FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The future is now for the new face of the New York Jets, Mark Sanchez.
First-year coach Rex Ryan announced Wednesday that he had selected Sanchez to be the team's starting quarterback, making him the first rookie scheduled to open a season under center for the Jets.
"This comes with a lot of responsibility," Sanchez said. "As happy as I am, I know that this is just the beginning, and I'm just excited, really excited to get to play with such great players."
Sanchez, the fifth overall draft pick out of USC, beat out Kellen Clemens for the job and will make his regular-season debut Sept. 13 at Houston.
"This is something I've always wanted to do, and dreams are coming true now," Sanchez said. "It's a special opportunity."
Ryan, who made the announcement after practice, said early in training camp that he'd like to make a decision on a starter by the Jets' third preseason game, which comes Saturday night against the New York Giants.
"I think Mark gives us the best opportunity to win," Ryan said, "and I think that's what I owe this franchise."
Sanchez replaces Brett Favre as the starter after generally showing poise and solid decision-making skills during training camp.
Ryan met with Sanchez and Clemens on Wednesday morning and told them of his choice.
"I'm glad the decision was made earlier rather than later," said Clemens, who added he believed the competition was fair.
The last time a rookie started a season for the franchise was in 1960, when Dick Jamieson quarterbacked the then-Titans. Joe Namath didn't start until the third game of his rookie season in 1965. Matt Robinson was the last rookie quarterback to start a game for the Jets in 1977.
"I feel very comfortable and confident in my decision," Ryan said.
Sanchez won't have an easy welcome to the NFL, though, facing a tough Texans defense in the opener, followed by home games against the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans.
Sanchez struggled early in his start at Baltimore in a preseason game Monday night, but he threw a touchdown pass to Leon Washington to cap his final series. Sanchez was 3 of 8 passing for 43 yards and had an interception -- his first pass of the game -- returned for a touchdown.
"I think it's not about just one game, and I think that defense, I'm not making excuses here, but they're a great group," Sanchez said. "They make veteran quarterbacks look silly out there. It wasn't my best game, that's for sure. Do I need to improve? Absolutely."
Clemens was 5 of 10 for 60 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens, but he also had an interception returned for a score. Entering his fourth season with the Jets after being a second-round pick out of Oregon in 2006, Clemens also had a solid but unspectacular camp and threw 12 interceptions compared to the rookie's five during practices.
"I'm disappointed overall because I think I left some plays out there that I should've made, both in practice and in the games," Clemens said. "It's Mark's job, and I'll support him moving forward."
It was the third quarterback competition for Clemens, once considered the team's future QB, but he lost out to Chad Pennington in 2006, Favre last summer and now Sanchez.
"Each competition is different," Clemens said, "but it never feels good to be the guy who'll be holding the clipboard on Sept. 13."
Clemens, a free agent after this season, said he believes he can start in the NFL -- whether it's in New York or elsewhere.
"It's a bump in the road," he said. "It's not the end of the road."
The Jets traded up in the draft to acquire the fifth overall pick from the Cleveland Browns. Just a few weeks later, the Jets signed Sanchez to a five-year deal that could be worth up to $60 million, including $28 million guaranteed.
Sanchez already was being touted as the new face of the franchise, and it appeared it was his job to lose after that. Clemens didn't help his cause by being just as good as the rookie but not clearly better than him.
It was expected if the competition was close, the organization would move forward with Sanchez. Ryan made it clear after the team drafted Sanchez that he wouldn't be afraid to start a rookie quarterback, particularly after watching Joe Flacco lead the Ravens to the AFC Championship Game last season.
"At the end of the day, I'm going to rely on my instincts, just a gut feeling that I had," Ryan said.