Chatting up Chad
Pennington hopes to lift Jets to bigger, better thingsPosted: Monday July 21, 2003 7:16 PM
With great decision-making skills, pinpoint accuracy and a knack for leadership beyond his years, Pennington more than compensated for his mediocre arm strength and learned how to pick defenses apart underneath. But can he build on that success, or will opponents make the necessary adjustments to counter his strengths, especially now that he no longer has his favorite receiver, Laveranues Coles, to look for?
SI.com NFL writer Don Banks caught up with Pennington on Monday, as the Jets opened their 2003 training camp in Hempstead, N.Y.
SI.com: How do you react when people say the Jets are Team Decimated this season, after losing all those free agents, especially the four who signed with Washington?
CP: That's fine. I just get a quiet smile when I hear those things, because what we're going to do is concentrate on ourselves. The whole challenge in the NFL is to adapt to change, and the teams that can adapt to change and make those adjustments are successful. The teams that can't, and worry about the change itself, are not successful. It's as simple as that.
SI.com: Does part of you want to remind people that the Jets will go ahead and play out the schedule this season, rather than forfeit all 16 games ahead of time?
CP: Exactly. You want to say those things, but you're wasting your time. Because there's always going to be critics, and no matter who we brought in here to replace who we lost, there would be those critics. So that doesn't bother me.
SI.com: Did you allow yourself at least 30 seconds of unmitigated anger when you found out that your favorite receiver, Laveranues Coles, had been signed away by Washington?
CP: The feeling when Laveranues left was not one of anger. It was a sense of loss. Not just because he's a great player, but because he's also a great person and a great teammate. On one hand, I was happy for him, because he had a great opportunity and was able to capitalize on the success he had. On the other hand, I was sad for us, because our core group of players was getting stronger and better.
But at the same time, like I said, I think our core is going to be stronger this year because of that. Because we've had to adapt to those losses and move on.
SI.com: It has been pointed out that 30 percent of your 399 pass attempts (118) last season were directed at Coles. Can you realistically find and quickly develop the rapport you had with him with another receiver this season?
CP: I have a lot of confidence in all of our guys. I really do. I think our top three receivers right now, with Curtis Conway, Wayne Chrebet and Santana Moss, are all three go-to guys. And what we have to do is find the talents that they have and use those to our advantage. So we may not have one go-to guy this season like we had last year with Laveranues. We may have three this year. We'll have to see.
SI.com: The challenge for you would seem to be that you're not going to slip up on anybody. Teams will know better how to defend you. Will that mean that everybody tries to steal Oakland's blueprint for beating you and the Jets in the AFC divisional playoffs, which was to stay aggressive in coverage and disrupt your rhythm with the pass rush?
CP: I think teams may use the Oakland game to study and break us down and see what things may make it harder for us to be successful. But what it's going to require from our end is patience and trusting our offense, trusting each other and what we're built to do.
SI.com: Isn't patience one of your strong suits?
CP: I think so. I hope so. I hope my patience takes over and not my human nature to go out and try and make every play. Just go out, stay on an even keel and make sure that we're taking it one play at a time.
SI.com: You were a pretty patient young man in your first two NFL seasons, when you were waiting for your first start. Did that serve you well in this situation?
CP: Yes. I've had some unique experiences at Marshall and with the Jets where I had to be a patient person. So why change now? It has worked so far and I'm going to stay to the course.
SI.com: Players don't always care about things like this, but from the outside looking in, aren't the Jets the least highly regarded defending division champion?
CP: Oh, no doubt. That's the case.
SI.com: Then again, you guys were the only division champion who didn't win at least 10 games. Is it a case where people don't know whether to expect the team that started the season 2-5 or ended it as the team no one wanted to face?
CP: I like that, because there's still an element of surprise. I don't think people know exactly what to expect with us. They saw a glimpse of it by the end of the season, but early in the season they didn't see much. So that element of surprise is to our advantage. But we can't get caught up in that. We have to make sure we go out every game and just play Jets football. If we do that, we'll be fine.
SI.com: Do you worry that you may not match those gaudy numbers you hung up last year -- the 104.2 quarterback rating, 69 percent completion rate and the 22-6 touchdown/interception ratio -- and that it will look like you took a step back?
CP: I can just about put money on it that I won't. Those statistics don't happen a lot. But I think if you concentrate on minimizing turnovers and getting high completion percentages, things will work in your favor most of the time.
SI.com: So you could still play better football but maybe not have better statistics?
CP: Oh, absolutely. My whole thing is decision making, and sometimes decision making means throwing the ball away. So in the statistical category, you're 0-for-1, but it's the best decision you made all night. That's just the reality of it.
SI.com: How often does Oakland and the playoff loss still cross your mind?
CP: Every day. Every day. And until we get back to the second round of the playoffs and have a chance to redeem ourselves, it'll be right there in the front of my mind.