(Long Island, NY) The task at hand was not an easy one, and no one should have expected anything spectacular out of a second-year quarterback versus a 9-1 team on the road. But Kellen Clemens played on Thanksgiving Day as if he wanted to rush home before the food got cold.
The Dallas Cowboys made quick work of Clemens and the rest of the New York Jets, 34-3, on a day made for feasts, accept that Gang Green wasn’t told they were the main course. Dallas scored on their first possession and never looked back, beating the Jets in every facet of the game.
The bottom line for a starting quarterback in the National Football League is getting your team in the endzone. On Thursday in ‘Big D,’ the closest Clemens brought his team was a fourth-down completion to
tight end Chris Baker to the 1-yard line. Their only points on the day came on a second-quarter 40-yard field goal by Mike Nugent.
How bad was the Jets’ offense? Heading into the fourth quarter and the Cowboys already leading by three touchdowns, the Jets had only 122 total yards. They did not get passed mid-field until there were only four minutes left in the first half. In their 13 possessions, only two went for more than four plays. On the imperative third and fourth down plays, they went 3-for-16. Need more proof? They had nearly the same amount of punts (eight) than first downs (nine).
On the day, Clemens finished 12 for 27 for 142 yards with one interception, which was returned 50 yards for a score by Terence Newman. The Jets’ defense actually played a decent game and for the most part had a ‘bend not break’ type of performance, but the offense was so bad that it made little difference.
Since taking over in Week 9, Clemens is 1-2, with the other loss being a 23-20 decision in overtime against the Redskins at home. The lone victory came last week, also at the Meadowlands, with a shocking 19-16 win versus Pittsburgh.
The question that will be asked the last five weeks of the season is if Clemens is the Jets’ long-term solution at quarterback. Prior to the Dallas game, it seemed that he was gaining confidence and explained that during the week leading up to the game.
“Just experience,” he said. “Every snap helps for a guy that has limited snaps. Fortunately, I have a seasoned veteran in Chad Pennington who is very instrumental in my development. He’s always there to give advice or be a sounding board for different thoughts that I have and he’s been awesome.”
Pennington lost his job to Clemens and has been the consummate professional in preparing his former under-study for the starting role. “I don’t think it will be hard at all,” Pennington said in October shortly after being informed that he would not be starting. “I’ve had a great mentor in Vinny Testaverde and I was on the other side of this situation in 2002.
“That’s most important to me right now that I don’t change for my team,” he continued. “I don’t change for my teammates, that they see the same person, the same Chad Pennington day-in and day-out no matter what the circumstance is.”
Right now, the circumstance is that Clemens needs to show something more to allow the Jets to draft on the defensive side of the ball in the first round, a more pressing need. His statistics are mediocre at
best, with a 49.1 completion percentage (78 for 159), 892 yards, 3 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, with a QB rating of 56.9. For all the talk about his arm strength being a plus over Pennington, Clemens is averaging 5.6 yards per completion as opposed to the former’s 6.9 yards.
By the time the regular season finale against Kansas City is complete, the Jets will have a better idea if they will be looking at the likes of Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm or LSU defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey come April. Having to draft a quarterback will set the organization back a few years, but may be necessary.