The Prodigal Son Returns: The Next Step For Jimmy Clausen

Marc HalstedCorrespondent IAugust 19, 2009

SOUTH BEND,IN - SEPTEMBER 13:  Quarterback Jimmy Clausen #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks down the field during the game against the Michigan Wolverines on September 13, 2008 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The parable of the Prodigal Son, found in the Gospel of Luke, is of return, redemption, and resurrection. All is forgiven and the father receives the son, welcoming him back into the family, despite all his youthful indiscretions.

The Bible, Luke, and the Prodigal Son were meant for a far more broad audience than we consumers of all-things-Notre Dame football. But don’t tell me the parable doesn’t apply perfectly to one Irish player as the 2009 season nears.

It applies to Jimmy Clausen.

It is doubtless that Notre Dame needs to see Jimmy Clausen ascend to excellence over the next four months if the Irish are to truly return to glory.

Last December's glorious memories still resonate as many Irish faithful still see themselves sitting in the suns-plashed stands of Aloha Stadium waiting for another bomb to Golden Tate or Michael Floyd.

But there are very real concerns and they go four long years back.  They are the concerns of an ND fanbase that just can’t get the dark images of the Clausen era out of their minds.

Notre Dame fans are notoriously substantive and their memories are long. Some still have nightmares of Arnaz Battle and the feeble passing attack that took a 9-1 Notre Dame West to lose to USC in 1998.  Many still see Ryan Grant fumbling away an undefeated season at Boston College in 2002.  Most can’t get past the two BCS bowl game debacles and the loss of Brady Quinn.

The Clausen era began with the ESPN report about the 15-year old who was already the best Clausen passer in a family of quarterbacks.

Then there was the South Bend visit, the limo, and the commitment at the College Football Hall of Fame. That was over-the-top and very unsettling to those who remember Joe, the other Joe, Ron, Jarious, and Brady.

It got worse.

The disturbing high school analysis followed.  Clausen played at one of the lowest levels of football in the state of California and racked up 10,764 passing yards and 146 touchdowns. 

The numbers were immense, but the 5'6" cornerbacks from Alemany and the 175-pound Nordhoff defensive ends may have helped inflate those statistics during Clausen’s career of disputed excellence.

He came to northern Indiana and beat out Jones, Frazier, and Sharpley his freshmen year.  But then there was the panic on his face after repeated choke-slams against USC, Michigan, and Purdue.  It was like watching the bully take his first shots to the mouth with those four-dozen sacks and a net loss of 187 yards in ten games.

Summer arrived, and so did the modern technology of instant photos and the infamous “ravishing in red” party with James Aldridge, beer cups, and the same jacket I wore to my first eight grade dance.

There was the interception coming out of halftime against North Carolina in 2008 when the lights went out.  B.C., Navy, and Syracuse came next. Timidity followed, only compounding the problems within the passing game.

From there it was Schwapp on the quick-hitter on 3rd-and-1 and the quick screen to the short side of the field. 

Gone was the confidence of the Tate “Go!” route and the Floyd deep out.
And finally, there was Hawaii.  Lost in the euphoria of passing yards, exploding scoreboards, the coming-out party of the dynamic Armando Allen, and a very average Hawaii team, was the preening. 

Please, show me video evidence and forensic seat analysis that proves that Jimmy was just looking to dear-old Dad and making faces to his little cousin in the stands after TD's. 

Don’t pretend he wasn’t mocking the Hawaii fans and playing up for the cameras.  If he wasn’t, how did he know which side of the field they were on?  How come he always turned the right way and found the close-up he needed to show his conceit?

But alas, 2009 is here. Some “heads” think the Irish have top—20 talent.  It’s time to call Jimmy Clausen to the pulpit.

Jimmy, it’s time to lead the congregation.  It’s time to play and act like the chosen son. Chosen sons don’t preen.  Chosen sons score and act like they’ve been there before.  More importantly, they act like they plan on going there again—soon! 

Chosen sons lead by example, speak when needed, and project powerful, confident images—from the time they lead the pre-game stretch to the final overtime hot read that gets Kyle Rudolph into the end zone for the game winner.

Chosen sons get named captain.  Chosen son captains act like the legends that came before them. 

Chosen sons win.

There is time for a resurrection.  There is time for Lazarinthian-like redemption through good works such as 300-yard passing games, confident on-field leadership, and character in the face of daunting challenges. 

There’s time for redemptive works when the young men of Reno, Annapolis, and Seattle come to Nazareth.  There’s time for fourth quarter salvation when the Trojans bring a real national audience to the feet of Touchdown Jesus.

There’s time, and we stand before you, waiting and wanting. 

But lest ye forget, if Jimmy doesn’t save, at least we have (backup quarterback, Dayne) Crist.


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