevin Newell
Jets Head Writer
May 16th, 2003
Jets QB Chad Pennington is hoping for a lot of smiles in 2003
Jets QB Chad Pennington is hoping for a lot of smiles in 2003
Chad Pennington is determined to throw the ball downfield

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - Chad Pennington doesn't have the arm strength of a John Elway or Michael Vick. That is obvious. The Jets quarterback will be the first to admit as much.

To some so-called experts, including NFL general managers and head coaches, having anything less than a cannon for an appendage is a crime. But not possessing a howitzer didn't hurt Joe Montana. It hasn't affected Tom Brady. Between them they've won five Super Bowls.

Since when did being able to throw a football 70 yards on a rope become a prerequisite for being a successful NFL signal caller? It's what you do between the end zones and scoring when you're in the red zone that counts.

Sure, nothing softens up a defense like being able to hit a receiver in stride down the sidelines or on a post pattern between the safeties. Pennington, whose smarts, savvy, and accuracy more than compensate for his average arm strength, was short on several long-ball opportunities last season. No one was more disappointed than he.

If there's one thing we've learned about Pennington, it's that he constantly wants to get better, to become a complete quarterback. Jets had the unique opportunity to sit down with No. 10 at the close of the Jets minicamp to get the inside dope from the man himself on what he's doing to improve his deep ball.

According to Pennington, it's not so much worrying about the muscle in his right shoulder as it is convincing the one in his head.

"It's not a physical thing. It's a mental thing," he said. "I think your arm strength is a God-given talent and what you try to do is, you try to enhance the muscles around your arm, such as your hip muscles, your abdomen, and the smaller muscles in your shoulder to enhance velocity."

"As far as pure arm strength, I think that's a talent," Pennington explained. "What I'm trying to do is work on the mentality of what it takes to throw a good, deep ball, and be accurate with it."

Unless there's a surgery out there where by Pennington can become the next Steve Austin, a.k.a., The Six Million Dollar Man, he'll just have to get by with what God gave him. And that's not half bad.

Entering his second season as a starter, Pennington is learning day by day. Week by week. Month by month. It will only be a matter of time before he masters the ability to throw deep, although it might not be our definition of deep.

Once he does, don't expect him to change his routine and fire fastball after fastball. He'll pretty much be the same quarterback he is today, just with another weapon in his ever-growing arsenal. But just when the defense isn't looking, he'll throw them a curve.

"For me personally, throwing a football for intermediate routes and short routes is totally different than throwing long routes," said Pennington. "When I'm trying to throw intermediate and short routes, I use touch and accuracy. When you throw the football down the field you have to trust the receiver more. You can't not trust him. You have to put it out and let him go get it. That's a mental block that I'm trying to get over."