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Clemens gets start for Jets against Redskins

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Eric Mangini summoned Chad Pennington
into his office and broke the news that the New York Jets have a
new starting quarterback.

It's Kellen Clemens' turn to see if he can turn around the
season.

"Coach made it clear that I'm not the villain here,"
Pennington said Monday. "And I'm not the only one to blame for the
lack of our success or our problems, but he did feel like Kellen
deserved a chance."

Mangini's announcement Monday that he's going with Clemens as
his starter for Sunday's game against Washington wasn't a huge
surprise. It's a move fans and media have been suggesting for weeks
as the Jets have struggled to a 1-7 start.

"I made this decision not based on singling out Chad for where
we are, but based on the fact that I think Kellen has earned this
opportunity," Mangini said. "I want to give him this opportunity.
It's in no way an indication that Chad is solely responsible. We
all are."

The 31-year-old Pennington, in his eighth season, has failed to
move the offense effectively as the Jets have lost five straight
and rank 30th in total offense; only Buffalo and San Francisco are
worse.

"When your team is struggling, people look for answers and
coaches have to look for answers and sometimes the first position
that is looked at is the quarterback position," Pennington said.
"I understand that."

Clemens, in his second season out of Oregon, replaced an
ineffective Pennington late Sunday in the Jets' 13-3 loss to
Buffalo. His entrance was cheered by those remaining at Giants
Stadium, the same fans who booed Pennington when he failed to move
the offense early in the game. Clemens was just 5-of-12 for 67
yards and two interceptions, but one of those came on a desperation
toss as time expired.

"It's exciting to have the opportunity and I'm looking forward
to the chance to play," Clemens said. "At the same time, there's
a losing streak right now that this entire team needs to work hard
to turn around."

After waiting until last Wednesday to keep Pennington as the
starter, Mangini didn't need the extra time to make his choice this
week. Mangini called each quarterback into his office separately
and told them of his decision.

"He expressed, I guess, his confidence in me based on my
preparation in weeks past and that was it," Clemens said.

Clemens has a much stronger arm than Pennington and is more
mobile, perhaps able to add a few more elements to the offense than
the veteran could. Although Mangini wouldn't commit to Clemens
beyond this weekend, the 2006 second-round pick will be under
center Sunday against Washington for his second NFL start.

"We're focused on the Redskins and he's going to be the starter
for the Redskins game," Mangini said.

If Clemens holds on to the starting job, it's possible
Pennington has taken his last snap with the Jets. He'll be a highly
paid backup with a questionable arm after restructuring his
contract in March 2006 to help relieve salary cap issues for the
team, but he's due big money in the next few seasons. Pennington,
whose contract runs through 2010, is due a $4.8 million base salary
next season.

"It's not fair to my teammates in that locker room that I
discuss my future with this organization or with another team,"
Pennington said. "They're working extremely hard to just get a
win. We just want to get that winning feeling back."

Clemens' first start came in Week 2, when he stepped in for an
injured Pennington and nearly led the Jets to a fourth-quarter
comeback at Baltimore.

"Getting your first start out of the way I think is pretty
big," Clemens said. "So now going into what will be my second
start, I feel a lot better, a lot more confident."

The Jets have a bye week after Sunday, and it would seem highly
unlikely that Mangini would go back to Pennington in what has now
become an opportunity for the team to see what they have for the
future.

"We're 1-7, so we're trying to do anything possible to get a
win," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "He let us know that
this wasn't the only change, so there will be other changes. It's
the one that gets the most attention."

Pennington, one of the Jets' most respected and well-liked
players, was having a disappointing season after overcoming
consecutive rotator cuff operations and winning the NFL's Comeback
Player of the Year award.

"By all medical accounts, I'm not supposed to be talking to you
right now," Pennington said. "I shouldn't even be playing this
game, so I take great pride in the fact that I've been able to
overcome shoulder surgeries and play at a high level."

The second-most accurate passer in NFL history has thrown for
1,317 yards and nine touchdowns in seven games, but has seven
interceptions -- including three that sealed losses.

"I'm disappointed and it's a frustrating time for me,"
Pennington said. "At the same time, it's not about me. It's about
our team and our team moving forward and I understand that."