CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Chad Pennington spoke from his heart and from experience.
He has walked Mark Sanchez's path before, both as a starting quarterback for the Jets who weathered the New York media storm for eight seasons and as the quarterback for a Dolphins team that used the Wildcat. Because of that, Pennington is a devout believer in the formation and the ability of his former head coach, Tony Sparano, to make it work with Tim Tebow.
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"It's truly about finding an edge as a team," said Pennington, who was invited to Tuesday's practice by Sparano, the Jets' offensive coordinator, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan. "And if this can provide a spark and provide an edge for this team, I think it can be a great weapon."
After practice, Pennington spoke to the team at Ryan's request.
Although Pennington understands why some players would be hesitant to buy into a formation that takes away significant snaps from the starting quarterback, Pennington said the Wildcat can be "an X-factor" if all players are on board.
"If the package allows you to win and be more successful at winning,'' he said, "then you're going to be all for it as a player."
Well before the Tebow trade became official in March, Sanchez expressed an aversion to splitting time and being taken out of games. Since then, however, Sanchez has expressed nothing but support for Tebow and the Wildcat. But for those quarterbacks who refuse to buy into the system, Pennington has just one word: selfish.
"If you think, as a quarterback, that this game is solely about you, I think you're sadly mistaken," said Pennington, who played for the Jets from 2000-2007 and was released in favor of Brett Favre during training camp in 2008.
"This is the greatest team game ever. So for a quarterback to gripe about whether he's getting into rhythm or not -- grab the football and make a play."
After years of watching running back Ronnie Brown run the Wildcat in Miami, Pennington is convinced Tebow's passing ability and familiarity with the read-option offense will force defenses to change their perspective.
"They always have to have a free safety in the middle of the field because of the threat of the pass," said Pennington, who signed with the Dolphins after the Jets released him in 2008, the same year the Wildcat became a major focus of Miami's offense.
Given Sparano's coaching experience and his Wildcat history in Miami, Pennington believes he is the perfect person to meld the playing styles and personalities of Sanchez and Tebow with the intricacies of the formation. Ultimately, Sparano's goal is simple: win.
"That's what it's about," Pennington said. "For this team to win, you've got to be able to play complementary football. And sometimes that doesn't look like what people think it should look like."
Pennington, who planned to sit in on player meetings yesterday afternoon, has been "invested" in Sanchez's growth and success since their February sitdown in South Florida. Though they speak "sparingly" during training camp, he continues to be Sanchez's sounding board. With a smile, Pennington recalled the first piece of advice he gave Sanchez after the arrival of Tebow.
"I said, 'Well, guess what, look on the bright side. You don't have to do as many interviews,' " said Pennington, who explained the importance of having a backup who can help the team win.
"And the one thing about Tim, you know he can will your team to victory if his number's called. That's important to have. That's why this situation can be the epitome of what this game is all about. Because we try to individualize this game with fantasy football and statistics and numbers. But this game is about the players in that locker room and how they come together to make it work."