Thursday, April 7, 2011
Film reminds us what Pennington could do
By Tim Graham
ESPN's upcoming hour-long documentary, "The Brady 6," looks back on the New England Patriots' fortune of drafting Tom Brady 199th overall in 2000.
Much of the analysis focuses on the successes and failures of the six quarterbacks taken ahead of Brady.
Chad Pennington was one of the better choices. He was the first quarterback off the board, going to the New York Jets with the 18th pick.
Pennington's abilities were mitigated by injuries. In fact, he's scheduled to undergo knee surgery Thursday after getting hurt last week in a pickup basketball game.
ESPNNewYork.com reporter Rich Cimini provided a medical review and wondered what might have been had Pennington stayed healthy.
Even so, Pennington accomplished some special things. A preview clip of "The Brady 6" reminds us of Pennington's skills, taking a look back at his special 2008 campaign with the Miami Dolphins.
Pennington fell into the Dolphins' lap in training camp. The Jets cut him to make room for Brett Favre, and all Pennington did was guide a 1-15 team to the AFC East title, an unheard of turnaround. The Dolphins tied the record for fewest turnovers in a season in large part because of Pennington's proficiency.
He was MVP runner-up to Peyton Manning and won an unprecedented second NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Pennington's games against the Jets were bookends to the 2008 season. They met in the season opener in Miami and again in the finale at the Meadowlands with the division on the line.
"The first game, I didn't want to play the game of football," Pennington said in the film. "I wanted to get out there on the 50, put on the gloves and let's go at it. ... I wanted that too much.
"Sixteen weeks after, all that was gone. There was such a peace about it, and it wasn't even like I was playing the Jets. It was, 'We're playing for the AFC East crown. We're playing to make NFL history here.'"
Cameras capture the jubilant postgame scene in the visitors' locker room. First-year Dolphins coach Tony Sparano calls out for "Sunshine" to get some extra praise and then gives him the game ball.
The Dolphins have struggled without Pennington on the field. He has suffered shoulder injuries each of the past two seasons. They've had back-to-back 7-9 seasons with Chad Henne as quarterback, even though they added receiver Brandon Marshall last year.
Did he work out as the 18th pick of the 2000 draft? Not compared to Brady, certainly.
But Pennington was worth it and deserved better luck.