FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- For Kellen Clemens, the good news is that he has a "pretty strong chance" of making the New York Jets' roster, according to coach Rex Ryan. The not-so-good news is that it would be as the No. 3 quarterback.
Clemens began training camp thinking he'd be competing with newcomer Mark Brunell for the No. 2 job, but he never got that chance -- and it bothered him so much that he needed a private meeting with Ryan to clear the air, Clemens revealed Monday.
"That was a situation where I had to visit with Rex behind closed doors, and try to get a better understanding," Clemens said. "I was under a different impression coming in."
At the start of camp, Ryan said he was leaning toward Brunell as the No. 2, but he made Clemens think it was an open competition. A few days later, Ryan indicated the job belonged to Brunell, which hit Clemens so hard that it knocked him into a funk for four or five days.
"And it showed in my play," Clemens said.
The fifth-year backup has responded nicely, calling this "my best preseason ever." His numbers don't jump off the page (11-for-16, 116 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions), but you could make the argument that he has been the Jets' most efficient quarterback. Brunell has led the offense to only one first down in seven possessions.
Chances are, Clemens will see extensive action in the final preseason game, Thursday night in Philadelphia. Ryan, planning to rest his starters, indicated that Clemens isn't in a make-or-break situation. Ah, but there could be another factor that ultimately determines Clemens' fate:
Clemens is due to make $1.1 million, a hefty salary for a third-string quarterback. His competition, Kevin O'Connell, is scheduled for $470,000. Even Clemens acknowledged that finances could play a factor in the team's decision.
If the Jets really want Clemens on the roster, they could approach him in the coming days, requesting a pay cut. If he balks, adios. They also could look to trade Clemens, who has been on the trading block since before the draft in April.
Through it all, Clemens has maintained a positive outlook -- at least publicly. Told of Ryan's quasi-vote of confidence -- his "pretty strong chance" -- Clemens replied, "Score!"
Then he remembered the past few years, and the upheaval at the quarterback position.
"History has proven there's always a surprise or two that can happen," he said.