- The Washington Times - Friday, December 26, 2008

The unofficial battle between Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers goes to Chad Pennington.

Or so it would seem going into the final weekend of the NFL season.

Pennington is the quarterback who was released by the Jets in early August to make room for Favre. He was the forgotten element in the Favre-Rodgers drama in Green Bay. He was relegated to the transactions section in small type.

The big, bold headlines went to Favre, the would-be savior of the forlorn Jets. The big, bold question was put to the brain trust of the Packers, namely, “Are you guys sure you know what you are doing in trading Favre from a team that was an overtime session away from reaching the Super Bowl last season?”

That question persists in Green Bay, where the Packers have stumbled to a 5-10 record.

Not that the blame can be placed on Rodgers, who is the eighth-rated passer in the NFL with a 91.4 quarterback rating.

His rating far exceeds the ordinary 84.0 of Favre, the risk-taker who has reverted to his interception penchant. He has thrown six interceptions and only one touchdown in the last four games, three of them losses, as the Jets have fallen out of first place in the AFC East and trail the Patriots and, as fate would have it, the Dolphins by one game.

This delicious turn comes with an additional must-see bit of drama: Dolphins at Jets, Sunday, 4:15 p.m.

Pennington returns to his former home in a position to rip the guts out of the Jets.

He already has set New York tongues wagging with his improbable season. As the second-rated passer in the NFL, Pennington has taken a franchise that won only one game last season to the cusp of a playoff appearance.

A victory not only would send the Dolphins into the playoffs, it also would leave the Jets ruing so many missed opportunities to claim a division title that seemed theirs until the last month of the season.

The self-evaluation process already appears to have started with the Jets judging from the tone of Favre’s weekly news conference.

“I’m disappointed, as everyone else in this building is disappointed,” Favre said of the team’s long-shot playoff hopes. “The opportunities that were presented to us, we couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. I’m disappointed because we didn’t capitalize on that.”

The 39-year-old Favre also started anew with his annual will-he/won’t-he guessing game on retirement. It was that dimension of Favre that precipitated his departure from Green Bay.

At times he seemed to be implying that Sunday’s game would be his last, assuming the Jets do not make the playoffs.

“It’s been a great career,” he said at one point.

Favre, though, already has been down this well-worn path. He feels one way at the close of a season and then another way after he has had time to recuperate both mentally and physically.

Favre’s arm strength is not what it was earlier in the season whether because of age or a well-placed blow to his right shoulder. He plans to have the shoulder examined after the season, the results of which will help determine in part whether to return.

If Pennington ends up being the one ushering Favre through the exit door, that would be too rich.

It was Favre this and Favre that after he elected to end his retirement, and the Packers decided not to play along. It was 24/7 Favre at the start of training camp.

He wanted to play in Minnesota. He was rumored to be going to Tampa Bay. He wound up with the Jets.

Pennington? He was just the other guy, found lacking in pizzazz.

Now he is the one who has fashioned a season to savor, leading the Dolphins to a 10-5 record. Now he is the one who could steal the big, bold headlines in Manhattan’s tabloids if he delivers the final blow to his old team on his first trip back to the Meadowlands.

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