NEW YORK – Chad Pennington quickly became the odd man out once Brett Favre joined the New York Jets.
Pennington was released Thursday, ending the quarterback’s eight-year, injury-plagued career with the Jets. He was expected to find a new home soon: Minnesota and Miami were mentioned as possible destinations.
“It’s a bittersweet moment for us,” general manager Mike Tannenbaum said early Thursday when announcing the trade for Favre.
“I have all the respect in the world for Chad as a person and a player,” he said. “He gave his heart and soul to this organization for a long, long time. I really appreciate everything he has done.”
A first-round pick in 2000, Pennington became the popular face of the franchise for several seasons and arrived in camp competing with Kellen Clemens for the starting job.
The Jets jettisoned Pennington to clear salary cap space once they got Favre from Green Bay for a conditional draft pick.
The 32-year-old Pennington had three years, plus a team option year, remaining on his contract. He was due $4.8 million this season and his salary cap figure is $7.8 million.
Pennington ranks first in NFL history among quarterbacks with at least 1,500 attempts with a 65.6 completion percentage. He was often recognized as being a true leader in the huddle and an intelligent field general, but was dogged throughout his time in New York for his lack of arm strength.
Big things were expected from Pennington, who had a brilliant college career at Marshall. He beat out popular veteran Vinny Testaverde in 2002 and led the Jets to the playoffs, including a stunning 41-0 victory over Indianapolis.
The injuries began the following season, when he broke his left wrist in a preseason game against the Giants. He returned the following year and led the Jets within a game of the AFC championship, but then underwent two rotator cuff operations in eight months.
Pennington’s career was in doubt, but he bounced back and was the NFL Comeback Player of the Year after beating out Clemens, Brooks Bollinger and Patrick Ramsey for the starting job in 2006. He had his best all-around season, throwing for a career-high 3,352 yards while again leading the Jets to the playoffs and starting every game for the first time.
Coach Eric Mangini anointed him the starter the following offseason, but Pennington struggled mightily before being benched in favor of Clemens after Week 8.
Pennington was 1-7 as the starter, and Clemens went 3-5, but the veteran actually had the better season statistically. He threw for 1,765 yards and 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions; Clemens had 1,529 yards, five TDs and 10 interceptions in 10 fewer pass attempts.
Pennington had done a bit better than Clemens early in training camp, and was considered the favorite to open the season as the starter at Miami. Clemens, entering his third season, will now be the backup to Favre.