Clemens Will Step Under Center, 'Do My Best'


The discussion didn't last long between Eric Mangini and Kellen Clemens. Mangini, in his second season as the Jets' head coach, looked at his young passer and put the ball in his hands.

"He said, 'I'm going to give you the opportunity to start this week,' " Clemens said today. "He expressed, I guess, his confidence in me based on my preparation in weeks past and that was it. It was a very simple conversation. He was straight to the point and that was the extent of it."

This could be the start of new era in Jets football. Chad Pennington, who took over the starting duties in 2002, lost his job for the first time due to a coach's decision and the offensive huddle will now be led by Clemens.

"Chad is a captain, he's been the leader of this team for a long time, and I know that myself and the rest of the guys respect him and look up to him," said the new starter. "At the same time, whatever quarterback is in there needs to have a certain sense of command of the huddle and of what's going on, and I'll do my best to do that."

Earlier this season, Clemens made his NFL starting debut in Baltimore. In place of a hobbled Pennington, the Oregon product passed for 260 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens. The Jets very nearly pulled even late after falling behind by 17 points in the second half.

"We gave them a run for their money down the stretch and I just thought we had a chance," Clemens said. "It really helped my confidence going against a pretty good defense like Baltimore to know that."

The Jets were held to three points in Sunday's home loss to the Bills. After the visitors went up by 10 late in the fourth quarter, Mangini pulled Pennington in favor of Clemens. The 6'2", 223-pound signal caller was intercepted by CB Terrence McGee on his first drive and was also picked off by S George Wilson on a final-play Hail Mary.

"There are so many possibilities in the game of football — you can never experience all of them," he said. "But the important thing is that the ones that you do experience, you learn from and you try to avoid making the same mistake twice."

As November approaches, Clemens and the Jets figure to deal with harsher elements in the weeks ahead. But the former Pac-10 standout, who was raised on a 3,500-acre family ranch in Burns, Ore., is no stranger to wintry conditions.

"In Eugene it doesn't snow quite as much, but there's plenty of rain and plenty of wind as you mentioned," he told a reporter. And at Burns High, he said, "The majority of the second halves of our seasons were played in two, three inches of snow."

Mangini's Monday announcement was welcomed by Clemens. The 24-year-old heads into the practice week knowing he'll open up on that initial possession Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

"Having that vote of confidence going into the Wednesday practice here in a couple of days, it helps, it really does, especially getting ready to make a second start."

Clemens, who called Pennington a mentor and a good friend, is excited for his opportunity. He is a talented passer with a strong arm and good mobility. The Jets, losers of five straight and seven of eight overall, still have half a season to play, but Clemens is only eyeing one opponent.

"I think time will tell where we go from here. But definitely at the quarterback position, as an offense and as an entire team, right now all we're focused on is just beating the Redskins going into our bye week," he said. "That's what we want to do. We want to get that second win, and really we have tunnel vision right now."

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