For the New York Jets, when it comes to quarterbacks, there is Joe Namath and then there is everyone else. Such is life when Namath is still the only quarterback to lead this team to a Super Bowl win.
The impact of Namath might never be matched, but that doesn’t take away from the career that Chad Pennington had with the New York Jets.
Taken by the Jets in the first round of the 2000 NFL Draft, Pennington spent eight of his 11 seasons in the league calling the Meadowlands his home. He led the team to three playoff appearances in his eight years when they won the AFC East. That first playoff trip came in 2002 when he led the NFL in both completion percentage and quarterback rating.
Highly accurate, Pennington didn’t have the biggest of arms. But that didn’t stop him from having a big impact on the field, leading the Jets to a 33-29 record during his time as a starter. In his eight seasons with the Jets (his first two years he played in just three games and had only 25 passes) he had 13,738 passing yards, 82 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.
Sadly, injuries derailed his time with the Jets as he played a full 16-game season just once. There was so much potential. He could have easily been the franchise’s second best quarterback after Namath had he stayed healthy.
Despite the injuries Pennington, however, was still a classic leader. He had guts on the field, hanging in the pocket and taking big hits. He also was an effective manager of the game and a winner. He was a fan favorite on and off the field.
But is he Mount Rushmore level good? That’s a different standard and level.
Already, there are three names on the Jets’ Mount Rushmore: Joe Namath, Curtis Martin and Darrelle Revis. Some tough names have been left off the list such as head coach Rex Ryan, who brought bluster and bravado back to the team and is the last head coach to lead the Jets to the playoffs. Center Nick Mangold, who has a resume that could see him in Canton someday, didn’t make Mount Rushmore. Nor did sentimental favorite Wayne Chrebet.
Fans such as Fireman Ed, Larry David and Carl didn’t make the fourth name either.
The knock on Pennington, like Chrebet are the injuries. While both are fan favorites and were productive at a high level during their time with the Jets, neither was able to stay healthy long enough to put together several solid seasons let alone the types of years that Namath, Martin and Revis put together throughout their careers.
Pennington will always be plagued by what ifs. Too many what ifs to see him on the franchise’s Mount Rushmore.