I bet you never thought in the past month that Notre Dame junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen is one of the most underappreciated quarterback prospects in the history of the NFL Draft. But after reading this blog entry, you just might change your mind.
First, I am going to tell you why you might not like Clausen, and let's be real here, there is a lot of bias against him. Some criticism is warranted, but a lot isn't.
Notre Dame is the most hated football program in America, period. They are the Duke of the gridiron. Automatically, you hate Clausen because he went to Notre Dame, just like you hated J.J. Reddick because he went to Duke. If you want to make an analysis as objective and professional as possible, then you need to cut the crap and get over the Notre Dame hate if you have it - and a lot of that is out there. Think about it: if you put Sanchez on Notre Dame and Jimmy Clausen at USC, then Sanchez is the hated prospect and Clausen is the beloved underclassman.
Maybe you don't like Clausen because of the blond, spiky hair, or the limo appearance he had when he was a senior in high school to declare for Notre Dame. These aren't "low profile" characteristics and automatically, you might have disliked him.
For whatever reasons you're down on Clausen, please put them in the back seat and have an open mind when reading this blog entry.
Clausen just amassed one of the most impressive junior seasons among pro-style quarterbacks in the past 10-20 years.
Let's remember that Clausen had a very bad offensive line this year for Notre Dame. Sure, he had good weapons, but the running game was poor and receivers Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph missed significant action (eight games missed total between them).
When Floyd went out, Clausen stepped up. With a bum turf toe, he didn't play at all in the second half and led the team to a game-winning drive to beat Purdue. The following week, he posted 422 passing yards against Washington. Over the next three games (USC, Boston College, Washinton State), Clausen threw for 774 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Clausen is a huge reason for Golden Tate's big season as well. While Tate is a talented player, he couldn't have done it without Clausen's extremely high level of accuracy.
Numerous times, Clausen played through pain this season. He led his team in games in crunch time, and was without a doubt the most clutch quarterback in the nation this year.
Criticizing Clausen because he had talent around him is a very poor argument. It isn't like Clausen was putting up just above average statistics - he dominated opponents. He showed a very high football IQ and rarely forced the ball in coverage. Did he throw some balls up for grabs? Sure, but Peyton Manning does the same thing occasionally to Reggie Wayne. Drew Brees lofts the ball up for Marques Colston in the red zone. Philip Rivers relies on Vincent Jackson. Quarterbacks can't do it all by themselves.
One statistic that can't be discussed enough is Clausen's 7:1 touchdown-intercpetion ratio, which is absolutely unheard of among junior quarterbacks in pro-style offenses. This is just ridiculous. It doesn't happen and it isn't supposed to happen. Give the man some credit where credit is due.
The bottom line is Clausen certainly needs to be looked at as one of, if not the most polished junior quarterback prospect in the history of the NFL Draft. I didn't say the BEST junior quarterback prospects because he doesn't have the physical skill, but he is certainly one of the most NFL-ready.
Analyze the statistics of a select group of quarterbacks in the spreadsheet below; all of these stats were taken from each quarterback's junior season. Aside from Matthew Stafford (I'm including him because I had him No. 1 overall on my big board), these highly thought-of quarterbacks that have gone on to outstanding success in the NFL.
Clausen simply blows everyone out of the water. His touchdown-interception ratio puts Peyton Manning's 1996 season to shame. His completion percentage is a good five points ahead of Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. Clausen threw six less interceptions than EVERYONE.
Clausen's ranks across the board: 1st, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st.
I just don't understand how someone like Todd McShay can say Clausen is a second-round talent when you consider how his statistics compare to some of the NFL's current greats.
I'm not a fan of just analyzing statistics, and my evaluation of Clausen really doesn't have very much to do with them. All I am doing is putting his season into perspective.
The perspective proves that Clausen is worthy of much more respect than I feel like he is getting at the moment. We will probably never see a better junior season ever again. Charlie Weis leaving the college game means that there is one less West Coast offense in the NCAA.
Over the next 10 years, I fear that nearly all snaps are going to be taken out of shotgun and NFL front offices are going to be throwing darts and evaluating prospects based on physical tools only since the schemes are so easy to execute.
Clausen isn't executing an easy scheme - he is executing the toughest scheme on the national stage. Every week the camera is on him, and every week he delivered. If Notre Dame's defense was just above average, this team would have won 10 games.
If you don't like Clausen because he is cocky, then that is fine. I just hope you are consistent and also say Rivers is a bad NFL quarterback because he is cocky - because a slightly confident leader can't win games in the NFL, right?
Maybe if Philip Rivers went to Notre Dame...