Kellen Clemens and the New York Jets Quarterback Job He Could Never Win

Angel NavedoSenior Writer IAugust 26, 2009

It’s difficult not to feel some sorrow for Kellen Clemens and his unfortunate tenure with the New York Jets.

The young man wasn't exactly sabotaged, but his run in the NFL has been an arduous one thus far. With decks routinely stacked against him, one has to wonder where his thought process was on the day he was formally notified of his position as the backup quarterback...again.

After spending the last two seasons in what's been billed as open quarterback competitions, it would appear from some angles as if the job he’s been working to earn was intentionally kept just outside his reach.

When Mark Sanchez was drafted, there Jets-Examiner%7Ey2009m5d4-Mark-Sanchez-vs-Kellen-Clemens-the-quarterback-competition-no-one-believes" target="_blank">wasn’t much doubt surrounding the intentions for the fifth overall draft pick. The Jets were to be his team, and he would eventually receive the starting nod. Head coach Rex Ryan agreed.

Sure, there were some intriguing scenarios and compelling arguments in Clemens’ favor, but none were going to alter the future of the organization.

The Jets made sure to never invest themselves too deeply in Kellen Clemens, and that’s why the future rests in the hands of No. 6, for better or for worse.

The idea here is not to suggest that the fourth-year quarterback deserves an extensive pity party. But a little bit of sympathy can be a positive thing, no?

The writing was on the wall for Clemens the night Mike Tannenbaum completed the trade for Brett Favre in August 2008. The circus was packed and ready to come to town, and with it came an indictment on Clemens and how the Jets felt regarding their desire to grow through him.

That sentiment ultimately received an emphatic echo when Sanchez was drafted in April.

But this does not signify a complete “Woe is Clemens” scenario. For whatever reason, he could never distinguish himself from his competition when given his opportunities.

That was true against a rookie this summer, and it’s been true throughout his career.

Former head coach Eric Mangini appeared willing to hand the keys over to Clemens after benching Chad Pennington in 2007, but Clemens had to help his former coach make that decision. He didn't.

When the job was up for grabs in 2008, all reports out of training camp revolved around their pedestrian performances—nothing terrible, but nothing magnificent either. In fact, it took an undrafted free agent in Brett Ratliff to generate any kind of quarterback buzz in the pre-Favre era.

Since Favre's retirement, Clemens may have been taken for an unceremonious ride filled with false hopes and vacant nods of approval, but there was still an idea that he could be the opening day starter in 2009. But he had to do it on his own.

There are expectations that come with being a starting quarterback. Clemens found a way to do a confident quarterback impression in his dealings with the media, but he was never quite convincing enough.

He’d say the right things, but it was always tough to believe him.

Whether or not he received a fair shot at the job is inconsequential at this juncture. He was drafted as a second-round pick, which can be translated to high enough to produce but low enough to not hinge a future upon.

As far as the Jets are concerned, it appears as if all parties involved are content with the decision to go with Mark Sanchez to start the season.

While Sanchez may have very well earned the job outright, it speaks volumes about Clemens' inability to relieve everyone of any doubts.


Speculation for the Heck of It—Sound Off!

With Clemens being in the final year of his contract, there rises an interesting situation. Do the Jets let him walk or try to find immediate value for him before it's too late?

At the present, it's unreasonable to expect many teams making offers Tannenbaum can't refuse. But the preseason is young.

One of the most intriguing sidebar-worthy notes of the first two exhibition games has been the extensive look Ryan has had at Erik Ainge. All things considered, is it unreasonable to assume he’s being groomed as the immediate backup to Sanchez?

Is it too reckless to assume that the next two preseason games could be Kellen Clemens’ opportunity to audition for another team if Rex feels confident about Ainge?

There’s no five-year, $50 million deal with the Jets in Clemens’ immediate future. If all goes according to plan, Sanchez will be the face of the franchise for the next decade.

What would be the purpose of holding on to a quarterback whose contract is about to expire—especially if said quarterback believes he has starter potential?

Whatever happens next for Clemens is unknown, but in the meantime, could the Jets potentially seek value for him with a quarterback-starved team? The Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, and San Francisco 49ers immediately come to mind.

Obviously, experience is not a concern for Ryan, so keeping Clemens around under the guise of veteran tutelage, or as an insurance policy, defies logic.

The next two preseason games should determine where Clemens and Ainge fit into the Jets' plans.