This scenario is fiction in only one respect. Not once during his eight starts did Kellen Clemens show "it." You know what "it" is without a wordy explanation. Set aside stats or wins and losses. Forget that Clemens' quarterback rating was dismal. Ignore his 3-5 record as a starter. And please stop drooling over his arm strength. Arm strength is, was, and ever shall be the most overrated aspect of quarterbacking.
Did he pass the "eye test?" After being promoted to replace Chad Pennington, Clemens was neither terrible nor impressive in key areas. Yet some commentators insist he is THE ANSWER for the Jets.
Following the season ending victory over the Chiefs, SNY post-game commentator Adam Schein refused to back down from his earlier proclamations that Clemens has "it." Fellow SNYer Steve Overmyer actually challenged Schein on the air, demanding he provide some evidence which makes Clemens a lock as a franchise QB.
Schein responded by deflecting some of Clemens' struggles to his lack of a supporting cast and claimed he performed well against the Redskins and Steelers. Clemens was pretty good against the Redskins and okay versus the Steelers. The Jets offense scored one TD in each game.
No one can dispute Clemens didn't get a lot of help from his receivers in ‘07. The pass protection was shaky, too. However, Clemens packed it in too early on some passing downs. His lack of pocket presence isn't due to a lack of toughness, but during the season he often took his eyes off his receivers, got happy feet, and tucked the ball away instead of staying in the pocket.
Whether he will improve in this area is tough to discern. The same can be said for his ability to read defenses and manage games. Clemens also displayed inaccuracy in his short and medium throws. The bottom line is he simply didn't show enough to warrant being given the starting job next season.
The Jets should allow Pennington and Clemens to compete for the starting job. Considering the weakness of the free agent QB class and that Clemens is still young, the Jets can afford in terms of money and team unity to allow the two signal callers to compete for the job.
I don't envy Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum's situation. They have to make a decision that will shape the immediate future of the franchise. A mistake could cost them their jobs.
There is no need to make the decision now. Let Pennington and Clemens fight it out in July and August. If Clemens outplays Pennington during training camp and preseason games, then the former will have earned the job.
Clemens seems to realize he has a lot of work to do.
"I'm going to take some time and try to recharge the batteries a little bit," said Clemens. "Long before training camp, even probably before we report back for off-season workouts, I'll come in and start looking at the tapes, go over the coaches' criticisms that they have and then kind of outline a plan that will give me an idea of the areas where I need to improve so I can focus on specific things and try to be as ready as possible for off-season workouts."
Ignore commentators who authoritatively claim Clemens is the answer. They're guessing. What do your eyes tell you?
Clemens may eventually earn the title "franchise QB," but right now he's the second-best QB on the Jets. The Jets have so much cap room in 2008 Pennington's salary can be absorbed while Tannenbaum spends (hopefully wisely) on free agents to bolster the offensive line.
Let the QB competition begin!