2003-11-28 / Sports

Inside Pitch

By Bryan Hoch
Inside Pitch By Bryan Hoch


Chad Pennington. (AP/Bill Kostroun).Chad Pennington. (AP/Bill Kostroun).

At 4-7, it’s not as though either of New York’s NFL teams are headed toward the playoffs. Still, performances like Chad Pennington’s 94-yard drive to lead the Jets to victory on Sunday are enough to keep us tuned in.

After missing nine weeks with a shattered left wrist, the 27-year-old quarterback is quickly redisplaying the talents that prompted some to tout him as the second coming of Joe Montana late last season.

Sunday against the Jaguars, in a 10-6 game which held just about no appeal until late in the fourth quarter, Pennington used his surgical precision to complete nine of 12 passes for 67 yards and spark yet another late comeback – quickly becoming the Marshall University product’s signature mark. Pass after pass zipped into the ribs of Jets receivers, with a field of stunned Jaguars defenders (who to that point had contained the Jets with a stringent zone defense) seemingly unable to counter this latest Pennington outburst.

By the time Doug Brien’s extra point sailed through the uprights to nail home a 13-10 Jets win, Penn­ing­ton had marched the Jets 94 yards down the field, completing the drive with a three-yard drop pass to San­tana Moss in the end zone. As one New York paper remarked, it was like the coolness of Montana – or Broad­way Joe Namath – had emerged from Pennington’s inner linebacker at crunch time.

"He comes in and plays like more of a veteran than any of us," running back Curtis Martin said.

The quarterback was, as is his custom, fairly more modest, remarking that a drive like that is "fun, but you don’t want to make a living doing that."

If Pennington keeps on working his magic the way he is, he should have no worries about controlling his finances. The verdict is in: this kid is the real deal, and it’s a treat to have the opportunity to watch him rise in the NFL.

• There’s no such excitement at Giants camp, where Jim Fassel is running out the clock on a disappointing season that will probably wind up costing the head coach his job. Fassel has made a living out of getting the most from his Giants players in crunch time (remember the winning streak that didn’t end until the Super Bowl a couple of years ago?), but it certainly seems like the buttons that used to trigger firestorms are now presenting indifferent water trickles.

Watching the G-Men, you can’t help but get the feeling that the Giants have quit on Coach Fassel, and without Jeremy Shockey around to liven things up, it makes watching Big Blue even more painful.

The Giants did make a valiant comeback effort on Monday Night Football this week against the Keyshawn Johnson-less Buccaneers, but a late Kerry Collins interception (not to mention his three earlier fumbles) and awful clock management from the sidelines helped stick a dagger in the Giants’ game plan, and most probably, their postseason hopes.

Even though both New York squads are showing identical records, as the Giants and Jets prepare to take on the Bills and Titans this week, respectively, it’s quite clear that they’re teams headed in different directions – trains to nowhere passing in the night

• By the time you hold this copy of The Wave, we should know if the Diamond­backs’ Curt Schilling has given the final stamp of approval to a three-way trade that will send the fireballer to the Red Sox, thus creating a major knot in the brainwaves of all Yankees fans.

Boston pulled off a stunning three-way trade late Monday, but Schilling holds the trump card with his no-trade clause. He won’t make the move unless the situation is right, but for a guy who already proclaimed this offseason that he wouldn’t want to play for the Yankees – he later reneged, most likely after a stunned representative explained to Schilling that the Yankees have all of the cash to throw around – what better opportunity would there be than to join Theo Epstein’s ‘Cowboy Up’ crusaders at Fenway?

At age 37 and sign­ed through next season, Schilling is looking for a two-year contract extension that would take him into Roger Clemens’ age territory. The two have similar work ethics (Clemens was actually the one who sat down an immature Schilling back in the early 1990’s and straightened his act out), so there’s little question if Schilling will be able to remain effective throughout the length of the contract. That’s also a major part of the reason why Schilling was high atop George Stein­bren­ner’s Christmas wish list.

Should Schilling head to Boston, dare we say that the Sox will hold a significant pitching advantage over the Yankees? Under that scenario, Boston will have Schilling, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe in their top three, while the Yankees have lost Clemens to retirement and may not be able to bring back David Wells and Andy Pettitte (although we’re betting the free-agent Pettitte chooses the Bronx over home and Houston). Never fear, Yankees fans. They still appears to have the inside track on out­fielder Gary Sheffield and is among the frontrunners for star Jap­anese infielder Kaz Matsui (described as another Ichiro), so there are still plen­ty of victories on tap even if Schilling changes his residence to Beantown.


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