When Jimmy Clausen was signed back in early June, most people questioned why the Bears would target a former starter turned bust. Now, just a few weeks into camp, it's clear Clausen should be the team's backup in 2014.
When Clausen took the field against the Eagles last week, he showed good pocket presence and conviction in his throws. There was an aura of confidence with Clausen as he went on to throw two touchdowns passes while passing for 150 yards.
Head coach Marc Trestman sees the writing on the wall. Clausen will be the first quarterback in the game once Jay Cutler exits against the Jaguars.
“Right now, we’re going to have Jimmy relieve Jay,” Trestman said, per Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com. “He’ll have the shot whenever Jay comes out of the game, whenever that is. But both of them will play.”
Clausen's bust label comes from his 1-9 record as a starter with the Carolina Panthers back in 2010. While he did play poorly, it was the offense who set up a young Clausen to fail, and he's been given a bad rap ever since.
The 2010 Panthers featured veteran Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith as their primary receiver and not much else. The running game was inconsistent, the team lacked a reliable tight end, Brandon LaFell was their second-best receiver and the offensive line was putrid.
The Panthers went on to win two games that season, and they drafted Cam Newton first overall the next year. Clausen hasn't received a decent shot to show off his skills ever since.
Putting a rookie second-round pick together with a mediocre offense is a recipe for disaster. That in no way should be a permanent reflection on Clausen. He now has the opportunity to work with a real offense and a brilliant mind in Trestman, and we are already seeing results.
Clausen has the size, skills and intangibles to play in this league. In his final season at Notre Dame, Clausen threw for over 3,700 yards and completed 68.8 percent of his passes, all while throwing 28 touchdowns with just four interceptions.
Compare Clausen's junior-year stats at Notre Dame with this year's third overall pick, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. Last season, Bortles threw for 3,581 yards and completed 67.8 percent of his passes with 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
At 26 years old, Clausen is the perfect bridge to sixth-round pick David Fales. It's going to take Fales at least two years to get the NFL experience and comfort level needed to be the backup quarterback. Clausen can use those two years to reinvent himself, play well in Trestman's offense and compete for a starting role again like the departed Josh McCown.
Jordan Palmer does have a future in the NFL, but it should be as somebody's coach. Palmer was a sixth-round pick back in 2007 and likely sees his time as a player running out.
Having thrown only 15 passes in his NFL career, Palmer just doesn't have the experience or talent needed to play in this league anymore. He's 30 years old and should focus on what he's really good at, which is preparing young quarterbacks for the league.
Coincidentally, Palmer served as Bortles' personal coach leading up to the NFL Scouting Combine and NFL draft. What he did with Bortles obviously worked because Bortles was the first quarterback taken over Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr.
The Bears should decide sooner than later on Clausen. If he outplays Palmer again this week against Jacksonville, then Palmer should be one of the early cuts. Let Clausen get the majority of the reps for the duration of the preseason in preparation for the regular season.