Suddenly, the Miami Dolphins have hit the trifecta. No, not the 2008 coaching, general manager, football czar trifecta - the retirement one. Dolphins legend Jason Taylor retired after the team's final game of the season. This week, former Dolphin and current Baltimore Ravens running back Ricky Williams announced his retirement. And now, word that former Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington is preparing to call it quits as well.
Pennington began his NFL career as the New York Jets' first round draft choice in 2000. He played for the Jets through the 2007 season, before the team unceremoniously released the quarterback on August 7, 2008, the same day the team acquired Brett Favre. The next day, the Dolphins signed Pennington, handing him the keys to the offense as first year head coach Tony Sparano looked to turn around a struggling franchise.
The Dolphins would tie the NFL record for largest turn around between seasons, as the Dolphins improved from 1-15 in 2007 to 11-5 in 2008. The Dolphins won the AFC East that year, with Pennington becoming the first Miami quarterback since Dan Marino to throw for 3,500 yards. Pennington was recognized as the league's Comeback Player of the Year, the second time he had won that award, and was runner up to the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning as the league MVP.
With expectations high in Miami for 2009, Pennington returned as the starter for the Dolphins. However, Pennington would end up injuring his throwing shoulder for the third time in his career, once again requiring surgery and leading to him being placed on injured reserve.
In 2010, Pennington attempted to return to the team, starting the season as the Dolphins backup quarterback to Chad Henne. Henne would be benched after leading the Dolphins to a 4-4 record, with Pennington starting his first game for the team on November 14. Pennington's return to the league would last one play, as he re-injured the throwing shoulder on that play and was once again put on injured reserve. Pennington would require a fourth surgery on his throwing shoulder.
In the preseason, leading in to the 2011 season, Pennington was beginning to rehab and make his way back to the league. However, on March 31, Pennington tore his ACL while playing basketball and was forced to sit out the year. He worked as an analyst for Fox Sports during the NFL season.
Now, with the 2011 season in the rear-view mirror, Pennington seems to be happy with his decision to work for Fox, and doesn't plan on returning to the NFL. Speaking to the Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly this week in Boca Raton, where Pennington is working with draft eligible quarterbacks at TEST Academy, the quarterback stated:
"It doesn't make sense for me to come back and try to play. I know I can get healthy. I know I can be ready for training camp and do all those things. But can I take a hit?
"After four shoulder surgeries, that's a question that's hard to answer right now. That's something that's out of my control. I can control being strong enough, accurate enough, and smart enough. But I can't control not being able to take a hit in the wrong angle. I don't want to look a coach in the eye and say, 'You can count on me,' and then I go out there and [something happens] to us like it did in 2010 and he can't count on my body."
Pennington also spoke to Brian Biggane of the Palm Beach Post. Focusing on the Dolphins current quarterback situation, Pennington said:
"Regardless of what happens, [Matt Moore is] the stability. He can hold it together. And he's someone who has proven he deserves a shot at the starting role."
Pennington sees the Dolphins' future as bright, with the team being near the level of the top teams in the AFC.
"Their team has a really good nucleus. You've got some young players who have been drafted mixed with some free agents brought in. That core is there.
"They were probably the most improved team from the start to the end of the year. To me they were (among) the top five or 10 teams by the end of the year. Their offense was top five in some categories; their defense was playing outstanding."
When asked about the Dolphins pursuing Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn in the offseason, Pennington worried about Manning's neck, which has had three surgeries in the past 18-months:
"Because it's a neck," Pennington said. "But that's where you consult your doctors."
But the 35-year old would encourage the Dolphins to go after Flynn:
"Now you've got two guys who have proven they can do it, and with them pushing each other you may get one to take the lead role. That's not a bad situation."
Pennington also turned his attention to hos former teammate, Henne, who will be a free agent when the new league year starts on March 13.
"For Chad, the best thing is a change of scenery. It was for me after eight years in New York."
Pennington has not turned in his retirement papers to the league, and admits that, if a team were to call about a backup/mentor type role, he would listen. But, he is happy working as a TV analyst right now. He does look forward to one day entering the coaching side of the game, but is currently looking at the high school level.
"Coaching is in my blood. It's my passion. But I also have a family," Pennington explained to Kelly. "I have three boys and they've made enough sacrifices throughout my NFL career, and that weighs heavy on my heart, as far as being away from them. I'll look into [coaching], maybe on the high school level. The pro and college level is a huge commitment. I understand that, and the time commitment deters me away from it..
Pennington explained to Biggane how his family feels about his possible retirement, and what will be the deciding factor if he does retire:
"Cole (his oldest son) wants me to play, Luke wants me to retire, and Gage isn't to a point where he knows yet. My wife will support me whatever my decision, but she really likes having me home.
"The biggest decision for me is ... not going through everything, but looking a coach in the eye when he calls my number and say, 'Coach, you can trust my shoulder.' I can't do that anymore. That was proven to me in 2010."
If Pennington does decide to retire, he finishes his career with 17,823 yards, 102 touchdowns, and 64 interceptions. His career passer rating is 90.1. He also is the NFL's all time leader in completion percentage, with a 66% mark, just ahead of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (65.9%).