Second year Kellen Clemens is officially the Jets new starting QB. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
This week, the decision was made Monday.
There was no extra evaluating, no seeing how the week played out, and no need to look over more game film.
In an uncharacteristic early week move by head coach Eric Mangini, though, the news was delivered:
The Kellen Clemens Era is set to begin.
“This morning, I talked to the coaching staff, talked to Chad [Pennington], talked to Kellen, talked to the team, and moving into Sunday, Kellen will be the starting quarterback,” Mangini said.
“I made this decision not based on singling out Chad for where we are, but based on the fact that I think Kellen has earned this opportunity, and I wanted to give him this opportunity,” he added. “Its in no way an indication that Chad is solely responsible: we all are.”
After the team’s seventh loss in eight games, it seemed apparent that it was time to give the younger Clemens an opportunity.
However, the question lingered as to how good of a quarterback Mangini was benching. Wasn’t Pennington the quarterback who led this team to a Super Bowl a year ago, a perennial top-3 back in the NFL rankings and the face of the organization?
Pennington summed it up though in a short, brief manner:
“It’s the bad part of losing; it’s a team game, and when you lose, changes have to be made.”
Don’t take it as a white flag though, according to Mangini and the rest of the players. Despite the looming issue that the team is 1-7, all but eliminated from the playoff picture just halfway into the season, each player and coach on the team refuses to chalk up 2007 as a lost year.
“I still think the focus is on the right now. We’re trying to do everything possible to get a win,” WR Jerricho Cotchery said. “That’s all we’re doing right now.”
Clemens, meanwhile, looked ready to lead the Jets to a series of wins. The second-year player admitted his excitement in anticipation of his second career NFL start.
“It’s exciting to have the opportunity, and I’m looking forward to the chance to play,” Clemens said. “At the same time, there is a losing streak right now that this entire team needs to work hard to turn around, and we’re going to continue to work on it.”
Yet, instead of upbeat emotions with a new quarterback stepping in looking to change the direction of Gang Green’s disappointing season, everybody in the locker room had an underlying aura of disappointment around them. Cotchery and WR Laveranues Coles each spoke softly of the situation in the locker room; Pennington looked uncomfortable behind the podium as a backup for the first time in several years; even Clemens couldn’t help but not be entirely happy with the news.
“It has a certain sense of difficulty to it,” Clemens said. “Chad Pennington is not only a teammate and a mentor, but he is also a very good friend of mine. You wouldn’t wish it on anybody, and especially not Chad, because of the player and person he is.”
While the team may be disappointed that Pennington’s reign as the starter is over—for now—the offensive captain refused to sway from the laurels that he had gained since taking over as starter.
He remained a team player first and an individual second, donning an entire outfit of Jets apparel, differing from the street clothes worn by most of the players in the locker room. He even sported a Jets cap, hinting that despite the fact that it is not longer his team, he is still going to be a leader of the team.
“Whether I’m playing or not, I don’t want to lose. I’m tired of losing. And whether I’m calling the signals or holding the clipboard, I don’t want to see our team lose,” Pennington said, “so I’m going to do everything I can to keep us from doing that.”
Emotions aside, Sunday will serve as a peek into the history of the organization. The Redskins are the litmus for the Clemens experiment, with Sunday afternoon answering the question as to whether or not the former Oregon Duck will in fact be the quarterback of the future.
And luckily, in true Pennington fashion, the veteran will be on Clemens side, just as Vinny Testaverde helped Pennington a few years back, hopefully sparking a run of victories that will foreshadow a successful 2008.
Bender, DeVito in same boat as Kellen
In announcing Clemens as the team’s new signal caller, Mangini brought up other players that have received opportunities this year.
While including CB Hank Poteat and S Abram Elam in the discussion, two specific players that he mentioned were OT Jacob Bender and DT Mike DeVito.
Each player was activated for the first time on the season Sunday against the Bills, with DeVito seeing some action at defensive end and Bender seeing some action on the offensive line.
With LG Adrien Clarke playing poorly of late, specifically on Sunday when he was run over on a consistent basis by the Bills’ defense, Bender may see some playing time, perhaps in a starting role, in the upcoming weeks.
Mangini’s impressed with Harris
Breaking from his usual routine of an apparent refusal to congratulate a rookie, Mangini only managed to mention positives regarding LB David Harris’ performance against the Bills.
Usually, when discussing a player, specifically a rookie, Mangini references rookie mistakes. However, he seemed pleased overall with Harris, especially after watching the rookie on game tapes.
The only quip brought up by Mangini was the fact that Harris’ 17 tackles were press box figures, and that the coach’s tape revealed fewer.
Meanwhile, LB Jonathan Vilma’s status regarding the possibility of surgery was not mentioned by Mangini; he said that more tests are still needed.
No word on Coles’ injury
Mangini did not update the media on the severity of the injury sustained by Coles, who was hit hard after receiving a pass from Pennington during the game. He hinted that Wednesday will provide some sort of insight into how much—if any—time will be missed by Coles.
Jones’ lack of touches due to third down inconsistency
During the press conference Mangini was asked if there was a reason that RB Thomas Jones still hasn’t been featured in a game yet this year. Mangini’s rationale was that the team has failed to convert consistently on third down, limiting the amount of plays the offense gets in general.
Jones, meanwhile, refused to complain about his playing time, saying “Coaches coach and players play.”
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