Upside played in Jimmy Clausen’s favor in winning backup QB job
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter August 25, 2014 8:53PM
Updated: August 25, 2014 11:59PM
Even though he insisted Monday that the battle for Jay Cutler’s backup position had been close, coach Marc Trestman offered an unimpeachable explanation for why the team chose Jimmy Clausen over Jordan Palmer.
“Jimmy’s played a lot more football in this league,” Trestman said. “He’s younger.”
Although he hasn’t thrown a regular-season pass since the last game of his rookie year — Jan. 2, 2011 — Clausen’s 299 career attempts are about 20 times more than Palmer’s, who had tried 15 passes in five seasons.
Clausen’s upside is greater, pure and simple.
The 26-year-old outplayed Palmer — who was cut Sunday and reportedly will sign with the Bears’ Week 1 opponent, the Bills — throughout preseason practices.
Clausen proved he could learn the playbook on the fly, having signed less than three months ago. And he came recommended from Trestman’s friends who worked with the quarterback.
“His ability to handle the adversity that he had in his first year,” Trestman said. “His leadership qualities — he stood up tall through a lot of tough times in Carolina and gained the respect of his teammates and the team there with the way he handled himself in a very, very difficult year.”
Despite Clausen’s pedigree — he was the nation’s top prep recruit, the face of Notre Dame and a rookie NFL starter — the quarterback pointed to his struggles the last three years as a reason for his growth.
“One of the big things is, sitting and looking back on the sidelines the past few years in Carolina, just sitting and learning, really did help,” he said. “I didn’t have that in college. I didn’t have that in high school.”
Though he won’t play Thursday in the exhibition finale — rookie David Fales will start and is likely to go the distance — Clausen said he was comforted by the “clarity” of knowing where he will stand when the regular season begins.
It’s hard to blame him. Clausen missed all of last season after tearing his right labrum during the last exhibition game, and joked that “I don’t even remember the last game I played” his rookie year.
“These quarterbacks, everyone’s on an individual journey of his own,” Trestman said. “There’s no two that are alike.
“Jimmy started out a rough go. He was put into a starting position. He was knocked all over the place, took a lot of hits, continued to stand tall and try to help his football team win.
“That’s only going to help him.
“Then he was out for a while, had an injury that he had to work out and get through and overcome.
“He’s gone back to work. He’s worked very hard to get in this place.”
Pro Bowl wide receiver Alshon Jeffery approved.
“Jimmy, he makes plays,” the receiver said. “I’m comfortable with that.”
The Bears would be happy if those plays were limited to practice — Cutler’s health is paramount — but seem satisfied with their backup plan.
“At the end of day, it really just comes down to how you feel about things,” Trestman said.