Even with the selection of Andy Dalton, there's a great deal of hope amongst Bengals fans that the team will sign a veteran QB as a security blanket against the rookie struggles of Dalton and the Jordan Palmeriness of Jordan Palmer. If you are one of those hoping for such a free agent acquisition and that that free agent would be Chad Pennington, think again, mon frere.
It's been announced by people who announce things that Pennington will not be playing in the NFL next season (with all the standard and cumbersome qualifiers about "if" or "when" there is a season). Instead, Pennington will be chillaxin' over at Fox on a one year contract to work gameday broadcasts with Sam Rosen.Pennington's name has been kicked around as one of the handful of FA options the Bengals could look into as a backup or even a short-term bridge to a more experienced Dalton. His name was most recently floated around on our last Cincy Jungle podcast with Jason talking him up. And with the team's transition into a West Coast Offense, Pennington would certainly have been a useful guy. He's got all the necessary WCO skillz and limitations: a strong leadership presence (the mythical "intangibles"), high passing accuracy and completion rate, and a relatively weak arm better suited to a short-to-mid-range passing game. In fact, he currently holds the highest career completion percentage in NFL history among quarterbacks with at least 1,500 attempts at 66.0.
Of course, the Jekyll to Pennington's completion-monster Hyde is this guy:
This is the Pennington who has twice won the Comeback Player of the Year Award (2006, 2008). This also the Pennington who's shoulder went wonky in the third game of 2009, went even wonkier on the first play of 2010, and who's knee gave out during a pickup basketball game this past March. So, he's soon-to-be 35 and coming off of shoulder and knee surgeries -- a questionable pickup, at best.
It's really a smart idea for Pennington to take some time off and get healthy, especially since this season is all out of whack anyway. I suspect after a year in the broadcast studio though Pennington won't be so keen on going after that hat-trick of Comeback player awards, but kookier things have happened. Fortunately, the Bengals already have a similar guy in Dan LeFevour, of whom Mel Kiper said in 2009, "This is a kid that I think in 3 or 4 years can really be a factor in the NFL. He has the exact same size as , and I see a little bit of Pennington in this kid." So let's see...we just need to ride this Dalton thing out until about 2013.
Until then, the Bengals will have to narrow their sights for a veteran QB. There's still a slight chance of grabbing Matt Hasselbeck, although that may be getting even slimmer; there's the more likely and less sexy option of Jim Sorgi; and there's also Marc Bulger who, according to Kurt Warner, may be OK with taking a backup role.
"For too many guys, it's all about winning and losing, it's all about starting, it's all about how much money you can make," Warner said. "And that's not Marc Bulger."
Warner pointed out that Bulger "got beat up pretty good" as the starter in St. Louis, and that it wouldn't surprise Warner to learn that Bulger is "happy" as a backup, and that "he can just enjoy life and not have to worry about the pressure of being an NFL starter and everything that goes with it."
I'm not sure that Warner, despite his best intentions, is doing Bulger any favors here. A guy that doesn't care anymore about winning or losing and will be willing to take less pay to stay off the field? Well that sounds like Mike Brown's kind of guy anyway, although maybe not the person you want mentoring a rookie QB.