By Joseph Grinwis
Somewhere over the past year, Jets fans have forgotten what Kellen Clemens brought to the table in 2007.
The Jets were 1-7 (including a Week 2 loss in Baltimore in which Clemens started) when then Head Coach Eric Mangini handed the reigns over to the second year pro. Clemens posted a 3-4 record in the second half of the season, missing one start due to an injury that knocked him out of the New England game in Foxborough, after his first pass attempt. Clemens would get credit for the loss as he left when it was 7-0 New England.
His stats weren’t sexy in his eight combined starts (3-5 record, 125-240, 1494 yards, 5 TD’s and 10 INT’s) but neither was his supporting cast. Two Offensive Lineman that are no longer in the NFL, LG Adrien Clarke and RT Anthony Clement were in charge of keeping him upright and even though Clemens was elusive and was able to make plays with his feet he was still sacked 26 times in his eight starts.
Clarke and Clement were also main reasons why the Jets gave their, at the time, fancy new acquisition at Running Back, Thomas Jones, no room to run. Jones ran for 1119 yards but had just a 3.6 yards per carry average and one rushing touchdown.
The Jets upgraded the line for the 2008 season with All Pro LG Alan Faneca and RT Damien Woody and Jones led the AFC in rushing with 1312 yards, had a 4.5 yards per carry average and 13 rushing touchdowns. Big difference. Would’ve loved to see Clemens with that kind of running game.
Another disadvantage Clemens had was the fact that the Jets number one Wide Receiver, Laveranues Coles, did not play in four of Clemens’ eight starts and in another was only in for one series.
The Jets defense was falling apart as well. NT Dewayne Robertson could not handle being a 34 man in the middle and the Jets had zero pass rush coming from the outside. The defense couldn’t get off the field, keeping Clemens on the sidelines, often asking him to come from behind.
Today I will go as far as to tell you that I believe if Kellen Clemens had been the starting Quarterback for the New York Jets in 2008 we would’ve been talking about a playoff game in East Rutherford, Miami or New England back in the first weekend of January.
Brett Favre, in the end, was only a great addition for Woody Johnson. We the fans, a lot of us, thought that his addition would be the one to put us over the top. We were wrong. Favre was in a new system, new teammates, new coaches and only three weeks to learn everything before the Regular Season kicked off. The Jets started strong, as did Favre, but both faded into the December night. Would’ve Clemens, in his third year in the system, been the same? Maybe, but I don’t think so.
Now you have people calling for Clemens’ head and saying that Preseason and Practice Squad Hero, Brett Ratliff, should get the job. That in a word is ridiculous. Ratliff, other than throwing a couple of nice deep balls to David Clowney against, no offense, a bunch of third stringers, has proven absolutely nothing in the NFL. Clemens on the other hand went 3-5 on a team that finished 4-12, a team that went 1-7 with 2x Comeback Play Of The Year, Chad Pennington, who was once given a $64 million contract by the New York Jets.
I’m not saying Clemens is better than Pennington or that he’s even going to be an effective Quarterback at all. But for those wanting to give Ratliff a “fair shot” or a “chance”, how about the man your team spent a second round draft pick on back in April 2006 and has shown nothing but promise? The man that really didn’t have a “fair chance” in his first go around?
He gets bashed for the interceptions, and yes he threw his fair share in 2007, but again, those were his first eight starts in the NFL against defenses and teams led by such coaches as Rex Ryan, Bill Belichick and Dick LeBeau. The supporting cast around him was hurt or missing valuable pieces. And yet he stood in that pocket (when there was a pocket) and made impressive throws time after time after time. He eluded pressure, the sack total of 26 when he was starting would’ve been 35-40 if it weren’t for his movement.
He has the arm strength, he has the legs, he has all the tools and yet fans want to pass him by because he wasn’t Joe Montana in his first eight starts on a team that was in shambles? I’m sorry but that is foolish and the problem with the NFL today. If you aren’t great in your first season, you’re automatically garbage in the minds of most fans. It’s a shame to see it, but that is the truth. Eight games is not enough to make a evaluation on a player, ESPECIALLY a Quarterback.
All I’m asking for, is please, lets just give Kellen Clemens a chance. A real chance.