The Jets didn't clarify anything about their starting quarterback situation yesterday so we don't yet know for sure if Kellen Clemens will make his first NFL start in Baltimore on Sunday. If he does that should make more than a handful of Jets fans happy. That greeted his entrance with a lusty cheer isn't so awful on its face, they were looking for something good to happen in a game that was destined for disaster. The implication of those cheers, though, is pretty awful.
Jets fans have always spent more time worrying about the things that Chad Pennington couldn't do than enjoying the things that he could do as the signal caller. There are really only two things that Chad hasn't been able to pull off in his Jets career and those are throwing deep and staying healthy. The latter is hard to give him too much grief about. It's not like his injuries have come from a lack of conditioning or a propensity to do stupid things that led to injuries. No, they've come because the Jets have often played offensive lines that couldn't block and those choices have led to brutal hits that rattled Pennington's bones until they shattered. Not every quarterback can have the durability of Brett Favre and no matter how frustrating injuries can be you can't blame a NFL player for succumbing to the maelstrom of violence that is professional football.
Not every quarterback can throw the ball like Favre either. It's important to remember how much this reason for hatred ties into the first one, though. When Pennington first came to the Jets and first entered the lineup he could throw the ball deep. It wasn't always the prettiest ball but he got it down the field. He didn't get to show off the longball all that often in Paul Hackett's right-wing offense but he had it in his arsenal. Then came the dual shoulder surgeries that forced him to adapt his game to his new physical realities. That's the thing, though, he did adapt his game.
He was a Doug Brien field goal away from beating the eventual Super Bowl champs in Pittsburgh even though he was playing with one arm. He led the Jets to 10 wins and the playoffs last season even though every other team in the league knew that the Jets couldn't throw bombs and couldn't run the ball to save their lives. Think about some other big-armed quarterbacks and ask yourself if they could have been winners without being able to throw the ball deep. Would Drew Bledsoe have ever started a game under those conditions? Maybe but he certainly wouldn't have been the winner that Pennington has been because he doesn't have the Jet quarterback's savvy and leadership abilities.
2008 was no guarantee for Pennington under the best of circumstances. Clemens looks like a player who is worth a shot in the starting lineup and no matter how intelligent a player Pennington is you need to be able to run a full complment of offensive plays. Who knows, maybe Clemens starts this weekend and spurs the Jets the way that Pennington did in 2002 and the Jets march on to the playoffs. That would be sweet and I'll root for Clemens the way I did for Rick Mirer, Ray Lucas and Brooks Bollinger. I would do it with a bit of wistfulness about the end of the line for number 10, though, because his efforts deserve no less from Jet fans.