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Pennington: Smith Will Have to Go Through the Fire

Posted Oct 4, 2013

There weren’t many decision makers better than Chad Pennington.  One of the most accurate passers in the history of the NFL, Pennington is spot-on with his analysis of Jets rookie QB Geno Smith.

“You’re going to be able to watch a rookie quarterback mature in front of your eyes.  It’s obviously a process.  You can’t be impatient,” Pennington said.  “Is the physical talent there?  Absolutely.  The key to any quarterback’s success in this league is putting the mental and the physical together and then once you do that, can you produce the consistency of the great quarterbacks like the Breeses, the Mannings, the Bradys —  those types of guys.  It’s about consistency, so it’s going to be fun to watch him mature.”

Pennington, who watched Smith “tear up” his Marshall Thundering Herd while at West Virginia, most recently spoke with the first-year pro at the Rookie Symposium in June.

“We have been able to talk a couple of times and I shared my experiences with him. But he has to go through it himself,” Pennington said.  “You have to go through the fire yourself.  You can take some of those experiences from previous quarterbacks and put those in your bank of knowledge, but you have to go through that fire and kind of develop your own techniques and your own way of playing the quarterback position.  That’s what is so unique about the quarterback position — everybody’s different.”

Although Smith is tied for the NFL-high in turnovers with 11, he has completed the third most passes (10) of 25 yards in the NFL and he also became the first Jets rookie passer to throw for 300 yards in a game.  Ball security has been emphasized this week at practice as Smith continues to get coached up by David Lee.

“I don’t think you could ask for a better quarterback coach than David Lee — I really don’t.  He helped me at 32 years of age and that’s very hard for a coach to do, to help a veteran quarterback that’s been in the league for quite some time,” said Pennington, who experienced tremendous success with Lee in a Dolphins uniform while finishing second in the MVP vote in 2008.  “But he helped me with my mechanics, he made me a better passer, he made me more accurate and made me focus on my fundamentals even more even at 32 and 33 years of age.  Geno is in the perfect spot with the best quarterback coach I believe.”

Now living in Lexington, KY with his wife, Robin, Pennington enjoys chasing around his three sons: Cole, Luke and Gage.  He is coaching some youth football and sounds much more interested in possibly coaching high school football than pro football down the line.  A farmer, Pennington is raising horses and baling hay. 

“I’m coaching a little football, learning how to farm a little bit,” he said with a smile.  “I’m like a professional part-timer man.  I have my hand in a lot of different stuff.”

Always the optimist, Pennington thinks good things are on the horizon for the Jets.

“Enjoy being a Jets fan.  Always know the road is always going to be bumpy — that’s how we do it as Jets, right?   Enjoy being a Jets fan, enjoy this young quarterback, enjoy the defense that Coach Ryan always puts out there,” he said.  “He puts out a great defense and I think it’s going to be fun to watch and with Coach Mornhinweg — he does a great job with his offenses.  He’s always been explosive with his offenses, so I think the future is bright.”

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