When the St. Louis Rams switched their allegiances a few weeks ago from taking one of the two monster defensive tackles in today's NFL Draft, Jimmy Clausen were smiling as the assumed landing spot for the Notre Dame junior quarterback was Washington.
The Redskins needed a quarterback, and with most experts expecting the Rams to take Oklahoma's Sam Bradford with the first pick, Clausen, despite his injured toe, loomed alone as the clear-cut second best QB in the draft.
The No. 4 pick in the draft is a big ticket item, so when the Redskins traded for Donovan McNabb, Clausen's bank account took a mighty hit, one far worse than anything he ever felt on the field.
Seven figures worth. Multipled a few times by a low prime number. Money he'll never get back.
Clausen is the real enigma of this draft. Forget Tim Tebow. There may be a few zealots who will consider him on the first night, but he can't make the throws, scouts already are trying to change his throwing motion. One of his former Florida teammates was happy that the Gators now had a "real quarterback." (The remark caused coach Urban Meyer to raise his agita level and theaten the sportswriter who reported the innocuous remark. Meyer recanted, but too late to repair the damage.)
Plus there's that concussion.
But Clausen is a victim of Tebow's persona, for sure, because of the code word "intangibles."
Clausen has played in a pro offense. Not Tebow, not Bradford, nor Colt McCoy.
Clausen is incredibly accurate. Bradford, is too. McCoy somewhat, Tebow not at all.
Clausen took his snaps fromn center and called out blocking assignments on almost every passing down, He was weaned by two older btothers who were college quarterbacks and the robo-school pro quarterback masters class of Steve Greggson for years. Todd Marinovich would be jealous. People marveled at USC's Matt Barkley this season. Clausen was there first, light years ahead.
But there are whispers about Clausen. Not a leader. Code word. The analysts repeated time and time again ... "We talked to his teammates and coaches and others around him at school and ..."
Clausen got a black eye at a bar near campus one night, similar to what he suffered the game before. People snickered. The kid from Southern California with the great looks and great arm and vacant smile was never accepted at Notre Dame. He did come in too cocky, for sure, arriving in a limousine as a freshman. But he was tthe No.1 recruit in the country and then coach Charlie Weis promised to teach him how to be a pro quarterback. Weis had Tom Brady, remember.
Weis was mocked and banished and in the end failed miserably considering the talent he recruited. But Clausen threw to Golden Tate, Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph and perhaps a few other pros in his three years. He called audibles, barked out blocking assignments, his eyes bulging like Peyton Manning at the line of scrimmage.
Clauden is a different person after they break the huddle. He knows what to do and has the goods and the guts to make the plays. Deep ball. Jump ball in the end zone. Seven-yard out, across the field. Seam patterns. Looking fof the safety. Challenging the line of scrimmage, eyes downfield as he scrambled, not to run but to pass. Rolling out right. Rolling out left.
When Jon Gruden broke down the top four quarterbacks during his amazing interview show on Sports Center, Clausen looked like an obedient puppy, listening but not comprehending. That's the knock. Clausen had trouble after the Boston College loss when he foolishly went across the field after the game to shake hands with a player who basically told him to shove it because he felt he was a phony.
Clausen was at Notre Dame for three years and even though every home game was televised, no viewer could say he felt like he knew the kid, who clearly was intimidated by the peripheral stuff. And that includes the classroom. He even admittted as much during the Gruden taping when he said something to the effect that he couldn't wait to study film every week and in essence not have to worry about school work.
Bradford injured a shoulder and missed more than half of his senior year. He hasn't had to engineer a fourth-quarter drive because his team hardly ever trailed and most games were blowouts.
Same with McCoy. When he did get into those situations (ironically, the only game where pressure applied was the Oklahoma-Texas game) he lollipopped a throw down the sideline and the clock almost ran out against Nebraska, which almost negated a spot in the national championship game. So much for the reputation of being a gym rat and a coach's son.
Clausen did everything right on the field, put up incredible numbers, made great late comebacks, but didn't have winning record. He barely got a sniff for the Heisman when he should have been in NYC for the ceremony.
Clausen will get his chance. Oddly enough, some people believe ... so who knows where he'll go.
Demarco Farr, former DT for the Rams and radio analyst, volunteered Clausen's name first when asked on the NFL Network what the Rams might do with the first pick.
Clausen? The simple question was meant to elicit response sbout Bradford, Suh or Gerald McCoy. Who said anything about Clausen? Hmmmm.
Mel Kiper has Clausen has his fourth highest rated player in the draft, even ahead of Bradford.
Mike Mayock, whose opinion I respect the most because, among other things, he is out there at the pro days, sees things with his own eyes and devours tape, has him around 17, but reserves the right to move him up because of the toe injury. Clausen did not run the 40 at his pro day.
Clausen said that Weis told him that he is ready for the pros.
The mountain of tape says so, too.
It's the code words, the whispers that may cost him millions.
Oh yeah, and that McNabb trade.