Chad Pennington wishes he had been more patient with Jets

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Former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington connects with Post columnist Steve Serby to talk Jets, young quarterbacks and all things NFL in a Q&A chat.

Q: Were you surprised that Sam Darnold started from Day 1?
A: If it were me, I would not have started him, but that’s just my opinion. I think we are all excited, both organization and fan base alike, about the potential that we see in Sam. And what we have to remind ourselves is that the potential has not become reality yet, and it will not become reality for another 3-5 years. That’s what I think the true developmental process is for a professional quarterback. And so as long as we give him the resources and that we’re patient with him, he’s having to make his mistakes in front of everybody. I made my mistakes behind closed doors. That’s a huge difference.

Q: You sat for over two years behind Vinny Testaverde.
A: Correct. And so we’ve gotta be patient with his development. But if we are, I think we will see that he will become the next franchise quarterback for the Jets.

Q: Why?
A: I like his poise. I like his demeanor. I think he develops a connection with his teammates. And then when you look at him physically, he can make the throws, he can move around, extend plays. Doesn’t have the strongest arm in the world, but he can make all the throws and that’s what you need. And he’s able to make those passes, which are different than throws. Passes are in the pockets, in the buckets, over one defender, in front of another. Those are things he can do.

Q: What are your thought on the Brown No. 1-overall pick Baker Mayfield?
A: I felt like people weren’t giving him enough credit as a passer. His leadership style and his passion for the game and how he plays, it’s infectious. And you can see that with his team, and they are a different team with him out there. You can see that he has the ability to lead an organization, and he has passing talent, he can make NFL throws, and he’s very accurate.

Q: He’s barely over 6-foot tall.
A: I don’t worry about that. I look at Russell Wilson, I look at Drew Brees, I look at all these guys that don’t fit the prototypical cookie-cutter mold of an NFL quarterback. And the great thing about a quarterback is that it is about how you lead men, and we come in all shapes and sizes.

Q: Cardinals 10th-overall pick Josh Rosen?
A: What he had to his advantage was a pro-style offense, his footwork was very polished coming out of college [UCLA]. One of my best friends, Byron Leftwich, is his quarterback coach, so I know he’s in good hands there.

Josh AllenAP

Q: Bills seventh-overall pick Josh Allen?
A: Wow, I wish I had his talent physically. For him, it’s gonna be learning how to turn that great, strong arm talent into a passer, knowing that every pass does not have to be a 100 mile an hour fastball. There has to be times where you take a little bit off, you show zip, you show accuracy, you show touch. Once he starts to incorporate that into his game, I think you’ll see more success.

Q: Chiefs second-year phenom Patrick Mahomes?
A: Everyone raved about his arm talent at the Combine two years ago, and now I see why. I think what he’s not getting enough credit for is how he’s been able to take Andy Reid’s offense and do well with it. And kudos to Andy Reid for being able to build a system around Patrick right now as a young quarterback where he can be successful and take advantage of all of his weapons. And it’s a system that spreads the ball around, it’s not built around one player, and that’s that West Coast system that I grew up in, too, so I can see how he can be successful in that.

Q: Does he remind you of Brett Favre at all?
A: He reminds me of Favre and a little bit of Aaron Rodgers as a young player, too, just being able to make throws that quite frankly most people on the planet cannot make (chuckle).

Q: What do think of rams coach Sean McVay?
A: I think what Coach McVay has shown is how important it is to have a great relationship with your quarterback, and how important that is to the success of your team. And he’s very innovative, he’s on the cutting edge, always creating great concepts, great game plans, but that relationship with Jared Goff has been the key to their success.

Q: If Tom Brady is still playing at 41, how come you couldn’t?
A: (Laugh) Tom Brady didn’t have four shoulder surgeries.

Q: How did you deal with the specter of being the next Joe Namath?
A: I didn’t feel that pressure. It was an honor to be able to play on the same team and to meet him and talk to him. He changed my autograph, by the way. He said it was too sloppy, so I changed it, made it more legible (laugh). We did a signing together as a rookie and he looked at me and said, “Hey rook, if you’re gonna sign it, they need to be able to read it.” And I said, “Yes sir,” and I changed it. I tried to embrace it and enjoy it and tried to bring another one.

Q: Is it hard to believe it’s been 50 years since the Jets won a Super Bowl?
A: Yes. That seems unrealistic. … I hear that long-suffering Jet fan comment all the time (laugh).

Q: What is your best single Jets memory?
A: 2002, the week leading into the [playoff-clinching season finale against the] Green Bay Packers, beating the Green Bay Packers [42-17], and then moving into the first round of the playoffs and beating the Colts, 41-0. Those two weeks, with the energy and the electricity that was here in the city around Jets football is unmatched in my career. It was a great time to be a Jet player, great time to be a Jet fan. It was a fun time.

Q: Does any part of you feel unfulfilled that you could not deliver a Super Bowl championship to New York?
A: I don’t feel unfulfilled. I wish that I could have. I think that when I look back on my career, if I could have taken my first shoulder surgery, and been more patient with my own rehab, and not come back so quickly, I think it may have been a different story. But that’s the insecurity part that you deal with as a professional athlete, thinking somebody’s gonna take your job. And you’ve gotta get to a point where you’re OK if it does happen because you believe in your skill set so much that you can go do it somewhere else. And I wish I would have been more patient, because I think that would have provided more longevity and probably kept me away from a second and third injury.

Q: What was your worst Jets moment?
A: The last week [as a starter in Week 15 of 2007] before Coach [Eric] Mangini made Kellen Clemens the starter, that was tough. I had a high sprained ankle, I’m playing with a lot of medication in my system, trying to be there for my teammates, and to be booed and go through that situation was definitely difficult.

Q: I thought you would say when GM Mike Tannenbaum traded for Brett Favre in 2008.
A: No, that day, I felt like the whole weight of the world was taken off my shoulders (chuckle). It was very freeing and liberating, to say, OK, it is what it is, I understand, I’ve gotta go do something else. I needed a change of scenery, and it kind of gave me a renewed sense of energy and a renewed purpose. And I also was having a great preseason, I felt as healthy as I’d ever been, and so I knew wherever I would land I could play well. Even if I stayed with the Jets I felt we were gonna be a playoff team, no doubt about it, we were clicking on all cylinders in training camp.

Q: How did you learn that Favre would be taking your job?
A: Luckily for me, I think because I had a good relationship with Mike Tannenbaum and the organization, they decided not to trade me but to release me so I could make my own decision on where I wanted to go play. So that knock on the [Cleveland hotel room] door from Steve Yarnell [VP of security] came at 11:30 at night, the night before our first preseason game in 2008 against the Browns. I didn’t answer it because they had already checked for curfew (chuckle). So the second knock came, and Steve walked in ’cause they had the master key. Said, “Coach Mangini wants to see you.” And I said, “Well Steve, I promise you he’s not wanting to talk about game plan right now (laugh).” The one thing I remember about the next hour is that Eric and I probably talked about my situation for about 10 minutes. The other 50 minutes of the hour was taking about life, talking about football, talking about team and my perspective on all that.

Chad Pennington, after beating the Jets in 2008AP

Q: What was it like beating the Jets, 24-17, to win the division with the Dolphins in the 20008 regular-season finale at Giants Stadium?
A: The last week, because we had a full season to work through the emotion of it, I was part of something pretty special where we had a team that was 1-15 the year before, and now we’ve gotta go back to New York to your old team and win the division and be 11-5. It was really all about that.

Q: What do you think enabled you to come back from everything you had to come back from as Jets quarterback?
A: I think the first piece of my inspiration came from wanting to be back in the huddle. That feeling of being in the huddle, leading men to a common purpose and common goal, that was my first drive.

Q: What is so special about being in the huddle?
A: The huddle is a place where you step in, and regardless of race, religion, belief systems, you’re all in it for one common purpose and one common goal. And then they’re looking at you as the quarterback to lead them. So when you see that confidence that they have in you and you have in them, you put everything else aside, it’s almost a utopian type of feeling that you just can’t get anywhere else.

Q: Describe the very first time you met Bill Parcells.
A: (Laugh) The very first time you’re nervous, you don’t want to say too much. You just want to listen and give him eye contact. And the unique thing about that is that when I went to Miami nine years later, the relationship had completely changed, and it was like two friends now getting back together and trying to create something special. That was a sweet time.

Q: What advice did he have for you as Jets GM when you were a rookie?
A: The first thing was, “Hey, watch 16 [Testaverde], because your legs are too skinny and you need to get into the weight room (laugh).” Bill understood the work ethic and the regimen that you needed to put yourself through as a quarterback to make it.

Q: What was it like playing against Bill Belichick?
A: Two things: No. 1, you better be on your A-game mentally. And No. 2, you better expect something that you didn’t prepare for. So it wasn’t only a chess game in your preparation before the game, it was a chess game throughout the game. It could have been, and sometimes was, mentally exhausting to play him, because ***** every down **** had its own meaning. You could not let one down slide.

Q: Could he have done with the Jets what he’s done with the Patriots?
A: I think so. With how he does business and how he does things, yeah he can be successful anywhere.

Q: And in New York?
A: I look at the Boston market, and it’s kind of a mini-New York, and I think he would handle things very similarly.

Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells, in 2003AP

Q: Describe Herm Edwards.
A: Herm understood the perspective of a player, and he also understood the importance of having relationships with your players. I really enjoyed playing for him because we really focused on presenting the same messages to our team, to the media, we wanted always to provide a united front.

Q: Mangini.
A: Eric I learned a lot of football from. He was one of the smartest coaches I’ve ever been around. He made me a smarter football player. Was able to create a better understanding of not only offensive football but really defensive football and how defenses were trying to attack.

Q: Who is one cornerback in NFL history you would have liked to test your skills against?
A: I would have liked to experience what it would be like to play against Deion Sanders. I’ve always said that it’s not the corners who are big and physical or who are fast and little, it’s the guys who have great ball skills that scare you as a quarterback, because one mistake doesn’t mean a pass breakup, an incompletion. With a corner who has great ball skills, it means an interception, and that’s a completely different mindset, you’ve gotta be very aware.

Q: Who is one quarterback whose brain you would have liked to pick?
A: My heroes in the pro game were Joe Montana and Troy Aikman. But I would have loved to have sat down with Johnny Unitas.

Q: What would you have asked him?
A: I would love to get his take on quarterback play, on footwork, on how he thinks the game has changed from when he played ’til now, and what are some of the things that will always remain the same regardless of what era?

Q: What do you think of the new roughing-the-passer rules?
A: I think we have to understand why these rules are implemented, and once we understand why and know that it is about player health and safety, which we’re all passionate about, I think we can understand why they’re being implemented. Now I do think that there’s still a trial-and-error process with these new rules and we’re trying to make them right, we’ll make our tweaks, we’ll make our adjustments. But as players, we’re pretty resilient in adapting to changes in the game and how it’s evolving. If you remember the DB 5-yard rule back in the day was a big discussion. So I think we’ll get used to them. As long as we keep the why at the foremost of our conversation, then we can work with that.

Sam Adams sacks Chad Pennington during a 2003 game.Getty Images

Q: What was the one hit you endured that would have been flagged today?
A: I remember playing in Buffalo, and making a pass to Curtis Conway on the left-hand side, and Sam Adams landing (chuckle) right on top of me, he hit me right in the sternum. So it wasn’t the hit, it was the 380 pounds that landed on top of me (laugh). I lost my breath, and I thought my life had ended right there. I think it’s very difficult right now for a defender to try to lay off a quarterback, so I certainly understand what they’re talking about. So we’ll have to tweak some of those things with the rules and see what the intent is, but I remember those hits, and they hurt (laugh).

Q: What are your thoughts on CTE?
A: I think that our game is safer than it’s ever been. I think our game in the NFL is leading the cause for all contact sports when it comes to head injuries and player health and safety, and I think we’re in a great spot to really do some great work in that area. I also think that, if we’re smart enough to discover CTE, we’re also smart enough to create therapies to combat it. And so with our rule changes, with our equipment being better, also with our practice schedules, organizing practice better, so important to the health and safety of our players. When you look at the NFL last year, and you see that concussions were up 16 percent, but 73 percent of that increase came in the first two weeks of preseason practice with 11-on-11 drills. … We gotta change how we practice. We don’t do things like we used to, it’s not good, and so we’ve gotta make that change in the grassroots level first.

Q: Your oldest son Cole is a high school freshman.
A: I’ve started a high school football program from scratch in Lexington, Ky., first time since 1976, he’s involved in the [Sayre School] program.

Q: Would you let your sons play football?
A: They all play.

Q: What are their ages?
A: Cole’s 14, Luke is 12, and Gage is 9. Cole and Luke are playing tackle. I do believe that as our game evolves, we’ll start to become more and more comfortable with starting our kids later in tackle. That’s where I think flag football is really important. I think this new idea of flex football, which is kind of a padded flag, is something we need to take a look at. Because these are great games that actually develop the player more with ball skills and spatial awareness. The more entry points we can provide our youngsters to keep them involved in the game longer I think it’ll promote the health and success of our game.

Q: What positions do your boys play?
A: I never start ’em out at quarterback, but if they gravitate toward that, that’s fine. But I start ’em out at tight end and defensive back, ’cause I want ’em to be able to learn how to block and tackle, that’s the name of the game (laugh). And then if they want to move in to playing quarterback, then they move in to playing quarterback. Cole plays quarterback as a freshman. Luke is starting to play quarterback as a middle-schooler. I don’t want them to feel the pressure, I want them to play the game because I know what the game did for me from a relationship side, also from a developmental side. I want them to be able to experience those life lessons that I experienced as a football player.

Q: Why aren’t you an NFL GM?
A: (Laugh) First of all, I made the choice to be at home, be around my three boys. My dad said the greatest thing I could ever give my kids was myself. So I’m trying to do that, ’cause I understand the grind that these men, both in administration and in coaching, go through — staying away from their families to try to create a winning product — and I just wasn’t interested in that right now.

Chad PenningtonTamara Beckwith

Q: Describe the 2018 Mayo Clinic College Football Comeback Player of the Year award.
A: Mayo Clinic partnered with CoSIDA, College Sports Information Directors of America, to create this award to honor comeback stories on the football and celebrate student-athletes who’ve made major comebacks back to the gridiron due to injury, illness whatever it may be on and off the field.

Q: You’re the perfect choice for this.
A: So they asked me to do it since I was able to win AP NFL Comeback of the Player Year twice. So it’s neat to work with them knowing that first of all, Mayo Clinic’s in the business of creating comebacks for people and assisting people in their comebacks, as well as their research is amazing in what they do, and their integrated, holistic approach, so it’s gonna be fun to honor these student athletes and share these stories. Because I even remember in my own comeback, needing a couple of pick-me-ups every once in a while to get you over those dog days, those humps in your rehab, so I think it’s gonna be great.

Q: Describe Jets fans.
A: Jet fans are great. The great thing about playing in New York is that you’re always better after you’re done playing than when you were playing (laugh). It’s tough going through it when you’re playing, but when you’re winning, there’s no better place to be than in New York. It’s unmatched anywhere else.

Q: What do you hope your Jets legacy is?
A: He had an amazing work ethic, and that he treated people right — on the field, off the field, within the organization, outside the organization. If Jet fans can say those two things about me, then my career here in New York was a success.

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