Mangini checks the tape, decides to stick with Pennington
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- The New York Jets are sticking with Chad Pennington as their quarterback.
Two days after saying he would evaluate the entire team, including the starting quarterback, coach Eric Mangini announced Wednesday that Pennington will start against Buffalo on Sunday.
"I went back through the tape, looked at it and felt very good about the decision-making process," Mangini said, referring to Pennington's performance in the Jets' loss at Cincinnati. "There were quite a few plays that I really liked."
With the Jets struggling at 1-6, fans and members of the media have been calling for Kellen Clemens to start, mostly based on the second-year quarterback's stronger arm and solid performance in Week 2 in relief of an injured Pennington.
Mangini repeatedly endorsed Pennington as his starter early in the season, but declined to do so after the loss Sunday and Monday, helping fuel the speculation.
"It's something I wanted to look at as a group and I wanted to look at all different elements," Mangini said. "I thought that was important. I did. I feel this is the decision. I'm very comfortable with that."
So, Pennington will be behind center Sunday, when the Jets take on Buffalo (2-4), despite having to wait a few days for Mangini's decision.
"I was confident in how I played and I felt good about how I played," Pennington said. "But coach's decision is totally out of my control."
Pennington, who has taken a lot of the blame for the Jets' poor start, had one of his better games against the Bengals. He was 20-of-31 for 272 yards and three touchdowns, but threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown in the closing minute and sealed the 38-31 loss.
"The way I play the game, I don't hide anything," Pennington said. "I don't play to save my job. I don't play to make sure that I don't get something negatively written about me. I don't play that way. I play to help us win."
When asked if Pennington is the starter just for now, Mangini offered only: "I'm saying he's the starter."
The announcement was somewhat surprising because Mangini has often kept his personnel decisions close to the vest, as he did when he waited until shortly before the game at Baltimore to name Clemens the starter when Pennington was hurt.
"I just thought it was something that was important so we could move forward and get this issue behind us," Mangini said.
Pennington has nine touchdown passes and seven interceptions this season and has thrown for 1,211 yards with a quarterback rating of 88.6.
"At 1-6, none of us are solidified in our jobs," Pennington said. "That's how it is when you are facing a losing streak. When you're 1-6, I think everyone is being evaluated from the top down. We're all on a pressure cooker."
Pennington said he wasn't offended by Mangini's refusal to immediately name him the starter.
"I understand the situation," Pennington said. "I'm not going to shy away from the situation. I understand the dynamics of everything going on within the organization and even at my position, so I'm not going to shy away from that and make myself think it's any different."
Pennington was one of last season's best stories, returning from consecutive rotator cuff operations and throwing for a career-high 3,352 yards while playing in every game for the first time. He capped an impressive season by being selected the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year.
Mangini gave him a vote of confidence early in the offseason, naming him the starter months before minicamp. Pennington then struggled in the preseason while Clemens was impressive and established himself as the backup and a potential starter.
Pennington sprained his right ankle in the season opener against New England and sat the following week as Clemens nearly led the Jets to a fourth-quarter comeback at Baltimore. Pennington has started the five games since and, after playing well against Miami in Week 3, has thrown five touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Three of the seven have come in the final minutes of games while trying to lead comebacks, including Sunday, but Mangini refuses to blame Pennington for the team's disappointing start.
"This isn't a Chad Pennington issue," Mangini said. "This is a New York Jets issue. This is all of us needing to do a better job."
To a man, Pennington's teammates have stuck by him the last few weeks, calling him one of the best leaders they've played with -- in victory and defeat.
"To have approval from your teammates and have confidence from your teammates, that's most important," Pennington said.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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