The suspense ended quickly as "Bills Week" began in earnest Wednesday at Weeb Ewbank Hall. New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini, who usually waits until the last minute (if at all) to announce personnel moves, named Chad Pennington his starting quarterback for Sunday's game against Buffalo at the Meadowlands.
"I play to help us win, so this week is business as usual," said Pennington, who will make his seventh start of the season. "I feel comfortable with the way I'm playing. I feel comfortable with how I'm trying to help us win and lead this team. I feel good about it."
And so does his coach. Two days after not committing on a quarterback, Mangini talked about the quality decision-making Pennington displayed Sunday in Cincinnati. Against the Bengals, Penny completed 20 of 31 passes for 272 yards with three touchdowns — including a 57-yarder to Laveranues Coles that traveled more than 50 yards in the air from Pennington's hand to Coles' hands — and one interception.
"There are a lot of really good things that he did on Sunday. There are a bunch of checks that he got us in and out of," Mangini said. "There were a bunch of plays that he made because of the things that he understands within the offense. That really is helpful with whoever you face, the ability to get in and out of plays."
While Pennington remains the starter this week, Mangini declined to give a timetable on how long the eight-year veteran would be his quarterback. The Marshall alum, who admitted to allowing too many things bother him as a young player, is now more focused internally.
"I just focus on me and what I can do, what I bring to the table. That's all I can control," he said. "I didn't understand that when I was a young player. I thought I could control everything. Now I've been taught and have learned that I can't control anything but me, how I play and how I perform."
Interestingly, the locker room response was rather matter-of-fact about the verdict.
"I didn't know he hadn't named him the starter," said WR Laveranues Coles. "When did he not make him the starter?"
Jerricho Cotchery, Coles' receiving partner and good friend, said it wouldn't have been a big reaction if the QB outcome was different.
"Coach is going to make the best decisions to try to get us a win," Cotchery said. "We try to do what we can to go out there and execute the game plan and do different things."
Safety Kerry Rhodes, a defensive spokesman, said the team was behind Pennington.
"We have to play better all around the ball — it's not just at quarterback position. The QB gets the credit if we win and he gets the heat if we lose, so it just comes with the position," he said. "We have to play a lot better on D and we have to do things better on special teams and basically all around. If we do things better, we'll help him out."
The quarterback announcement means Kellen Clemens will again be relegated to backup duty. Clemens, the second-year pro who played well in his first career start at Baltimore in Week 2 in place of an injured Pennington, will continue to prepare like he'll play.
"I absolutely support Chad 100 percent. I know this team does," he said. "He is a great player, a great competitor, and he is a dang good teammate. We're all behind him. It's important for us to get this win this week."
At least for this week, the quarterback evaluation is complete. Pennington, an accurate passer with a 67.6 completion percentage and an 88.6 passer rating, said nobody in the locker room had "solidified" his position after the team's 1-6 start.
"One thing about Coach, he doesn't treat anyone differently. He evaluates everyone the same," Pennington said. "On Sunday he came out and said, 'I'm going to evaluate every position.' I didn't really expect anything different from him. He's always been consistent in that. He's never played favorites. He has never treated a quarterback differently than a defensive lineman or any other position."