DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano couldn't help but have a little fun Monday when he finally announced the winner of the team's drawn-out quarterback competition.
"It's Chad," he said, chuckling.
"Pennington," he added. "I think the guy will do a great job of managing our team. And the team has responded really well to him, and that's where we are going."
The announcement officially sets up an intriguing Week 1 matchup in Miami against the New York Jets, the team that cut Pennington to clear salary cap space for Brett Favre.
Pennington was the face of the Jets the past eight seasons and arrived in camp this year competing with Kellen Clemens for the starting job. The Jets released Pennington more than two weeks ago when they acquired Favre from Green Bay.
Pennington, who learned of the decision after practice Monday afternoon, was only made available to speak to the media before the announcement. But he released a statement through the team.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to lead this team," Pennington said. "We've worked extremely hard over the last two weeks, and I'm proud to be a Miami Dolphin."
The decision was hardly surprising.
Pennington was recognized as the starter when he signed with Miami. The 32-year-old separated himself from Miami's other quarterbacks -- Henne, Josh McCown and John Beck -- and has led the Dolphins to consecutive preseason wins in convincing fashion. He is 16-for-21 for 149 yards and one touchdown.
Perhaps more importantly, he quickly has become one of Miami's leaders. Pennington has held receivers after practice to work on routes and timing. And he's taken teammates out for dinners and movies just to get to know them.
"A heck of a leader," guard Justin Smiley said last week. "I mean, he doesn't know any of us from the man on the moon right now, but he comes into the huddle and says, 'Give me your eyes.'
"We didn't break the huddle good one time and he was like, 'Nah, nah, nah. Next time, we've got to stand and break the huddle.' Just stuff a veteran with great leadership would do. It's pretty exciting."
Pennington will be the 13th starting quarterback for Miami since Dan Marino announced his retirement in 2000. And inconsistency at the position is perhaps why the Dolphins have missed the playoffs a record six straight seasons.
Coming off a 1-15 season, the Dolphins are hoping Pennington can provide some stability this season and be a bridge and mentor to Henne. Pennington ranks first in NFL history among quarterbacks with at least 1,500 attempts with a 65.6 completion percentage.
"We're a young team," Sparano said. "He brings management skills to the table. He can manage a game really well. He's a little bit calmer in there. He's seen more situations."
The decision to start Pennington leaves the future of Beck and McCown in doubt. Sparano did not announce a backup and has insisted the Dolphins could keep four quarterbacks, but financial reasons and limited roster space make that scenario unlikely.
Henne, the second-round pick from Michigan, has received the most playing time in the exhibition season and likely will be the backup. For now, the Dolphins seem content on not rushing the rookie's progress.
Sparano pointed to Pennington's experience and command in the huddle as reasons he tabbed him the regular-season starter over Henne.
"The guy has seen some of these critical situations that are going to come up," Sparano said. "And he understands the speed. It's going to be a whole lot faster when we play the Jets the first game of the season."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press