Brett Favre: Just along for the Jets’ ride

A friend of mine pointed out this New York Times article by Aaron Schatz on some of my favorite football topics these days: the resurgence of Brett Favre and the New York Jets, but more specifically, why Favre is not the single reason for the improved play and success of the Jets, and why Chad Pennington’s season thus far has been just as good as Favre’s, if not better.

Schatz’s discussion goes right for the stats: “Favre is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes, higher than Pennington’s 67 percent.”  Of course, the timing of the article (published on November 23) was in sync with the end of Favre’s best 3-game completion stretch of his career (a rate of 77% over 3 games, a pace that he clearly can’t maintain).  He came back down to earth the following week at just over 50%, bringing his season stat to just under 68%.  In contrast, Pennington’s 67% rate this season is quite in line with his career average (65.6%, the best in NFL history).

Schatz quickly thereafter points out that which should be obvious, but apparently isn’t in the case of the Jets’ raving regime: “But Favre’s career-high completion percentage is mainly the result of a Jets offense that has him throwing short more often. Pennington actually has a higher completion percentage than Favre on passes longer than 10 yards, 56 percent to 51 percent. As a result, Pennington is averaging 7.9 yards a pass [attempt], while Favre’s average is 7.1” (which dropped to 6.8 one week later).

2007 to 2008

The Jets' big improvements from 2007 to 2008 are not at quarterback, but everywhere else (source: NY Times)

This is the stat that will drive me off a cliff.  Any Jets fan would tell you during the past 6 years that the Jets had to adjust to Pennington’s “noodle arm” and that he couldn’t throw deep.  In what must be more than mere coincidence, Favre moved to the Jets, and his completion percentage has soared to the best of his career, but his yards per attempt have dropped.  Perhaps he too has contracted the dreaded, highly-contagious noodle arm disease.  Or, perhaps, Favre’s big-play ability has been limited somewhat by the same play-calling being done from the sidelines now that has limited the Jets to conservative, restricted, low-risk, low-gain plays for years.

Meanwhile in Miami, Pennington, with the Dolphins’ unknown aerial arsenal of Ted Ginn Jr., Greg Camarillo (who is now on the IR), Davone Bess, and Co., has had two 300+ yard games (Favre has none) and better numbers on every individual statistic except touchdowns, attempts, and completions.  According to Schatz: “Pennington’s numbers with Miami are as good as Favre’s numbers are with the Jets, although his strengths and weaknesses are different. Pennington is thriving in the kind of deep passing offense that was supposedly the reason the Jets had to bring in Favre in the first place.”

Schatz rightly calls Favre the “face” of the Jets’ resurgence, as he is seen as the X factor between their dismal 2007 and outstanding 2008 seasons: “There is no doubt that Favre’s performance has been better than the 2007 performance of the quarterback he replaced, Chad Pennington. Yet there are reasons to believe that Pennington would have played just as well if the Jets had kept him.”

Pennington is now on a team that won one game last year and that still can’t field a consistent running game, yet he’s compiling more than just a respectable individual season, while helping propel the team to within a game of first place in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL (if not the toughest).  It would have been interesting to see Pennington’s performance behind the offensive improvements the Jets finally made this off-season at wide receiver, tight end, and, especially, the offensive line.

Schatz makes a lot of great points, and I agree with almost every one of them, and almost to the letter.  Favre truly is “just along for the ride”.

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