Jimmy Clausen and Group Stupid Mindthink

The Rock NDNation.comSenior Analyst IJuly 2, 2008

The Rock - http://www.ndnation.com

A herd mentality makes us all stupid and such is the case with current group stupid mindthink on Jimmy Clausen.

Writers are supposed to be above the herd mentality (or at least try to see beyond the herd mentality,) which is why the vocation has meaning. Unfortunately that's rarely the case, as it's certainly not with regard to evaluations of Jimmy Clausen. In fact, there seems to be almost a teenage grudge against him for the publicity he received in High School.

Here's a little perspective for those wondering why Clausen didn't take home the Heisman last year.

Clausen was a true freshmen who came in behind the worst offensive line in ND history, with the worst running game in ND history, with arguably one of the worst collections of wide receivers in ND history and behind that line(that gave up a school record and NCAA worst 56 sacks,) he still managed to have a better freshman year than first round draft pick Brady Quinn. No quarterback, no matter how good, could have performed well under those circumstances. Want more perspective? Look to Tom Brady and ask yourself: Did Brady look like greatest quarterback of all time when the Giants were able to pressure him in January's Superbowl? No. He looked like a harried and harassed quarterback who completed just 60% of his passes.

Looking back at the year Notre Dame had, I came away impressed by Clausen's maturity and toughness. More so when you understand that Clausen was more than fifteen pounds underweight after elbow surgery and that he didn't throw all summer until camp. And more impressive still when you realize he injured his hip and had mobility problems on top of everything else.

So here's a twice injured true freshman with no running game, no receivers and no protection and he still completed 56% of his passes. How does that compare to phenoms of the game?

Pretty well.

Should have been Heisman trophy winner Vince Young completed 58% of his passes and threw for 6 touchdown passes against 7 interceptions his SOPHOMORE year. He didn't play at all as a true freshmen.

Heisman trophy winner Carson Palmer completed 55 % of his passes for 1,755 yards and 7 TDs with 6 interceptions as a true freshmen and 228-of-415 passes 54 % of his passes for TDs with 18 interceptions as a junior.

Heisman trophy winner Matt Leinart didn't take meaningful snaps until his Junior year, his third in the program.

Heisman trophy winner Troy Smith didn't play as a freshmen, but completed 55% of his passes for 8 TDs and 3 Ints as a sophomore.

Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow had some nice stats as a freshmen, but only threw 33 times in total as back-up on a national championship team.

In other words, while certainly not playing at near a national championship level yet, Clausen was at least the equal to the best quarterbacks in recent history while facing many more obstacles, battling two injuries and playing against 10 bowl teams. The best High School quarterback recruits are rarely called on before their sophomore years.

What hasn't been written about Clausen is that he never complained about the blocking, the play calling, the running game or the receiving. He also didn't complain about his injuries, which we've now learned were more extensive than anyone thought. What I observed last year was that Clausen, in the face of the most disappointing season in recent memory, was the one guy on the field who consistently showed emotion and never gave up.

Myopic observers clinging to some hope that Clausen will fail (and like immature schoolchildren are still somehow upset that Clausen's Dad rented a Hummer Limo for his announcement - oh my gosh) should get over it now. He won't.

Clausen is up to 220 pounds, 30 pounds heavier than last season. His accuracy is still uncanny, but now he has his arm strength back and he's looked very good according to all around the program.

But perhaps more important than anything Clausen does himself, he should have more time to throw the ball, a running game and a cadre of receivers who can get open and catch the ball. Keep an eye on Michael Floyd.

Last year I wrote that Clausen will be better than Quinn in this offense by mid-season his sophomore year and I believe that's still possible. Expect Clausen's completion percentage to jump 10 points this year and for him to become a Heisman candidate by his Junior year.

In other words, don't fall prey to group stupid mindthink. Clausen had a very good freshmen year in comparison to previous phenoms, especially given his circumstances and it's only going to get better (barring injury.)

But shhhh, nobody tell Beano.