JETS' COMPETITION A REAL FLIP OF COIN
By MARK CANNIZZARO
August 23, 2006 -- All right. We know Chad Pennington is the Jets' starting quarterback. The competition for that job is over.
Sure, Eric Mangini has not confirmed it yet, but Mangini won't confirm that the sun will rise tomorrow morning, either, so we'll go by what we've seen, which is a complete dominance of the competition in practice and in games played by Pennington.
Now the quarterback question with the Jets is this: Who's going to back up Pennington?
That, based on the fact Pennington is seeking to complete his first 16-game season without injury in four years of play, makes the backup spot a rather critical one for the Jets.
Based on salary and experience, you would think Patrick Ramsey would be the logical answer as Pennington's backup.
The problem there is this: Other than showing he has a pretty strong arm, Ramsey hasn't really distinguished himself in practices or in game play. Despite his 6-of-9 passing for 33 yards against the Redskins on Saturday, Ramsey's performance was nondescript.
He doesn't really seem to provide much, if any, spark to the offense the way Pennington does, the way rookie Kellen Clemens has in his brief outings, or the way Brooks Bollinger has.
Bollinger, who played the bulk of the 2005 season, seemed to move the team with more fire than Ramsey did. In fairness, Ramsey was playing against the Redskins' first-team defense. However, Bollinger was playing with the Jets' second-and third-team players around him.
If Mangini sees enough in Clemens, the coach doesn't appear to be adverse to having a rookie back up his starter.
Asked yesterday if salary (Ramsey was given a one-year contract extension as camp began) would dictate who the backup will be, Mangini said, "It's just going to be the best players who are going to play regardless of salary, what other issues are."
Asked if he's opposed to having a rookie backup QB, Mangini said, "The best player should play. I've seen lot of rookies go in and be very successful. If they give you the best chance to win then they should be in there."
Clemens, a second-round pick, is going to make the team. The only question is whether he's the No. 3 who waits, watches and learns in his first year or whether he's good enough now to be the No. 2.
The most compelling decision Mangini is going to have to make is who stays between Ramsey, for whom the Jets traded a sixth-round draft pick in the offseason, or Bollinger.
Cutting Ramsey would be a rather bold move considering he has the most NFL experience among the three. But if he hasn't played as well as Clemens and Bollinger, then why keep him?
If the Jets play it safe and opt to keep Ramsey, they should try to get something in a trade for Bollinger, who's a commodity of at least some value based on the way he played last season under such duress.
The Colts just lost their backup to injury. Tampa Bay QB coach Paul Hackett (remember him?) is known to like Bollinger.
For Bollinger, he said after Saturday's game he wants to remain in New York "to help make this team better," but he knows the final decision is not in his control.
Asked if he felt he made a positive impression against the Redskins, at one point leading the team on a 24-play drive that took nearly 12 minutes, "That's for the people evaluating me to decide."
Asked if it's stressful not knowing his role or whether he'll even have a job, Bollinger said, "That's the way it is in this league, you always have 15 people evaluating everything you do every day. If you get caught up in that (competition), you're handicapping yourself and making it difficult on yourself.
"You can't control that. I'm happy to be a Jet right now. I'm doing everything I can to make this team better and hopefully it works out."
Clemens, who's married, seems to have a pretty level head about things. He's conducted himself in a manner which seems mature beyond his years.
"I've got a lot of things to learn: Trying to understand the rules of the league, the way you play in the NFL, the way you conduct yourself as a professional football player, learning the offense, getting to know the guys," he said. "As far as the competition, that'll all take care of itself."