EDITOR'S NOTE: Joseph Hoffman posted a great article on the forums about Jimmy Clausen, and why the hatred toward him is completely unfounded. He granted me permission to post his article on the site.
The original title of this article was "Jimmy Clausen Raped My Mother and Killed My Father," but I didn't want Google picking up anything like that and putting it into its search engine. Plus, it's always good to get a South Park reference in. Damn alien wizards causing sexual addiction.
At any rate, as blue5213 indicated, if you're in the "too long; didn't read" crowd, scroll down to the "in conclusion" portion of this article.
To be perfectly honest, I don't expect to convince anyone. At this point, if you still aren't a Jimmy Clausen fan, you just have some irrational hatred either for him personally or for Notre Dame, because there is no logical reason not to have him as a top-10 player in the 2010 NFL Draft and easily the most sure-fire quarterback in the class. Really, I just want one post to point to that says "You're stupid" whenever I read the same, tired, dumb arguments for why Clausen doesn't deserve a first-round grade.
Let's begin with the situation he was in during his college years. He comes from a pro-style offense, which gives him some big points right off the bat. He was coached by Charlie Weis, who is easily one of the most highly respected quarterback coaches and offensive minds in the NFL, let alone college.
Let's discuss Clausen's running game, or lack thereof. Consider the following facts:
Clausen never shared a backfield with a 1,000-yard rusher.
No running back eclipsed 700 rushing yards while Clausen was at Notre Dame.
No running back had a run longer than 27 yards during Clausen's final two years at Notre Dame.
No running back topped five rushing touchdowns during Clausen's career.
The team as a whole never scored more than 13 rushing touchdowns.
Non-quarterbacks never accounted for more than 11 touchdowns in a season.
Clausen's running game (excluding quarterbacks) averaged 3.56, 3.57, and 4.8 YPC during his career.
Personally, I don't think it's a coincidence the running game miraculously took off just as Clausen had one of the best seasons by a junior quarterback in NCAA history.
Let's discuss Clausen's horrid offensive line:
Clausen's offensive line gave up a school-record 58 sacks in 2007.
At least three members of that offensive line were still starting his junior year.
Clausen had three different left tackles and three different centers over his collegiate career.
Barring some front office's idiocy, two of those left tackles will never play a down in the NFL, let alone be drafted, and the third (Sam Young) was not only moved to the right side after Clausen's freshman season, but will almost assuredly be a Day 3 pick at the earliest.
Given the offensive line's production throughout Clausen's career, it is HIGHLY unlikely that Chris Stewart or Dan Wenger will be drafted earlier than the fifth round, giving Eric Olsen the chance to be the highest-drafted offensive lineman of Clausen's tenure at around the third or fourth round. Trevor Robinson at right guard may have that honor in a year or two, but, he's still a guard.
Thus, we can rather safely say that Clausen had little to no talent on his offensive line. There will be video evidence of this offensive line - one that was starting four seniors - getting completely abused later on in this article to further hammer home the point.
At the skill positions, Clausen had a substantial amount of talent - but that talent was constantly hurt. Consider the following points:
When Clausen was a freshman, Duval Kamara broke school receiving records for a freshman. Of the top six receivers on that 2007 team, three have gone/will go undrafted (Robby Parris, David Givens, and George West), one was a true freshman running back (Armando Allen), while the top receiver was tight end John Carlson.
As a sophomore, Clausen had true freshmen starting at tight end and wide receiver, while a pair of true sophomores started at the other receiver spot and at running back. Michael Floyd shattered Kamara's records despite missing three games.
As a junior, Floyd missed five games (during which Notre Dame was 4-1). Kyle Rudolph missed three games (all of which Notre Dame lost), and the likely undrafted Robby Parris was fifth on the team in catches and (for all intents and purposes) started in place of Floyd.
In all, Floyd missed eight of the 25 games (a third, for those of you who can't count) in which both he and Clausen were Domers. During the 2009 season, by far Clausen's best as a college player, Floyd and Rudolph were on the field together for four games.
Having said all this, let it be established that Clausen did not have a substantially good supporting cast around him - and even at the positions where he had talent, those players were either extremely young and inexperienced, or injured. His production in spite of this should speak for itself.
But, just to really hammer home the point, let's look at some other quarterbacks with stellar supporting casts who were high draft picks:
Matt Leinart: Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, Winston Justice, Deuce Lutui, Ryan Kalil, Mike Williams, Lofa Tatupu, Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson - these are just the players selected in the first two rounds of the 2005-2007 NFL Drafts.
Mark Sanchez: Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, Rey Maualuga and Fili Moala all went in the first two rounds in the 2009 NFL Draft. Patrick Turner was also selected in the third round. Damian Williams, Kris O'Dowd, Everson Griffen, Taylor Mays and Charles Brown all stand very good chances of being no later than second-round picks.
Matthew Stafford: Knowshon Moreno, Mohammed Massaquoi, Asher Allen and Corey Irvin were all selected in the first three rounds of the 2009 NFL Draft.
JaMarcus Russell: LaRon Landry, Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis went in the first round of the same draft as Russell. Glenn Dorsey, Early Doucet, Jacob Hester and Chevis Jackson were all selected in the first three rounds of the 2008 NFL Draft.
Why did these four get passes for TONS of talent around them, while Clausen gets trashed repeatedly because of a supposedly elite receiver group? Russell had two first-round picks at receiver the same year he came out and still went No. 1 overall! All three of the other quarterbacks had at least a third-round pick at receiver the exact same year they declared for the NFL Draft, as well.
Now, for Clausen's actual performance. We're talking 34 career starts in his career, along with an additional six attempts against Georgia Tech in the 2007 season opener. In those 34 starts, Clausen threw for:
At least 240 yards 18 times.
More than 300 yards 10 times.
Greater than 400 yards 3 times.
Three-plus touchdowns 10 times (seven of which came in his first 22 starts - his freshman and sophomore seasons).
At least one touchdown in 13 consecutive games.
At least 246 yards in 13 of his last 15 games, including a current streak of eight straight games.
Clausen has completed at least 70 percent of his passes nine times (min. 18 attempts), including twice with 40-plus passing attempts. He has also thrown more touchdowns than incompletions twice in his career.
Let's compare those stats to his interception numbers. Clausen has had eight multiple-interception games. He has not had more than one interception in a game since Nov. 29, 2008, giving him a 13-game streak of having one or fewer interceptions per contest. He has not had a multiple-interception home game since Sept. 13, 2008, a stretch of 11 games; during that period, he has thrown two interceptions in true home games.
Let's look at Clausen's overall performance. Since his freshman year, his quarterback rating has improved by a whopping 29 points every season (103.85 to 132.49 to 161.43). Keep in mind that Clausen was not given a redshirt at any point during his career; these are true freshman/sophomore/junior numbers.
To put Clausen's performance in perspective, his true sophomore numbers are roughly the same or better than Matt Ryan's senior season in every category except sacks (dead even at 21), attempts (Ryan had roughly 200 more), total passing yardage (Ryan had 700-plus yards more than any other pro-style quarterback drafted in the first round since 2004), and touchdowns (Ryan had 6 more TDs than Clausen). Yes, Clausen had fewer interceptions, a better completion percentage and more yards per attempt as a true sophomore than Ryan, the senior, No. 3 overall pick in 2008.
If nothing else, this ought to show Clausen's coachibility; he notably improved every season in college, and actually outperformed a senior top-five pick, which should quiet the strange murmurs that he was a "one-year wonder" (which, naturally, didn't hurt Mark Sanchez any, even though Clausen outperformed Sanchez in every statistical category except touchdowns, of which he had six fewer in one less game - a nearly insignificant difference when one realizes Sanchez had four touchdowns in that final game).
Clausen's junior year performance hardly needs to be put in better perspective than WalterFootball.com already has, but just to drill home the point, Clausen's stats across the board are tied for fourth-best amongst the 10 pro-style quarterbacks selected in the first round since 2004.
Clausen is first in fewest interceptions with half as many picks as the next-best quarterbacks, and is 2.9 percent more accurate than the third-most accurate quarterback out of that group, Aaron Rodgers (JaMarcus Russell, hilariously enough, is the only guy in Clausen's time zone in this regard with a 67.8 completion percentage).
Only three of these quarterbacks threw more touchdowns than Clausen in their final seasons - Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez, and Brady Quinn - one of whom actually tied Clausen for third if we only take the regular season into account (Ryan), even granting Ryan the 13th (ACC Championship) game (it's only fair to note that Ryan threw three of his 19 picks in the final two games of his 14-game season).
On to the claim that Clausen is not a "winner." Even though this is an arbitrary and rather pointless claim to make, we'll address it anyway:
As a junior, Clausen led three straight game-winning drives on his final possession in Weeks 3-5.
Clausen brought his team back from a 31-20 deficit to take the lead against Michigan in Week 2 with 5:13 left to go, only to watch his defense give up a touchdown with 11 seconds left; on his penultimate drive of the game, with Michael Floyd out with a leg injury, Golden Tate dropped a SLIGHTLY underthrown pass to ice the game, and Shaquelle Evans quit on a route (and perfectly thrown pass) that would have given Notre Dame a first down and again iced the game, in back-to-back plays (seen here at 8:54-9:12).
Down 34-14 with 13:33 left to play against USC, Clausen led three drives down the field. Tausch missed an extra point, and Duval Kamara slipped on a route in the endzone on fourth down that, had he been where he was supposed to be, would have resulted in a touchdown and a chance to tie (or win, had Taush made the extra point).
Against Navy, Clausen led Notre Dame to two touchdowns in the final 4:46, a game in which the Notre Dame punter did not step onto the field; the Irish turned the ball over 3 times, failed twice on fourth down, and the kicker missed two field goals, including one from within 40 yards.
Against Stanford, Notre Dame did not trail from the final 40 seconds of the first quarter until the final minute of the fourth and held an 11-point lead twice; Notre Dame's defense gave up 15 points in the final nine minutes, including letting Stanford run almost the entire final six minutes off the clock; Clausen still drove the team down to the Stanford 24 before his final pass fell incomplete in the end zone.
Overall, Notre Dame's defense/special teams gave up 30-plus points five times. Notre Dame averaged 32.4 PPG in those games.
At around :10 in, Clausen gets the ball snapped to him. Everson Griffen spins right around Paul Duncan at LT and Clausen is going to the ground at :12. Not his fault.
At 1:25, Clausen gets the ball, has no one open, and goes down to a three-man rush by 1:30. That's a coverage sack that Clausen probably should have thrown away; sure, we'll give the haters that one even though it's three-on-five and no three-man rush should get to the quarterback ever.
Now let's mix things up and focus on that stellar running game that got 2.6 YPC in this contest. At 1:54, Notre Dame tries to run up the middle on 4th-and-1 and fails miserably because a linebacker and safety just blow through the middle of the line.
This next one at 2:31 is a personal favorite: Everson Griffen comes in through the middle on a stunt, forces Clausen to run for his life, and finally sacks him at 2:36. At 2:32, the tight end pulls a ridiculously half-hearted chip before running a route over the middle, the running back completely whiffs at 2:33, and right guard completely whiffs half a second later. Clausen is running for dear life by 2:34 because three guys completely fail to even slow down one guy.
At 3:12, Clausen takes another snap, gets forced to step up into pressure at 3:14 because Sam Young is getting his a** handed to him, and finally gets sacked at 3:15 because he can't see out of the closet that one might optimistically call a "pocket."
At 4:22, Clausen gets the ball and sees immediate pressure put on him from the right side, with the end taking him to the ground at 4:25. Note that on the very next play, Clausen threads the needle to Golden Tate for a touchdown while getting drilled AGAIN.
At 5:01, Clausen is about to get totaled by a defender and is forced to scramble out of the pocket. He throws a great pass where only his receiver can catch it. All of this is even more astounding when one looks at the USC offense versus the Notre Dame defense; please, someone insult my intelligence by suggesting that Clausen didn't have to deal with one of the worst defenses in Division I football, and that the fact that he didn't lose by more than seven points his entire junior year is not absolutely shocking.
This is just one game's worth of exceptionally bad tape for Notre Dame's offensive line. Clausen gets sacked at least three times in three seconds or less, extends a play with his legs that ends in a sack about two seconds later than it otherwise would have, and takes a coverage sack against a three-man rush that his offensive line can't block for longer than five seconds. And yet, Clausen put up 260 yards, two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, and zero interceptions or fumbles while leading his team back from a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Now that we've dealt with the on-field stuff, let's talk about the infamous "character issues" that everyone bandies about. We'll take it nice and slow.
Let's talk about his supposedly abrasive attitude. Where does this even come from? Yeah, he comes across as arrogant in his interviews. So what? Who cares? So do Philip Rivers and Jay Cutler. Tony Romo has come across as flat-out disinterested in football entirely at times; he's won a playoff game and is one of the best regular-season quarterbacks in the league over the past four years.
The fact of the matter is that multiple teammates and coaches are on record saying Clausen's attitude was not a problem in the locker room. Jon Tenuta, who has absolutely no reason to praise Clausen or anyone else on the Notre Dame team, went so far as to say that the previous coaching staff would still have their jobs if everyone on the team had been as good a player and teammate as Clausen.
Golden Tate, Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph all spent the summer before the 2009 season at Clausen's Cali home, working on routes and getting to know each other better for the fall. It wasn't mandatory, and any of the three could have gotten out of it by just saying they didn't want to spend a lot of time so long away from home. They didn't. Nobody spends a summer working and hanging out with a guy they think is an arrogant prick. Not a single player has said that Clausen was difficult to work or play with; not even on an anonymous basis.
Let's go with the specific instances people use to point to Clausen's "immaturity." We'll start with the "pointing at opposing coaches after touchdowns" one. I never saw this in three years of watching Clausen play. If someone can bring out game tape of that happening, by all means, do share. As far as I'm concerned, that's a load of crap, and if it did happen, perhaps Clausen is pointing at a teammate and the whole thing is being misconstrued.
Which brings us to easy accusation No. 2: the "altercation" with a Boston College player after Notre Dame's 20-16 victory this past year. Here's video of that. Gee, I never knew going up to a guy (Rich Gunnell) to shake his hand and having him stick his finger in your face and talking s*** to you reflects badly on the guy who's displaying good sportsmanship!
Clausen moved halfway across the country to go to Notre Dame. He didn't go to USC, which annually reloads with talent and would have given him a stellar chance at winning 2-3 national titles. He didn't go to any other hometown team like UCLA or Cal, either. He went to a school with fairly high academic requirements, in the Midwest.
Playing on a national stage every week, Clausen took the blame for the way the 2008 season ended. To quote Clausen: "A lot of guys took that hard; it hurt. Some (assistant) coaches lost their jobs because we weren't playing to our potential. I'm taking it personally. Coach Weis will not get fired because of me. But it's not just me - that's the way the rest of the guys in the locker room feel. We've talked about it since the USC game all the way through this spring. We've put it upon ourselves to play to our potential for everyone to keep their job. For the team to win, for all the coaches to keep their jobs, for everyone to be happy around here. It's motivation for us; a kick in the butt for everyone. We have to stop messing around and play to our potential." That's an awful lot of plural pronouns there for a guy who's supposedly all about "me me me."
Next point: the "brawl" (I can't even type that without laughing in disbelief) outside a bar the week before the Stanford game. I can't believe anyone who would call getting sucker-punched evidence of immaturity. From what we know, some guy outside a bar came up to Clausen as the latter was leaving, talked s*** to him, grabbed Clausen's girlfriend, and punched him in the face when Clausen tried to do something about it. No self-respecting man would put up with a guy coming up to his girlfriend and harassing her, so I fail to see how Clausen acted inappropriately here since he didn't retaliate.
Don't give me this crap about "well, he must have done something to provoke the guy." It happened at a bar, for one, and it's not exactly unreasonable to assume our unidentified friend had been drinking. In case anyone is unaware, alcohol inhibits judgement, so it's not like the guy needed a GOOD reason to do this; anyone who's ever dealt with a drunken friend can tell you the same. Combine that with a three-game losing streak and Clausen being the quarterback, and our drunken friend's motivation is pretty clear.
By the way, does anyone remember that Rashard Mendenhall was mugged in Chicago within a month of being drafted by the Steelers? Does that make him a character concern? I mean, he could have instigated his own mugging. You don't know. There's about as much evidence for it as Clausen instigating getting punched in the face by a presumably drunken and disgruntled fan.
There is not a scrap of reliable evidence for why Clausen is a so-called "character concern." Nobody from the Notre Dame camp has been directly quoted as saying Clausen is a bad person to play with. The closest thing I could find? An anonymous (naturally) former teammate being quoted. For all anyone knows, it was Demetrius Jones or Munir Prince, both of whom transferred after Clausen's freshman year.
This isn't Ryan Leaf 2.0 we're talking about here. Leaf's problems, in no particular order, were that he was a one-year wonder, couldn't take criticism, and was extremely resistant to being coached up. Clausen steadily improved every year under Weis as shown above. He's proven to being extremely coachable and never complained about all the negative things that were said about him. Instead, he took it as a failure on his part and worked to improve.
I honestly don't think I need to go into the physical aspect of his game; all the tape you need on whether he can succeed in the pros is available in that highlight reel from the 2009 USC game, especially that final drive where he makes great throws under a ton of pressure (both literal and figurative). Even that anonymous former teammate that was quoted said Clausen had a great arm. Clausen is no smaller than Aaron Rodgers, so he's not too small for the position.
Moreover, while Clausen had enough injuries to be labeled injury-prone during his career at Notre Dame, he only missed two contests in his entire 35-game career, playing through bone spurs in his elbow, the flu and a torn tendon in his toe (which he aggravated later in the season). Compare this to Sam Bradford, who injured and then re-injured his throwing shoulder last year, costing him 10 games and parts of two others.
In conclusion: Jimmy Clausen posted numbers that hold up well when compared with other pro-style quarterbacks drafted in the first round over the past five years. The character concerns are, at best, heavily overrated, and at worst, completely fabricated.
His surrounding talent level as an excuse is practically a joke, and at least four quarterbacks selected in the first seven picks in the past five drafts have had at least equivalent levels of talent around them, making this an unfair and exceptionally biased criticism of Clausen.
Clausen improved every season he played in college, to an extremely underrated degree, negating the argument that he's a so-called "one-year wonder," which, incidentally, did not stop Aaron Rodgers or Mark Sanchez from being drafted in the first round.
In essence, there is no reason Jimmy Clausen should not be, at the very least, considered the top quarterback in this draft class.