As Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and head coach Josh McDaniels feverishly tried over the last month to mend their deteriorating relationship with the face of their franchise, quarterback Jay Cutler, the Jets maintained a firm stance on their own quarterback situation. Head coach Rex Ryan has exuberantly praised his team's youthful trio of Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge since he first stepped in office in January, even suggesting at last week's NFL Owner's Meetings that the "next superstar" could already be in the Jets' hands.
However, as Cutler stood at a crossroad with the Broncos' franchise, the Jets reportedly contacted the Broncos to express their interest in the disgruntled signal-caller. Now Cutler is officially on the trading block and the Jets seemingly stand as a logical trade partner. While the rumors are flowing again for Clemens, the Jets young quarterback knows nothing has changed.
"It means [Cutler's] going to go somewhere. It still doesn't necessarily mean here or to a place that's going to affect who's in the locker room here," Clemens said. "That will all play itself out in time."
Clemens constantly insists that he ignores the news on the Cutler sweepstakes on television and in the papers and he has not reached out to Ryan or general manager Mike Tannenbaum about the situation. At this point, he questions "how much good it would do" to ask about the Jets' stance.
"There's the business aspect of it and both coach Ryan and Mr. Tannenbaum are going to make a decision at the end of the day that they feel is best for the organization," Clemens said. "Obviously I have my personal opinion of what they should do, but that doesn't rank up there too high just yet."
As Clemens enters his fourth season with the Jets, he's prepared to face his third quarterback competition. After being drafted in the second round out of Oregon in 2006, Clemens battled Pennington, Brooks Bollinger and Patrick Ramsey. Pennington eventually won the job and Clemens threw just one pass all season. He was ineffective in eight starts in 2007 (five touchdowns, ten interceptions) and threw an interception late during a blowout loss to the Chargers last season.
Clemens noted that last offseason, when the Jets were floated as a possible destination for Brett Favre, Tannenbaum called both Clemens and Pennington in his office to explain the situation.
"He said 'look this is the situation, we've contacted, up to this point it's not going to go any further than that.' He was very open, he was very honest with us," Clemens explained.
While Clemens knows that a potential trade for Cutler could have a direct effect on his future, he insists that he's not allowing the rumors to affect his preparation for the upcoming season. If Cutler is indeed dealt elsewhere, Clemens can finally secure his the job with a strong training camp.
"The whole thing might blow over and [Cutler] goes somewhere else and all three of us are still here," Clemens said. "You don't want to lose these days of preparation worrying about the hypotheticals."
Rather moan and groan about the team's possible interest in Cutler, the young quarterback has instead used the rumors as motivation. While the Jets may choose to look outside the organization for the solution at quarterback, Clemens believes that the team's answer is already in the locker room.
"It's motivating because, obviously, the organization is looking to upgrade their positions, as they should. There's nothing wrong with that, but in my heart, I feel I'm a very good option for this football team. Anytime you hear rumors and you hear speculation, it motivates me to continue to prove they don't need to go outside at this position," Clemens said.
Aside from the football aspect of the position that requires making audibles at the line of scrimmage and reading blitz packages, Clemens knows the other important aspect to the position is leadership in the locker room. He praised both Pennington and Favre for their leadership qualities and explained that he's developed his own style now.
Cutler has shown that he can sure fire the football as best as any quarterback, but whether he can lead remains to be unseen. His recent drama proves otherwise, and Clemens is prepared to grab the reins if the Jets finally give him the opportunity.