By Jason Whitlock
Page 2 columnist
Not that I like to brag or say I told you so, but had you listened to me a week ago, you wouldn't have been surprised by Chad Pennington's dismal performance in the New York Jets' 30-10 loss to the Raiders.
No one has a nose for overhyped players as much as a man who spent the past 20 years telling anyone who would listen that one day Jeff George will be the NFL's greatest quarterback.
Pennington, a solid young quarterback, had never had his (happy) feet put to the fire. Yes, he looked like the second coming of Joe Montana as he rallied the Jets from their regular-season hole. Pennington was the league's most efficient passer. But so what? He hadn't thrown or completed a truly important pass while under duress.
That's why when I talked with Jets GM Terry Bradway before the Raiders game I cautioned him that too much was being made of Pennington. Compare Pennington to Tom Brady, not Montana. Bradway was adamant that I was being too conservative. His passion made me second-guess my evaluation of Pennington.
The Raiders proved me right. All it took was a little pass-rush pressure for Pennington to start lobbing balls to imaginary receivers standing out of bounds, for Pennington to start forcing balls into major coverage. Pennington will bounce back, but so far he's the best example of the playoffs exposing an over-hyped player.
Who might get exposed this weekend during the AFC and NFC Championships? Here are five men to consider:
1. Keyshawn Johnson
Why is this guy considered a superstar? He gets the dumbest look on his face every time he drops the ball on a Key play. No allegedly big-time receiver has dropped more important passes over the middle than Keyshawn Johnson. Have you ever seen what happens to a first-time offender his first month on the block at Oz? Watch what Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, Brian Dawkins and my Ball State homie Blaine Bishop do to Keyshawn on Sunday. I can already hear the catcalls and whistles as Key walks to his cell. And this guy thinks Bill Parcells is just dying to work with him again. What has Keyshawn ever won?
2. Brad Johnson
BJ is a system quarterback. Philly's defensive quickness helps the Eagles break down a system. Johnson will have to free-lance a few plays, get off Gruden's nipple. Even at age 34, Johnson isn't ready to give up the nurturing nipple.
3. Jon Runyan
Tampa has a kid defensive end, Ellis Wyms, a second-year guy from Mississippi State, who could break out a severe case of whipass against Runyan. Wyms is playing inside and outside on the Bucs' somewhat depleted defensive line. Wyms subs in for starters Greg Spires and Warren Sapp. Spires, the starter at defensive end opposite Runyan, had the hot hand last week against the 49ers. He recorded a sack and several pressures against Jeff Garcia. But I like Wyms. He's 6-foot-3, 280 pounds and, when he gets up field on a speed rush, he reminds me of a poor man's Bruce Smith.
4. Jevon Kearse
Oakland right guard Frank Middleton is a shorter, fatter, meaner version of Kennedy. Middleton allegedly hides a playbook, water bottle and portable CD player under his right breast. The Freak is in big trouble.
5. Bill Romanowski
Last offseason, before signing with the Raiders, Romo momentarily fooled the Chiefs into believing that he wanted to reunite with defensive coordinator Greg Robinson. Ha! Romo joined the hated Raiders, and is now a big reason the Raiders are on the brink of another Super Bowl appearance. Here's hoping Tennessee Titan Frank Wycheck runs Romo's old ass silly.
Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for the Kansas City Star (kcstar.com), the host of a morning-drive talk show, "Jason Whitlock's Neighborhood" on Sports Radio 810 WHB (810whb.com) and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of The Sports Reporters. He can be reached at email@example.com.