Although the Jets locker room was typically empty on Monday afternoon, the entire building was buzzing with reactions to head coach Eric Mangini's decision to start quarterback Kellen Clemens this weekend against the Redskins.
Mangini announced at the top of his weekly Monday afternoon news conference that quarterback Chad Pennington was relieved of his starting duties less than 24 hours after the Jets' seventh loss of the season against the Bills.
Members of the Jets squad — who were briefed of the decision in the morning team meeting — had plenty to say about the news of their offensive renovation.
"I'm confident that whichever quarterback is out there will go out and do what they need to do, whether it's Kellen or Chad," said running back Thomas Jones. "I think Chad is a great quarterback. He is the leader of this team; he has been here for a long time. A lot of guys respect him, his work ethic and what he brings to the table."
While Jones has only played in seven regular-season games alongside Pennington, wide receiver Laveranues Coles could possibly be the quarterback's closest teammate.
"It's difficult because I'm great friends with Chad, but I think he is handling it very well," Coles said. "I haven't had time to talk with him about it personally and privately, so again right now I'm just waiting to see how he feels and what he thinks about it.
"The main thing is how he feels," added Coles. "So I'm going to pretty much feel the way he feels. If he's cool with it, I'm cool with it."
The relationship between Coles and Pennington has been highly publicized since both players were chosen by the Jets in the 2000 draft (Pennington 18th overall, Coles 78th). Their friendship off the field has brought with it tremendous chemistry on the field. Pennington has connected on 18 of his 80 career touchdown passes with Coles, more than he has with any other receiver.
Pennington's other favorite receiver, Jerricho Cotchery, feels that with the change on the field, the QB won't change much off, and neither will the team's belief in the eighth-year veteran.
"He's still our leader, he's still the captain of this team and we still expect him to be the same guy each and every day," Cotchery said.
"Hopefully he understands that the guys in this locker room still love him and care about him and think the best of him," Coles said. "It's just something that we can't control."
Even with his friend seeing time on the bench this weekend against Washington, Coles shouldn't have any trouble adjusting to Clemens.
Coles and the rest of the offense were able to gain some familiarity with Clemens earlier this season when the second-year QB started for an injured Pennington in Week 2 at Baltimore. And Coles has seen an abundance of different quarterbacks throughout his career, including five different arms in the 2005 season alone.
"It varies from quarterback to quarterback. You can't say," Coles said of how soon his teammates will be able to gain comfort with Clemens' live arm halfway through the season. "Sometimes it could be immediately, sometimes it could take weeks. You never know. We'll find out, but not till we actually get into it."
But first things first. It has been a daily message from this locker room that for the Jets offense to click, it's going to have to come one day at a time.
Clemens' work most of this regular season has been with the show team, meaning he has had very limited reps with the first offense.
"Most of his reps have been with the show team, but now that we will start taking more reps with him, we'll be able to get a better feel for him," Coles explained. "So we'll see how everything translates on the field for him."
Jones' view of the young QB's character sounds very similar to his view of the Jets' previous starting quarterback —a very good sign for the Jets' offense and their fans.
"He is a natural leader," Jones said of Clemens. "When he comes into the huddle he has a presence. He is a smart guy. He knows the offense really well. He is one of those guys that is over here all the time in the playbook and watching film."
"We are going to be behind him 100 percent and making sure we are doing our part to make his job easier."