Quite the historic day at Florham Park, as Mark Sanchez was officially named starter for the upcoming 2009 season. It’s always been my personal point of view that Sanchez would get the nod over Kellen Clemens. The winds were aligned for the rookie.
Rex Ryan had personally witnessed a rookie signal-caller lead the Ravens to the AFC Championship. Matt Ryan had just enjoyed an incredible inaugural campaign quarterbacking the Atlanta Falcons. And Clemens had been defeated before by Chad Pennington, and never really established himself in the regular season when given the opportunity. Yet, after spending time in Cortland, I was nearly swayed from my original position.
The most convincing argument I heard regarding Clemens’ candidacy rested in his experience within the system conceived by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, a variable admittedly overlooked from my perch.
When a passer is locked in with his coordinator, it engenders an on-field rhythm that could put an opposing defense on its heels. So as training camp unfolded, the idea of Clemens starting became less of an impossibility to me.
But, with the Ravens running complicated defenses seldom seen in preseason, Clemens’ flaws remained apparent, and while Mark Sanchez struggled, he showed enough fortitude to be trusted with a potential playoff team that will rely heavily on it’s rushing attack.
Simply put, considering his immersion in the playbook, Clemens should have appeared decisively superior compared to a talented, but green first-rounder. Instead, he was still plagued by questionable decision-making and a shaky pocket presence.
The dog days of August are coming to a close, narrowing those dreamlike possibilities accompanying balmy weather and pad-free practices. Reality must be dealt with, and the Jets will play their hand with Mark Sanchez, now and in the future.
Now it’s on you, kid
Current roster composition aside, in the extreme short-term, this Jet team would probably be best suited with a caretaker Q.B. able to limit turnovers and manage the game effectively. Kellen Clemens has shown hints of his gifts before, a rocket arm particularly, but he and consistency have never been on good terms. This is a major reason why Sanchez was able to claim the job. When your fourth-year guy is making rookie mistakes, you may as well cast your lot with the freshman. Common sense. But now it’s on Sanchez to learn from his preseason errors against the Ravens, to acclimate himself to the high-speed, controlled chaos ruling the pro gridiron. The linebackers are quicker and can make plays on the ball. The defensive-backs are more intelligent. Hell, even the D-lineman can break a game, as Haloti Ngata exhibited just a few days ago. For this Jet team to be successful, Sanchez doesn’t have to be Joe Namath, a Brad Johnson imitation will be fine for now.
Reactions were varied and plentiful from the Sanchez news.
Kellen Clemens was disappointed, but supportive. “As far as myself and my reaction, I’m disappointed overall because I think I left some plays out there that I should have made, both in practice and during the games,” said Clemens. “Going forward it is Mark’s job and I’ll support him. I’ll be an extra set of eyes for him on the sideline. I’ll be more than ready if I am called upon.”
Kerry Rhodes was optimistic, stating his point of view quite reasonably. “We believe in him, everybody does. The coaching staff believes in him. They made the decision. The players are behind him as well. We think we have something special with him. He has to go out and get it done on Sundays but from what we see, we have a lot of confidence in him. Sure he is going to have some mistakes but we are going to try to limit that. We have the best O-line in the game and pretty good runners and skill players. We’re not going to put it all on him. He is going to have the chance to hand the ball off. With the way our running game is going to be this year he is going to have easy reads. He shouldn’t have too many opportunities for mistakes.”
Jerricho Cotchery trusts the coaching staff. “We were going to leave that up to the coaches no matter what [the QB decision]. I didn’t know how the quarterback battle was going to go at the time. I knew both guys had been performing well. It was going to be up to the coach to make that decision. All of us in here felt the same way. We knew it was a pretty close battle and that the coaches were going to make the best decision for this team.”
Rex Ryan trusts his gut. “I’ve relied on a lot of people, but more than anything I relied on myself, my instincts as a coach,” said the first-year coach. “I’ve been around this game a long time and feel that the best move for our franchise and for our team is to go with Mark as our quarterback… right now Mark gives us the best opportunity to win.”
News department, non-QB division
The New York Jets waived free agent offensive tackle Tavita Thompson. He started at left tackle as a Junior and Senior at Oregon State.
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