It should come as no surprise that former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington is spending his post-playing days tutoring young NFL signal callers. The real shock came when it was reported that Pennington was coaching and mentoring a struggling Mark Sanchez.
Pennington, a two time NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2006, 2008), knows a thing or two about rebounding from difficult times. Unlike Sanchez, injuries plagued Pennington's career as the quarterback endured multiple shoulder surgeries and major knee surgery, ultimately bringing an abrupt end to his NFL career.
Widely regarded as an expert motivator and student of the game, Pennington's future as a coach in the NFL is almost a foregone conclusion. Pennington finished his playing career as the NFL's all-time leader in completion percentage (66 percent), among quarterbacks with at least 1,500 pass attempts.
If there is one area where Sanchez leaves something to be desired, it's his accuracy as a passer. Pennington has worked tirelessly with the Jets "Sanchize" to improve his throwing mechanics, footwork, receiver progression and pocket presence.
For all the vitriol aimed at Sanchez, Pennington applauded the fourth year quarterback's attitude and work ethic.
"Just talking to him, I think his demeanor is really good," Pennington said of Sanchez. "I think he has a hunger and desire to get better and take some of the criticisms he has received and turn them into something that can make him better, and learn from those."
Pennington played under offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer in New York and Tony Sparano in Miami, making him the perfect candidate to teach Sanchez how to transition to a new system.
A former Rhodes Scholar at Marshall University, Pennington is imparting his acumen and meticulous work habits on Sanchez, in an effort to help the young gunslinger realize his potential.
Pennington attempted to make a comeback to the NFL prior to the 2011 season, but he tore his ACL in a pick-up basketball game officially forcing the quarterback into retirement. While Pennington currently serves as an analyst for Fox Sports, questions flooded in regarding his possible return to New York to backup Sanchez
"So if you're a backup, you have to believe you can go in there and believe you can make something happen," said Pennington. "That's so important for me, to have that confidence that I can look Coach Sparano and Coach (Rex) Ryan in the eye and say, 'Yeah, you can trust my sholder.' Right now, I don't know if that's the case or not."
Although Pennington's return to the Green and White is doubtful at best, he is serving his former organization well by taking Sanchez under his wing and showing him the path to success.
Rick Laughland covers the New York Jets for Greenandwhitereport.com