|Jets' Pennington on recent struggles: `I can't try to be a superhero'|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 10 October 2007 13:57|
The New York Jets quarterback has made up for his lack of arm strength with tireless preparation and an uncanny knack for making the right decisions on the field.
This year, his mental blunders are costing the Jets games.
``I have to understand that I've got 10 other guys on the field helping me,'' Pennington said Wednesday. ``It's all of us involved, and I can't try to be a superhero.''
Pennington has thrown for 520 yards the last two games, but also has five interceptions while trying to lead the Jets (1-4) to victories. He ended comeback attempts against Buffalo and the Giants with game-sealing interceptions, a disturbing trend for a quarterback who needs to minimize those mistakes to be fully effective.
``When you get into a losing streak, you feel like you have to do a little bit more to help get your team over the hump,'' Pennington said. ``As a quarterback, I take great responsibility in helping lead this team and helping us find a way to win and giving us a spark.''
Some have suggested the real spark could be provided by backup Kellen Clemens, the Jets' second-round pick last year. Clemens started in Week 2 for an injured Pennington and showed promise in a loss at Baltimore.
``It's a business. I don't take it personal,'' Pennington said. ``It's strictly business and I totally understand the situation. I take full responsibility for how I've played in the four games. I'm accountable for that. I don't shy away from it. I'm not scared of it.''
Coach Eric Mangini's confidence in Pennington hasn't wavered, and neither has that of his teammates. After the Jets' 35-24 loss Sunday, Mangini removed any doubts by declaring Pennington his starting quarterback. He reiterated that Wednesday, highlighting the things Pennington has done well this season.
Pennington's statistics are far from terrible. He has thrown for 811 yards and six touchdowns, and his 71.2 completion percentage - helped by a 32-of-39 performance against Buffalo - is second in the NFL to New England's Tom Brady (74.1).
``When I look at my play individually, I feel really good about how I'm playing the game of football if you extract about five plays out of all four games,'' Pennington said. ``About 95 percent of the plays that I'm playing, I feel good about. I feel like I've gotten better as a quarterback.''
Pennington's journey to this point has been nothing short of a medical miracle, having recovered from rotator cuff operations in consecutive years to become the NFL Comeback Player of the Year last season. He passed for a career-high 3,352 yards and threw 17 touchdown passes, the second most of his career, but also had an uncharacteristic 16 interceptions.
The mistakes have continued this year and been magnified by when they've come.
Against Buffalo, Pennington tried to force a pass to Jerricho Cotchery along the sideline that was easily picked off by Terrence McGee with 6 seconds left in the game.
Last week, with the Jets trailing 28-24 with just over 3 minutes remaining, Pennington was again looking for Cotchery when his errant throw was intercepted by rookie Aaron Ross and returned for a touchdown.
``It's the four or five plays that overshadows, along with the losing, the good plays and that's just the reality of it,'' Pennington said.
Pennington took last Sunday's loss particularly hard, taking a while to dress before taking the podium and speaking softly at the postgame press conference.
``He tries hard and he's doing everything in his power to help us win the games,'' Cotchery said. ``That's what we love the most about him. Obviously, other people have to hold up their ends of the bargain to help him out.''
Wide receiver Laveranues Coles, one of Pennington's best friends, is bothered by criticism of his quarterback's arm strength or suggestions that he should be benched.
``The people that don't understand football or know the person that's playing, they don't have any idea of what it's like to stand back there and have people coming at you and running across your face,'' Coles said. ``I mean, everybody that has so much to say and really don't know much, tell them to try it. I don't think they'll last three snaps.''
Pennington's resilience is unquestioned, and his work ethic is often described by his teammates and coaches as unmatched. He insists his confidence isn't shaken and doesn't feel as though he's fighting to keep his job each week.
``I feel really good about where I am as a quarterback and the things I need to fix are correctable,'' he said. ``And if I can correct them, I think good things can happen.''