Coach Eric Mangini announced Monday he's going with Kellen Clemens as his starter for Sunday's game against Washington. It's a move fans and media have been suggesting for weeks as the Jets have struggled to a 1-7 start.
"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," Mangini said. "I want to give him this opportunity. It's in no way an indication that Chad is solely responsible. We all are."
Clemens, in his second season out of Oregon, replaced an ineffective Pennington late Sunday in the Jets' 13-3 loss to Buffalo. His entrance was cheered by those remaining at Giants Stadium. He was just 5-of-12 for 67 yards and two interceptions, but one of those came on a desperation toss as time expired.
"It's exciting to have the opportunity and I'm looking forward to the chance to play," Clemens said. "At the same time, there's a losing streak right now that this entire team needs to work hard to turn around."
After waiting until last Wednesday to keep Pennington as the starter, Mangini didn't need the extra time to make his choice this week. Mangini called each quarterback into his office separately and told them of his decision.
"Coach made it clear that I'm not the villain here," Pennington said. "And I'm not the only one to blame for the lack of our success or our problems, but he did feel like Kellen deserved a chance."
Clemens has a much stronger arm than Pennington and is more mobile, perhaps able to add a few more elements to the offense than the veteran could. Although Mangini wouldn't commit to Clemens beyond this weekend, the 2006 second-round pick will be under center Sunday against Washington for his second NFL start.
"We're focused on the Redskins and he's going to be the starter for the Redskins game," Mangini said.
The Jets have a bye week after Sunday, and it would seem highly unlikely Mangini would go back to Pennington in what's now an opportunity to see what they have for the future.
"He expressed, I guess, his confidence in me based on my preparation in weeks past and that was it," Clemens said.
Clemens' first start came in Week 2, when he stepped in for an injured Pennington and nearly led the Jets to a fourth-quarter comeback before losing at Baltimore. He struggled in the first half, going 4-of-9 for 43 yards and an interception, but looked like a seasoned veteran in the final 15 minutes as he cut a 20-3 deficit to seven points in the fourth quarter.
"Getting your first start out of the way I think is pretty big," Clemens said. "So now going into what will be my second start, I feel a lot better, a lot more confident."