Mark Sanchez came into the 2008 college football season largely unknown. Through a great season and absolutely killing the offseason process, Sanchez rose from an unknown commodity to the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
However, Sanchez was far from the
Clausen and Sanchez really strike me as outrageously similar prospects. Both have experience in pro-style offenses in starters at big-name programs. Both left school early for the NFL draft. Both have decent arm strength, but not rifles. Both have nice accuracy and can move and throw well on the run. Both are about 6'2, 220 pounds.
Despite seeming to be extremely similar prospects, three distinct things seperate Sanchez and Clausen, and are seemingly the most important aspects of quarterback's nowadays.
1. Moxie, Or the Public's Perception Thereof
If there was a spectrum that documented the public perception of quarterback's moxie, Clausen and Sanchez would be on vastly different ends of the scale.
Part of Sanchez's meteoric rise up the draft boards was that the guy was just so dang likeable. He would crack jokes and you just couldn't help but laugh. His smile was infectious. Team's fell in love with him. This was the kid they felt comfortable handing the keys of the city over to!
Jimmy Clausen on the other hand, is having a much harder time winning over fans in the NFL scouting community. He's been called, smug, cocky and so many other worse names.
However, I realized while writing this article... I have no idea why Clausen is widely considered to be an ass hole. He's not out there killing dogs, he's not raping women, he's not stealing laptops... Yet this is the kid we pick to rally against?
Sure, the kid is confident. So is Philip Rivers. So is Jay Cutler. So is Peyton Manning for Pete's sake! You have to have a sense of entitlement to play the quarterback position. If you don't have confidence in your own abilities, you start to second-guess every move you make.
This was plain and simple in Jay Cutler this season. In his two starting season's prior in Denver, we saw him throw for about 8,000 yards and 45 touchdowns. The guy was an elite up-and-coming quarterback. By the time he got to Chicago, with one bad game to start the season his confidence drained and he started worrying about not throwing interceptions. Instead of playing how he'd played in the past, Cutler began to second-doubt every move in order to prevent interceptions, in turn causing more interceptions.
2. College Choice
"This is the biggest decision of my life. It means not only where I will play football but, most likely, who I will marry, who my best friends for life will be, where I will live. It means everything. And the one thing I know for sure is I'm too young to make this kind of decision by myself."
Todd Marinovich's famous quote comes into play here. Jimmy Clausen and Mark Sanchez both chose to go to school's with proud football lineages and reputations as NFL factories.
However, USC and Notre Dame have differing quarterback histories. USC has pumped out Matt Cassel and Rodney Peete, who have ended up with solid NFL careers, and Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, both who were highly thought of draft prospects.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, is known more for the seeming bust of Brady Quinn, the busts like Rick Mirer and the late-round picks like Jarious Jackson.
To this, I simply have to scoff. Just because quarterbacks in the past have struggled in the NFL means nothing about how the quarterback at hand will do. Jimmy Clausen has started three years in an NFL system, and that's all that matters. Mark Sanchez learned the playbook for three years and actually fully started one season.
Both know how to play the position of quarterback in the NFL. Just because some noodle-armed dummy who ran under a spread coach at School X failed doesn't mean that three years later under a pro-style coach, QB from School X will fail as well.
3. Winning Percentage
As an NFL draftnik, I've heard the phrase "He's a winner" a lot. Colt McCoy is "just a winner". Ken Dorsey was "just a winner". Tommie Frazier was "just a winner". Chris Weinke was "just a winner".
In other words... Colt McCoy, Ken Dorsey, Tommie Frazier, Chris Weinke and many more were all surrounded by immense talent and had great coaching staffs.
Ken Dorsey is one of the few members of those Miami teams that made no impact in the NFL. Why? Because he's not that talented. Sure, he won games like crazy at Coral Gables, but that's because he had Clinton Portis to hand off to, with Bryant McKinnie blocking his blind side while he passed to Andre Johnson and Jeremy Shockey.
Jimmy Clausen hasn't had a winning season at Notre Dame, whereas Mark Sanchez had one 12-1 season. Seeing those USC teams that were stacked with talent make you wonder how important Sanchez truly was on those teams. Also, what if Clausen had been there? It's conceivable that Clausen's already impressive stat sheet would have been even more impressive.
All in all, Jimmy Clausen is a quarterback prospect receiving an inordinate amount of hate for seemingly no good reason. Clausen and Mark Sanchez are essentially the same prospect; it's too bad that three unimportant factors are being held against him.