As other B/R writers have argued , Jimmy Clausen and Charlie Weis's fates have been inextricably intertwined since the beginning, and it ought to follow that Clausen will depart to the NFL a year early now that Weis is fired.
At first, I thought Clausen would maybe consider staying, considering Stoops' reputation for turning out prolific, stud quarterbacks year after year, season after season, with little alteration of his system.
In fact, it's easy to say Bob Stoops is a quarterback's best friend. Though he's a defensive-minded coach by trade—serving as the defensive coordinator at Kansas State and Florida before taking over the head job in Norman—he's produced two Heisman winners at the QB position (Jason White and Sam Bradford) and one runner-up (Josh Heupel), plus record-breaking touchdown passes, quarterback ratings, completion percentages, All-American freshman seasons...
There is a Stoops system for quarterbacks. And whatever it is, Irish fans might hold out a slim hope that it will keep Jimmy Clausen in South Bend for one more year.
The breaks are certainly stacked against such a return. As though Clausen needed any more incentive to jet early for the NFL, the scary, season-ending injury to Sam Bradford's AC joint likely cost the Oklahoma quarterback millions of dollars and a spot as the first quarterback taken overall. (Tellingly, that position now belongs to Clausen, according to many draft scouts.)
Clausen took 58 sacks as a true freshman in the Irish's miserable 3-9 season in 2007. Unlike Bradford, he has nothing to prove to NFL scouts that he didn't already prove as a freshman from a toughness standpoint. Physically speaking, he's already a far cry from the skinny, slender kid who threw six touchdowns and seven interceptions in his first year. He's added muscle and put on weight to match his size and determination.
Bob Stoops would essentially have to poach Clausen from Weis to get him to stay, because Clausen has been Weis's darling since the beginning. In 2007, Clausen was hailed as the prototypical pocket passer necessary for the success of Weis's pro-style attack post-Brady Quinn.
That prophecy finally started to come true this year. Clausen's numbers have been outstanding: 3,722 yards, 28 touchdowns to only four interceptions, and the most attempts and completions by a Notre Dame quarterback in history.
Learning the Stoops system might be a great challenge if all of Clausen's weapons were going to return. But Clausen would still have to cope with the departure of Golden Tate, who will likely enter the NFL draft a year early. Tate's 93 receptions for 1,320 yards leads the team and is good for fifth overall in the country
Those receptions are a lot of rapport Stoops and his coaches would have to make up in practice.
The only way I could see Clausen returning is if his passion and determination were rooted more in Notre Dame than in Weis; that he wanted to beat USC, Navy, Michigan, and Stanford badly enough to return; that the losses were nagging on him more than we could understand, and he needed to make things right in South Bend again.
To say that, you'd have to argue that Clausen is more loyal to Notre Dame than many of us think he is; that he is a college football player, and not a "pre-professional" football player.
I'm not arguing that Clausen is disloyal. I only think that this kind of faith goes against what Weis preached as a head coach and mentor to Clausen. Because of his background, Weis cultivated a mentality that prepared his players for bigger things at the professional level.
Unlike your Eric Crouchs or your Mike Harts of college football history, the biggest and best things Clausen will ever do are ahead of him, not behind him. He is Joe Montana, not Brady Quinn.
That's really not a terrible legacy for Weis to leave his players, although it sometimes came at the expense of responsible coaching in the moment . It called for Notre Dame's athletes to play beyond their years, to understand ideas even the pros struggle with from time to time.
That's something I don't think you'd see in the Stoops playbook.
No, numbers do not drive Clausen. Though the Stoops system can promise attempts, completions, touchdowns galore—even success, for what it's worth—it's almost definitely too late.
Clausen was a draft prospect before he was a true freshman, enrolling in the Combine before he'd enrolled in Psych 101. No promise of a prolific system will woo him to remain. He's heard those guarantees already, and will hear no more of them as a college player.
He is certainly gone at year's end, Stoops or no Stoops, and with him, and those wide receivers no one could cover, goes the Weis legacy of outstanding talent never fully realized, waiting for a break that never came.