Chad Pennington, shown during his days at Marshall University, has signed with the Miami Dolphins, according to reports on the internet Friday night. photo courtesy of Marshall University.
After eight years calling signals for Miami's chief rival in the AFC East, Chad Pennington is ready to do the same thing for the Dolphins. Pennington, 32, was signed to a multi-year contract today, just two days after being released by the team that drafted him in the first round of the 2000 NFL Draft, the New York Jets. He brings with him the experience of leading a team to the playoffs three times and he is the league's all-time leader in completion percentage among quarterbacks with at least 1,500 pass attempts (65.6 percent).
"It feels good to be a Miami Dolphin," Henne said after Saturday night's preseason game between Miami and Tampa Bay. "I can't tell you how excited I am to be a part of this organization." Head Coach Tony Sparano now has four quarterbacks in the fold and he indicated that Pennington will be competing just like the other three – seventh-year veteran Josh McCown, second-year man John Beck and rookie Chad Henne. Sparano is well-versed in Pennington's history of being a smart quarterback who knows how to manage a game, and he is looking forward to seeing that up close.
"I know the guy's a pretty intelligent player, and the other thing that I think is important, obviously game management is critical," Sparano said. "But also, location, from a quarterback standpoint, is pretty important. This guy has been a 60-plus percent, 62-63-64 percent passer in the league for a long time and I think that's important as well. Complete passes, you get a chance to stay on the field."Pennington will be the second former Marshall player on the Dolphins roster, as safety Chris Crocker signed with Miami in the off-season after playing for the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons. Crocker and Pennington were teammates on Marshall 13-0 team in 1999 that was tenth in the nation in the college ranks.
Dolphins tight end Sean Ryan played for the Jets from 2006-07 and has a good idea of what to expect when Pennington steps foot on the practice field and on the playing field during games.Chad's a great guy," Ryan said. "He's probably one of the best guys on and off the field that I've ever met. He's a great family man, great for the community and always did his family and everyone proud. He helped me out tremendously when I was up there. From a leadership standpoint and a teammate standpoint he's one of the best I've been around. Obviously he's the consummate leader, he's always in the leader. He's a great teacher and he's like having another coach on the field."
Over his career, Pennington has started 61 of 70 games and thrown for 13,738 yards, 82 touchdowns and 55 interceptions. He has gone 32-29 and an impressive 7-1 against Miami with 11 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. His best season came in 2002 when he completed 275-of-399 passes for 3,120 yards, 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions, with his 104.2 passer rating tops in the league.
The Dolphins, coming off a 1-15 season, will open the season against the Jets in Miami, giving Pennington an immediate chance to face his former team. Before the signing, Pennington said he was disappointed but had no hard feelings after being released by the Jets.
"I have enjoyed it," Pennington said Friday in his first public comments since his release. "I've learned a lot, become a better professional and a better man because of my experience and my time in New York. I don't regret or feel ashamed about anything that happened to me in my time in New York." Pennington became the popular face of the Jets for several seasons and arrived in camp competing with Kellen Clemens for the starting job. The Jets jettisoned Pennington to clear salary cap space once they got Favre from Green Bay.
"The most difficult part is just the realization that the organization no longer wants you," Pennington said. "You spend eight years there and, in the blink of an eye, you're no longer wanted there." The 32-year-old Pennington ranks first in NFL history among quarterbacks with at least 1,500 attempts with a 65.6 completion percentage. He was often recognized as being a leader in the huddle and an intelligent field general, but was dogged throughout his time in New York for his lack of arm strength.
Injuries were also a problem for Pennington, who broke his wrist in 2003 and had two rotator cuff operations in eight months in 2005. His career was in doubt, but he bounced back and was the NFL Comeback Player of the Year after beating out Clemens, Brooks Bollinger and Patrick Ramsey for the starting job in 2006. He had his best all-around season, throwing for a career-high 3,352 yards while again leading the Jets to the playoffs and starting every game for the first time.
He struggled last season, going 1-7 as the starter and was benched after Week 8 in favor of Clemens. Pennington had done a bit better than Clemens early in training camp, and was considered the favorite to open the season as the starter at Miami.
Pennington was thrust into a starting role for Marshall University in 1995 when starter Larry Harris and back-up Mark Zban went down in the first three games of the season. Pennington overcame six interceptions in his initial start in his native Tennessee to win at Tennessee-Chattanooga, 35-32, throwing five touchdowns against the Mocs. Pennington led MU to to a 12-3 mark and the I-AA title game
Pennington sat out in 1996 when Bob Pruett replaced Jim Donnan as head coach and Erik Kresser transferred from Florida to QB the Herd to 15-0 and both a Southern Conference and National Championship in I-AA. Marshall jumped to Division I-A in 1997, and Pennington immediately signaled the Herd was ready to play in the opener, a 42-31 loss at West Virginia. Marshall would beat Army and Kent State on the road, the latter the first Mid-American Conference game for MU since 1968, and would go onto win 35 games over the next three seasons.
Pennington led MU to the MAC Championship in 1997-98-99, as well as the Motor City Bowl in all three of those seasons. Marshall was 10-3 in 1997, losing to Ole Miss in the '97 bowl, the Herd's first bowl since the second Tangerine Bowl on 1/1/1948. In 1998, Marshall was 12-1 and beat Louisville in Pontiac, Michigan by 49-28 in the second MCB. In 1999, Marshall posted its second undefeated season in three years under Pruett, finishing 13-0 and No. 10 in the nation with a 21-3 win over No. 25 BYU in the third MCB.
Pennington was a Heisman finalist, the MAC Player of the Year and won the academic Heisman, the Draddy Award from the National College Football Foundation/College Football Hall of Fame. He was a CoSIDA Academic All-American in both 1998 and 1999, and is the MU career leader in five major categories: attempts (1,619); completions (1,026); yards (13,143); touchdown passes (115); and total offense (13,048). He had three consecutive 3,000-yard passing seasons including 3,799-yards in 1999. He led the Herd to comeback wins in 1999 at Clemson (13-10) and over Western Michigan in the MAC title game (down 23-0 in third quarter, MU won on Pennington touchdown with four seconds left, 34-30).