Alright - I'll admit it. I, too, have the proverbial "man-crush" on Chad Pennington. What he's already accomplished this year as the leader of this offense is amazing. What he has the chance to accomplish on Sunday is simply mind-boggling.
We all know about how the Dolphins are in the midst of an improbable playoff run that will be decided on Sunday. We know about last year. We have enjoyed the amazing turnaround that's taken place this year.
But just think about Chad Pennington's last 12 months. To start, he had to endure being benched in NY for a quarterback who - for lack of a better word - stinks (Kellen Clemens). Then he had to deal with all of the "will he or won't he" garbage in regards to Brett Favre's possible return to the NFL and trade to NY. Chad even had to go through the beginning of training camp - the daily grind of two-a-days included in the hot Summer heat - dealing with the Favre rumors every day.
But the last 5 months for Pennington have been quite the roller coaster. On the eve of the Jets' preseason opener, Pennington was told he would be released following the acquisition of Favre by the Jets. Chad was in a hotel in Cleveland when he was told - preparing for the preseason opener against the Browns. The next day, while his former teammate opened the '08 preseason, Pennington caught a flight back home to New York.
It would be the very next day, Friday, August 8, 2008, when the Miami Dolphins '08 season would change dramatically - when the Dolphins reached a contract with Pennington. As rumors initially swirled about the possibility of Chad coming to Miami, Pennington downplayed the idea that revenge against his former team would be a motivating factor, saying:
"I can say without a shadow of a doubt, I have no feelings about that whatsoever. If something happens with Miami, it'll be because I feel good about the situation and the opportunity. It won't have anything to do with the New York Jets or me trying to prove a point."
But roughly 4 months - and 10 wins later - Pennington will get a chance to prove a point. And it'll be in front of over 70,000 Jet fans in the Meadowlands on Sunday afternoon.
But Pennington, being the classy guy he is, still refuses to concede to the media that he's chomping at the bit to take the field on Sunday against his former team with the division title on the line. He told SI.com's Peter King:
"Well, if you rehash it and think about it, getting released definitely hurts. You're on a team for a long time, and it's always one for all and all for one, and one day you realize they don't want you anymore after being on that team for so long. There's an emotional part to football and a business part, and the emotional part hurts, but I understand the business part. But instead of throwing a pity party about it, I choose to go play football and move on.''
And play football he has - pretty damn well, I might might add. Pennington's been so good, I might add, that he needs to be in the talk for league MVP. If nothing else, the guy has got to be at least in the debate. And, to his credit, Peter King at least acknowledges Pennington's MVP credentials - ranking him 4th in his "MVP Watch."
Here's my problem with King's list. But before I do anything, I'll gladly acknowledge that Peyton Manning is well deserving of the award. He's first on King's list and I won't argue. But I will argue his #2 and #3 players. He has Matt Ryan listed 2nd - which is ridiculous. As you will see in a second, Pennington has better numbers than Ryan despite lacking an elite receiver like Roddy White - Ryan's favorite target. And if anyone is an MVP candidate from Atlanta, it's Michael Turner - not Ryan. Sometimes I just think the media is looking for a story - and therefore want Matt Ryan to be in MVP contention because he's only a rookie.
King's #3 player is James Harrison - which is another total joke. Sure, Harrison has good numbers. But doesn't anyone realize that almost any linebacker can put up ridiculous stats in Pittsburgh's defensive system? Joey Porter did. Kendrell Bell did. LaMarr Woodley is this season. James Harrison is no MVP - not by a long shot.
Let's quickly break out some stats now :
Pennington: 67% comp.; 3,453 yards; 17 tds; 7 ints; 96.4 rating
Ryan: 61.7% comp; 3,280 yards; 15 tds; 9 ints; 89.7 rating
Manning: 66.4% comp.; 3,907 yards; 26 tds; 12 ints; 93.8 rating
So, considering how important each player is to his team and then examining the stats, Matt Ryan isn't in Chad Pennington's league. Pennington's numbers are better and, though both reclamation projects (Miami's and Atlanta's) are amazing, the Dolphins have won 9 more games than last year and are on the brink of completing possibly the most amazing single-season turnaround in NFL history.
As far as Manning goes, the only argument I can have about his value compared to Pennington's would be surrounding talent. Pennington isn't throwing to a Reggie Wayne or a Dallas Clark every game. In fact, Pennington hasn't had his favorite target and leading receiver, Greg Camarillo, for the last 4 games. Oh - and Peyton's team was supposed to be good. It seems like the fact that both Manning and his team played rather poorly early on is actually helping Manning's MVP case.
In all honesty, which team do you really think would be better? A Pennington-less Dolphins or a Manning-less Colts?
Yeah - that's why Pennington should be MVP.
And Pennington will be able to improve his MVP case on Sunday against his former team in a game that is easily the most important game the Miami Dolphins have played this millennium. For Chad, his day of redemption is rapidly approaching. Not only will he be able to quiet his critics in NY, but also those in the media who just don't seem to want to give CP any love - MVP love.
Apparently, some of the Jets' players are just as dumb as some of their fans. Check out this video of DE Shaun Ellis hurling a large chunk of snow (or even ice) at Seattle's fans following their loss to the Seahawks. The incident occurs at the :34 second mark of the clip: