Saturday, December 27, 2008

Death By Pennington

When he was first drafted by the Jets in 2000, Chad Pennington was praised by none other than Randy Moss, who said that Chad, with whom he played at Marshall, was the best quarterback he had ever seen. Up until that point, that appraisal had included Brad Johnson and Randall Cunningham. Since then, it's hardly possible that Moss would put Pennington up against Tom Brady, but not even Randy Moss could possibly have predicted Chad's success in Miami. Perhaps Chad could have, just as Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano perhaps did. Even then, I didn't.

(Image from Fox. Remember when it wasn't imbued with stupid, ridiculous irony?)

This week was spent in and around New York Jets football with recriminations about Brett Favre's work in a Jets uniform. The tone of discussion has either identified Favre as a snake oil salesman coming to town with a miracle aid for an incurable malady or as a mismatched, delusional idealist whose glory heretofore could not prepare him for the fatal trap, like the one Che Guevara found in Bolivia. Either way, the movie originally written for an old man's last great ride has turned out to be about about an underachieving nice guy who rises to the occasion with his old team's nemesis and wins the whole thing. One presumes that the "whole thing" in this case is the AFC East, but then it's been a strange year, so who can really say where the story will all end up?

Well, I can. I believe it's called Death by Pennington. It's a helpless home team that runs the ball through the middle and throws dinky passes into dead ends when playing a defense that is designed to handle just such an approach. This week, in the spirit of wondering what went wrong in advance, many writers who were originally ebullient about Favre's arrival in New York have lately been pointing out disappointed Favre probably is by his experiment, and some even wonder if he'll return to Green Bay, as if nothing had ever happened. Enter the Prodigal Son.

Let me not point fingers or dissemble. Instead, I would like to track my own reactions to the dawning of Brett Favre in the Tri-State area. Written here are the basic human desires for doubt and faith, to believe and to be transcended.

I first conjured the idea of Favre playing for the Jets on March 18 of this year when I discussed a #18 in our past, Sanjay Beach, an absolutely unknown person in NFL history except that he was Brett Favre's first completed pass recipient. (The first person to whom Brett Favre actually threw a pass was himself. No joke.) Here I spoke as a fan of a team that might have drafted Brett Favre back in 1991 but did not. I wasn't drafted out of college by anyone in 1991 either.

"Would that Brett Favre had been with us, too."

I suppose. But I was just imagining something altogether immaterial. It was just another side in a game of What if... I've been playing for nearly more than 30 years. Even Brett himself has suggested that had he been drafted by the Jets in 1991, the harsh mistress of New York might have killed a country boy from deep below the Mason-Dixon.

Exhibit two: On July 11, while examining the life and work of a seemingly imponderable number of Rob Carpenters in and around the Jets and the NFL in general, I explained to myself my own confusion with the following:

"I'm sorry. I realize this is confusing, but work with me here. (Silence) Actually, I guess maybe I'm having ridiculous fantasies about Brett Favre being snapped up by the Jets."

"Oh. I see. Well, that is ridiculous."

"I know, I's what happens when you have a quarterback problem."

Ah, but was there a quarterback problem? Was there really the risk of Laos and Thailand and Australia falling to Communism if Vietnam did? Sometimes it seemed so, yes. But as for Brett Favre, I took to the words of advice from Angel Navedo, the metaphorical George Ball in this argument. Just before preseason, I did feel Favre's value was overstated. Exhibit three - as late as August 6, I said:

"Though I am neither a fan of Mangini nor of the cynical leadership of Woody Johnson, I still prefer the sentiments of Angel Navedo, my personal favorite in the world of Jets (blogs). He has helped me to believe in my own my gut feeling from the beginning that, for better or for worse, we don't need Brett Favre. Damned be my own science fiction and pipe dreams to the contrary.

"Pennington at QB. Clemens at QB. Ainge somewhere in the hazy background. Time to move into our modern era. God help us. J-E-T-S."

Two days later, Brett Favre was a Jet. And like the trained fan, I already wondered about some catch in the deal. We all secretly wondered. Favre himself questioned what have I gotten myself into? One presumes that he has the answer to that question now. But regardless, even then we wondered, was Favre going to leave the Jets as quickly as he came? On August 8, I wondered:

"Brett is here to stay. To stay. Right? Right?


And in preparation for week one, I offered a tribute to Chad Pennington's past experiences in a green uniform, a poetic ode meant to praise and not bury - although that didn't convince a Marshall fan who commented on my epic ode.

"And now we meet you on opening day;
I will root against you, though I must say
We owe you at least this grateful adieu -
We will likely fare no better than you."

But I didn't really believe it. Surely the Jets would do better than the Dolphins. That seemed certain. I did figure that the Jets would drop one game to Miami, but I didn't think they wouldn't lose a spot to the Fish in the division. And now, provided Favre's Jets can play a little bit better than Pennington's Dolphins tomorrow, the final couplet in my ode may yet turn out to be correct. Prescience is a bitch, though. Not even I, a Jets fan, could have believed it would be this ironic.

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