In honor of tonight’s final episode of “Friday Night Lights” we are re-running this article from April 21st, 2010:
Between now and NFL draft day, no potential top ten pick will be as scrutinized as Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen. And all of his so-called character issues, are truly just fabrications when you break them down. Last season, he completed 68 percent of his 425 total passes, threw 28 TDs with just four INTs. However, scouts and NFL “cognoscenti” alike are saying he’s immature and void of leadership skills. So where does the truth lie?
Let’s start by looking at his past, and how we got here.
Outside of Ryan Leaf (who many are currently and unfairly comparing Clausen to), one of the biggest quarterback busts of all time was Todd Marinovich, whose father prepared his son to be the perfect NFL quarterback every day since he was an embryo. Read the old Sports Illustrated story on Marinovich, all the details are present.
Later in life, Todd got away from his insanely domineering father, starting smoking the good weed, partying like a frat boy, and letting USC fix his tests and classes much more than they do for the average Trojan football player. He lost his work ethic when he hit the NFL, and was quickly out of football with absolutely nothing to show for it.
I’m not saying Clausen’s upbringing was that extreme, but during his formative years in upper class California, he spent a ton of time in his extremely affluent suburb studying film and working on his mechanics, maybe at the expense of experiencing what all the “normal kids” were doing.
Kind of like a real world version of J.D. McCoy from “Friday Night Lights.” (Again-don’t take this comparison 100% literally, I doubt Clausen’s Dad forced him to chase away the trim that he was attracting or hit him after he won a high school playoff game, but you never know).
However, I do know #7 was considered a quarterback version of Mozart when he was being recruited- a child prodigy whose skills for the craft transcended any that ever came before him. And the rivals.com sort pretty much showed everyone their O-faces in the days leading up his national letter of intent signing. (By the way, you remember the size of the McCoy mansion? Kind of like the Clausen family’s phat crib we all saw on draft night)
But if you’re spending all that time studying and refining your natural gifts, maybe your social skills will suffer? Look at how McCoy couldn’t handle his liquor at a party! Recall how Marinovich couldn’t grasp the ideas of moderation and self-control? But only those who know Clausen on a personal level can say for sure. And even if he is a little rough around the social edges, why should it affect his draft stock?
The Rap Sheet
His first year on campus, Clausen was cited for transporting alcohol as a minor. In August 2008, pictures appeared on the web conveying his participation in an underage drinking game. Then came the figurative and literal black eye last December. Clausen was sucker-punched outside a South Bend bar following another Notre Dame loss. We’re still not sure who started it, but it sounds like the event was very much like a famous scene in the legendary college football film “The Program.” Again, the film’s QB character, Joe Kane, is another person I’ve heard Clausen compared to.
On one hand, if you’ve seen his beer olympics pictures- wouldn’t you just LOVE to punch him in the face if you saw that in real time?
On the other hand, let me borrow Team USA Hockey’s party line when Patrick Kane got in trouble for drunkenly beating up a cabbie this past summer: “when we were all 19, or 20 years old we all did stupid stuff.”
I did. I even got sucker-punched in the head my sophomore year at the University of Illinois. I sort of had it coming, I was running my mouth, but the d-bag who hit me had NOTHING to do with the situation, so it was totally uncalled for. And I didn’t even realize I was bleeding until I got back to the dorms and my friends told me how my hair resembled Ginger Spice (hey, it was 1998 and my hair was dyed blonde, so the dried blood gave me red-head streaks and…never mind, you know what?
If I was at that party this weekend somehow, I would punch the 20-year-old version of myself in the head too). Point is, yes, Clausen comes off like an arrogant douche a lot, but so did all of us at that age.
“Todd McShay, a draft analyst for the ESPN network, was highly critical of Clausen’s leadership skills, claiming the polished passer was not considered a good teammate by other Irish players.”
Once again, Todd McShay’s observations are about as accurate as Rick Mirer’s completion percentage. Being eviscerated by McShay might be a compliment, since he knows nothing. All of Clausen’s teammates, especially Golden Tate, vehemently stick up for him.
The way Clausen garners headlines, by draft day he may be portrayed as some kind of Frankenstein QB, the horrors of which the world has never seen.
Think the delusion of grandeur, over-ratedness, and petulance of Jay Cutler with the whining ability and insecure narcissism of Jeff George meets the self-destructive tendencies and general malfeasance of Marinovich. A lot of people want to paint the picture of the ND signal caller as this type of tragically-wasting-one’s-physical-gifts-because-he’s-a-severe-head-case story.
And they’re just plain wrong!
Clausen is working out with Cleveland and Buffalo, two teams that desperately need a quarterback (although the Browns now have Del Homme, so I don’t think they’ll go QB). Throw in Oakland at #8, and there’s three teams in the top ten looking for a field general. Sam Bradford is a mortal lock to go #1 to St. Louis, and Clausen is the next best prospect available.
In fact (despite what the critics say) Clausen could be the most NFL ready QB in this draft. However, it’s a double-edged sword: the most NFL ready prospect now, but many believe he has no more long-term potential.
I call this the “Rashard Mendenhall rule” (when scouts and other football cognoscenti over-analyze prospects to the point of contradiction…with Mendenhall it was “he’s had so few carries, his best football is ahead of him” and/or “he only started for one season, he’s unproven”…well which one is it?
This spring, Clausen’s stock is enduring the same thing.
I greatly enjoyed the piece “Jimmy Clausen is an Alien Wizard” on Walter Football.com
It actually mentions Mendenhall specifically, although in reference to a different Clausen issue.
“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.”
I couldn’t agree more. The piece also mentions the best case debunking the bad teammate myth.
“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.”
Finally, the best testimony I can give to Clausen’s character is a simple life lesson that I learned the hard way. When my crazy ex and I were parting ways and packing up my stuff she said to me: “I really enjoy listening to your opinions on things, I’m going to miss hearing everything you have to say about issues and stuff.” Of course, this was sandwiched in between countless insults and personal attacks, but my point is this:
If the person who hates you the most in this world, at the moment that their hate for you reaches it’s boiling point, somehow and for some reason compliments you, that my friends is the MOST genuine and TRUE compliment you can ever receive.
To see where I think Clausen will go, read my NFL Mock Draft hereFollow paulmbanks