2007-01-12 / Sports

Pennington's Healthy Present Does Not Guarantee Future Job

By Brian Bohl

HEMPSTEAD, NY- Chad Pennington was still getting over his feel-good season's sudden conclusion from the day before.

That loss to the Patriots on a chilly New England afternoon still pained the Jets quarterback, though the initial shock of a 10-6 regular season coming to an end had somewhat subsided as his teammates cleaned out their lockers Monday.

Pennington might soon have more to worry about than how the 2006 season ended. He will be back in 2007, but coach Eric Mangini refused to guarantee him the starter's spot, which could force him to go through another open training camp competition.

Last summer, Pennington won a four-way battle to reclaim the top spot. After leading the Jets to an AFC wild-card berth one season after they finished 4-12, the veteran passer should be the odds on favorite to land that job again after starting 16 games for the first time in his career. Almost more importantly, he displayed no ill effects from last off-season's throwing shoulder surgery.

Mangini instituted open competitions at nearly every position during his first training camp as head coach. That method led to a six-win improvement from 2005 and garnered him a second-place finish in Coach of the Year balloting.

The 35-year-old Mangini said he will not alter his philosophy on players fighting for jobs in his second year as the head man, though he added his pool of information increased after just one season on the job.

"The one thing I'll say is I have a lot more information on the players that are here now than I did when I first started," Mangini said. "I think that Chad has done a terrific job. Any competition that's there is based on a body of information. I have a very good body of information with Chad.

"But I essentially believe, as a core philosophy, competition is a positive thing. Regardless of your draft status, your contract, any of those issues, it's important that everybody knows they have the opportunity through hard work and those things to play."

Though Pennington won the AP Comeback Player of the Year award, he acknowledged that even after passing for a career-best 3,352 yards, he would be willing to show the coaching staff he can be even more proficient in his second year in a new offensive system.

"I think Chad did a great job," Mangini said. "Like with every position, we're going to evaluate it as we go. But I really believe in Chad. I just think as a core philosophy, that's what we believe in. In terms of competition, this is no statement one way or the other, but I believe in competition. Furthermore, I really like what Chad did and who he is."

Under first-year offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, Pennington posted an average 17-to-16 touchdown-to-interception ratio but still recorded an 82.6 rating. He will once again look to outlast Patrick Ramsey and Kellen Clemens, who the Jets drafted in the second round last April and could make a strong showing with a good camp.

"One thing I have learned over the past seven years is that you are not guaranteed anything in this league," said Pennington, who will not be getting off-season surgery for the first time since 2003. "No matter what has happened in the past, it does not guarantee a future. What I am guaranteed is another opportunity to show what I can do and to lead this team. I feel confident in that. I feel confident in my abilities, I feel confident in my abilities, and that is where we are right now."

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