Clemens spent his rookie season observing from the bench as Pennington responded to his critics by leading the Jets to ten wins and a playoff berth, his third trip to the postseason in five years. In fact, most Jets fans tend to dismiss the fact that the 2007 season is the first in which a healthy Pennington hasn't seen success in the wins column.
It isn't uncommon for a starting quarterback to feel threatened by a highly-drafted youngster and refrain from assisting in their maturation. Even the greats aren't immune from such emotions. Why don't you ask Aaron Rogers how warm of a welcome he received from Brett Favre when he landed in Green Bay?
Fortunately for Clemens, Pennington didn't take such an approach, as that just wouldn't be his style.
Instead, Pennington took Clemens under his wing and tutored the rookie. A gesture that goes somewhat unmentioned by the media, but hasn't been forgotten by Clemens.
"Chad Pennington is not only a teammate and a mentor, but he's also a very good friend of mine," Clemens said when asked of the emotional element of taking over the starting role. "You wouldn't wish it on anybody and especially not Chad because he is the player and the person that he is."
Regardless of public opinion towards Pennington's recent struggles, his diligent preparation process and the leadership qualities that follow, go unmatched. Countless hours were spent dissecting film in order to best prepare, mentally, for his opponents. His success on the field, and the respect he has earned, is a direct result of the work ethic he displayed.
Naturally, Pennington taught his protégé to follow in his lead. He never complained that the team drafted a quarterback, not did he refrain from helping Clemens. Instead Pennington took the "team first" approach and nurtured the man that ultimately would take his job.
The results of his efforts are a very mature, and prepared, second year quarterback.
Chad Pennington has been designated the fall-guy for a Jets team that clearly has a wide array of problems, the least of which may be the quarterback. Regardless, this Sunday, fans will finally get what they wanted when they see Clemens as the quarterback. It shouldn't surprise them to find a poised, confident man under center. And when they do, they will know who to thank.