"I give him 100 percent of the credit as far as my development in this offense, my development as a quarterback, [and in] learning how to use footwork in my advantage," said Pennington. "Obviously I'm not a gunslinger when it comes to arm strength and I have to have everything working in the right direction to complete passes. He has been a big part of that."
Pennington's footwork has been tremendous this season. On last week's ESPN show "NFL Countdown", Steve Young broke down game film on Pennington and praised him for his footwork. In the west coast offense, a quarterback's footwork is crucial and each step works in conjunction with looking down a receiver. Pennington credits Hackett for his improved footwork.
"He does a great job of explaining footwork and demonstrating how footwork is crucial to the timing of patterns and to the accuracy of the quarterback and how your feet are set and stuff like that," said Pennington.
Hackett has faced criticism long before coming to the Jets, but has always been recognized as a terrific developer of young quarterbacks. He has helped mature and develop legendary quarterbacks such as Joe Montana and this year's MVP candidate Rich Gannon, and now has Pennington off to a fabulous start.
"He makes sure his quarterbacks pay attention to the fine details," said Pennington. "The fine details are the things that help you get over the top and win championships. Coach Hackett is tremendous. [He] knows details and makes clear the finer points of playing the quarterback position.
Just how good was Pennington in this, his first season as an NFL starter? His quarterback rating of 104.2 and completion percentage of 68.9 were the best in the entire National Football League. His quarterback rating also set a new Jet team record, surpassing Vinny Testaverde's 1998 mark.
"To me he doesn't get enough credit for what he's done with the quarterback," said head coach Herman Edwards. "What he's done with Chad is remarkable. You look at the guys he's coached, Joe [Montana], Rich Gannon, they all seem to play pretty good. That's been his history. I think he's done a great job as a quarterback coach.
When the Jets had stumbled to a 2-5 start and the offense was teetering, Hackett took as much criticism as anybody. Pennington had some harsh words to say about the Hackett haters.
"Some of the criticism that you receive as a player and a coach is mind boggling sometime," said Pennington. "In coach Hackett's instance, you have people criticizing him that, to put it in perspective for you, may have a third-grade level education as far as football is concerned, where as he has his masters. So it's not fair. You can't even talk on the same level as him because he knows so much football and has been in this business for 30 years. The man knows what he's doing."
It appears that Hackett knows exactly what he's doing with his young quarterback. Pennington has led the resurgent Gang Green to the AFC East title, a feat that has only been accomplished one other time since the merger in 1970. Now Hackett and his quarterback look to take the next step against Indianapolis on Saturday.