Other QBs have fallen, but Clausen's plunge raises questions

NEW YORK -- The NFL Draft has a history of memorable (or is it forgettable?) green-room embarrassments for quarterbacks expected to be top-10 picks.

Since 2005, these have become not-so-affectionately known as "Aaron Rodgers Moments." That year, with television cameras catching every pained expression on his face, Rodgers waited … and waited ... and waited for his name to be called. It finally was, by the Green Bay Packers, but much later in the first round (24th overall) than he and many analysts had expected.

Two years later, Brady Quinn experienced similar humiliation. Roger Goodell felt so bad for Quinn that he invited him to escape those intrusive cameras for the privacy of the area in which the commissioner waits between announcing picks. The Cleveland Browns finally traded up to take Quinn, but far lower than anticipated he would go (22nd overall).

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Now along comes Jimmy Clausen.

There's going to have to be an entirely new category for this guy. A free fall is one thing. Dropping like a boulder right out of the first round and fairly deep into the second is unprecedented. How about a "Clausen Catastrophe?"

The Carolina Panthers put an end to Clausen's agony by choosing him with the 48th overall pick. Depending on your point of view, that's at least 39 spots lower than the former Notre Dame star was projected to be taken.

To put a price tag on this drop, as a lower top-10 choice, Clausen stood to receive something along the lines of $22.6 million in guaranteed money. As the 48th pick, he'll get something along the lines of $2.6 million. (Let's not even consider what the financial impact was if, as some predicted, Clausen would have wound up with the Washington Redskins at No. 4).


The only sliver of a bright spot in all this is that Clausen chose not to attend the draft. He might have feared that it wouldn't be a positive experience, but it is doubtful that he could have imagined it would have been this bad.

No one did.

After all, this was supposed to have been, for all practical purposes, a two-quarterback draft: Sam Bradford, whom the St. Louis Rams made the top choice, and Clausen. Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy would end up somewhere in the third round (where McCoy landed after the Browns made him the 85th overall pick), or, at best, the second.

Of course, Tebow was the only other first-round quarterback, landing in Denver at No. 25. That had to be a serious blow to Clausen's ego.

But bigger hits were yet to come. There was a full day of speculation that one of the quarterback-hungry teams that figured to have at least some interest in Clausen in the first round (Minnesota, Cleveland, or Buffalo) would work a trade with St. Louis at the top of the second round to grab to grab him (or possibly McCoy) as a "value pick." It never happened.

Worse, the Vikings passed on Clausen with the second pick in Round 2 and the Browns and Bills did the same in the sixth and ninth spots, respectively. Even the Kansas City Chiefs -- whose offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis, was Clausen's college coach and supposedly was pushing his new employer to take his former quarterback -- allowed Clausen to slide past with the fourth selection in the second round.

To top it off, the Panthers, who seemingly were in the market for a quarterback after cutting veteran Jake Delhomme and putting the starting jobs in the inexperienced hands of Matt Moore, didn't even make an upward move to get Clausen. They didn't have to.

Clausen pretty much said all of the right things to reporters in Carolina. The closest he came to revealing how he truly felt about his remarkable plunge was when he said, "It's definitely going to be in the back of my mind every single time I step on the field, every time I step into the facility to work out and watch film to make me that much better."

What happened?

The kid is supposed to have superb passing mechanics, perhaps the best of any quarterback prospect in the draft. He was coached by Weis, as good a quarterbacking guru as there is. He was, it seemed, well prepared to step in the NFL and, eventually, succeed.

One obvious concern was the toe surgery that Clausen underwent since the end of the 2009 season. Some NFL scouts wondered if it would impact his ability to step into his throws with authority, although, by all indications, it wasn't viewed to be serious enough to crush him as a top-10 prospect.

Another obvious concern was his character/personality. There were multiple people within the Notre Dame program that questioned Clausen's leadership skills, which is a major shortcoming for a quarterback. Clausen did nothing to help himself when, during an ESPN pre-draft special in which he watched game tape of himself with former NFL coach Jon Gruden, he made it clear that a receiver had made a mistake on an interception he had thrown.

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Good leaders don't do that.

But you keep wondering whether the problem with Clausen runs deeper. Is it possible that there's something wrong with his throwing shoulder or arm that worried teams? Not at all, according to multiple league insiders. Nor was there even the slightest suspicion of anything criminal in his background.

What insiders do say, however, is that they don't like the extent that Clausen must labor to make longer throws. He doesn't look as natural as he does when making short and intermediate routes. He seems to have to twist his body in order to get any sort of velocity on the ball. And his deep passes tend to be launched awkwardly, like missiles, rather than delivered with the natural arc that one expects from a top-flight NFL quarterback.

For the Panthers, there isn't a whole lot of risk. Jeff Davidson, their offensive coordinator, formerly played and coached for the New England Patriots, when Weis was their offensive coordinator. The Panthers employ the same offense that Clausen knows well.

Even if Clausen does have to start immediately, he shouldn't be under tremendous pressure. The Panthers have a strong, experienced offensive line. They rely heavily on their running game, so they won't ask him to carry the offensive load as a rookie.

Consider something else. The most famous (or infamous) quarterback to have his draft-day stock plummet was Dan Marino. It was 1983, long before the NFL did the whole green-room thing, so there were no cameras capturing his nightmare. Thanks to rumors of marijuana use when he was at the University of Pittsburgh, Marino fell all the way to 27th.

Twenty-two years later, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Clausen can only hope that he enjoys anything remotely close to that sort of career.

One thing is certain: He won't be lacking for motivation.

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