Best Dolphins Player - 2009
It was fate that brought Chad Pennington and the Miami Dolphins together. During the off-season, the New York Jets waived Pennington after four solid seasons with the team, casting him aside like an old tire to make room for newly acquired Brett Favre. Yet when the Dolphins signed Pennington off waivers, the immediate reaction from most Fins fans was exasperation. Pennington entered the picture as the latest poster child for the Dolphins' ever-revolving door of middling retread quarterbacks since the great Dan Marino retired. Conventional wisdom said Pennington was too weak-armed and injury-prone, and his pair of prior shoulder surgeries only stoked the flames of doubt. But Pennington proved that leadership, class, a tireless work ethic, and pinpoint accuracy can be just as effective as a laser-rocket arm. Cool, collected, and sharp, he took charge of the once-hapless Dolphins from day one and led them to the greatest turnaround in NFL history.
During the last game of the regular season — in of all places New York, with thousands of rancorous, vitriolic Jets fans breathing down their necks — the Dolphins were fighting for their playoff lives. Win and they would pull off the improbable: finishing with an 11-5 record and a division crown a season after winning only one game. Lose and their season was dead in the water. Favre and the Jets had just taken a 17-14 lead late in the game with a quick-strike scoring drive that shifted the momentum back in their favor. Now, with the weight of an entire fan base on his shoulders, it was up to Pennington to save the game, and the season — against his old team. He answered that Jets drive — and his critics — by leading Miami on a six-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a perfect pass to tight end Anthony Fasano in the corner of the end zone for the game-winning, AFC East Championship-clinching touchdown. Revenge, redemption, fate.
"It's not a revenge factor," Pennington told the Miami Herald afterward, an AFC East Champions cap nestled firmly on his head. "It just so happened it had to come through New York. That's the only way fate would have it. It shouldn't and couldn't come out any other way.'"