April 23, 2010
There were those in the draft analysis business who had Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen as a top 10 pick - Clausen's experience under Charlie Weis with the Fighting Irish made him a pro-ready oddity in a sea of spread-offense quarterbacks who make one or two reads, throw stick routes, and run around a lot. But as the draft drew closer, more and more concerns came up about Clausen - not just his alleged attitude issues, but the overall athletic upside. Did Weis coach Clausen to the limits of his potential, and is there more to be seen from him?
It was a surprise when Clausen didn't hear his name called in the first round - especially after the Denver Broncos moved up to take Tim Tebow(notes) with the 25th overall pick. Most had Tebow third on their quarterback lists behind Clausen and Sam Bradford(notes), who was taken first overall by the St. Louis Rams. Surely, as the second round started Friday evening, Clausen would hear his name called soon?
Didn't happen, and the real shocker was when the Kansas City Chiefs, where Weis is now the offensive coordinator, passed on Clausen with the 36th overall pick to take Ole Miss' Dexter McCluster, a running back/receiver tweener with demon speed. If Weis couldn't convince GM Scott Pioli to pull the trigger on Clausen, the fall could be precipitous.
And it was - Clausen fell past several teams with obvious quarterback needs. The Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, and Oakland Raiders were three teams with question marks at the position, but they all went different ways. In the end, it was the Carolina Panthers, with the 48th overall pick, who took Clausen. He's a good fit in a power offense, which is what Carolina runs, because he can manage the short game and will understand the terminology.
Currently, the Panthers have Matt Moore(notes) as their starting quarterback. Moore, who signed a first- and third-round tender with the team in March, was an undrafted free agent in 2007 and impressed the Panthers coaching staff as Jake Delhomme(notes) (who's now in Cleveland) declined over time. The Panthers believe in Moore, but without much depth at the position, they would have been hard-pressed to pass on Clausen so far down the board.
Now, Jimmy Clausen has two tasks ahead of him after a life as a newly snubbed former high-school and college superstar. First: Get over it. Second: Make the guys who turned in the 47 cards before yours regret those decisions for the rest of their professional lives. And in a larger sense, the Clausen fall is an instructive example that a command of the NFL vernacular isn't all there is to a bright professional future.
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