Jimmy Clausen is Better Than Jimmy Clausen

The Chicago Bears have decided to bench Jay Cutler heading into this Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. Former second-round draft pick Jimmy Clausen will be getting his first start since 2010. And this kind of typifies the response from the media and fans:


Welp, he's worse than Blake Bortles; let's shut it down; all hope is lost.

But seriously: Let's be smart about this. Jay Cutler is not terrible -- at least statistically. He's around a 55 QBR, which is just a tick above average. Of course, scouting sources like Pro Football Focus (PFF) have rated him among the worst QBs this season -- maybe in part due to fumblitis, but it's hard to say.

Either way, the offense has been terrible, hasn't broken into 30-point territory, and now Jimmy is starting. What can we expect?

First of all: We should not expect the Jimmy from 2010. Why? Because that Jimmy was buried under a 9.9% sack rate -- worsted only by the 2010 Chicago Bears that year. Remember how awful the Bears offense was when Jay Cutler was, say, getting sacked 4 times in 40 attempts against the Washington Redskins? When he threw for just a 1 TD and 4 INT that game, didn't we say afterwards: "Stupid O-line!"

That was a season of offensive-line-blaming, and rightfully so. Meanwhile, the Panthers were enduring the same type season.

So that is extenuating circumstance No. 1. The second: Clausen was a 23-year-old playing on a terrible team. I keep seeing people citing his 1-9 QB record as though that is an indictment on anything but the horribleness of the 2010 Carolina Panthers. Was Jimmy Clausen good in 2010? No. Did he have a good supporting cast? No. He had WR Steve Smith and nobody else, not even himself.

The Panthers were a run-first team that allowed 23 or more points in all but 6 games. They finished with a combined 7 rushing TDs and 9 passing TDs. It was a bad, bad offense, rendered even more hopeless by a bad, bad defense.

Extenuating circumstance No. 3: He was a rookie. He was 23. He was a second round draft pick. He was not a polished Andrew Luck type player. He was not designed for immediate consumption. He needed to cook longer.

Hey, here's two rookies. One is Jimmy Clausen, and one is a journeyman QB who's proved himself to be a decent game manager, though not an above average QB. Which is which?

Age Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Rate ANY/A Sk%
QB 1 23 190 368 51.6 1869 9 2.4 13 3.5 59.7 3.20 7.5
QB 2 23 157 299 52.5 1558 3 1.0 9 3.0 58.4 2.98 9.9

So Jimmy is clearly No. 2 because of that enormous sack rate. QB No. 1 is our old friend Kyle Orton, who -- unlike many former Bears QBs before and after him -- seems to keep finding teams that need him to start. When Orton was 27, he put up a 53 QBR and a 86.8 QB Rating with the Denver Broncos.

Jimmy Clausen is now 27. Has he improved since spending the last four seasons on the bench? Maybe. We don't know. It's hard to get worse than your rookie self playing behind a make-believe offense line.

This year, the Bears have an acceptable sack rate (just about league average). They also have, at present, three excellent receiving targets in Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, and Matt Forte. Not to mention a running back in Matt Forte who can gash a defense at any given moment.

The rumor is that Jay Cutler has not been running the offense like Coach Trestman wants him to. There are whispers that Cutler has been refusing to check out of run plays even when the scheme calls for him to. The rumors and whispers also suggest Trestman is a man out of his depth, that his assistant coaches are scrambling to redeem themselves in any way possible, that the whole organization is disintegrating from the inside.

I don't know anything about that. But I do know this offense was a top five offense in 2013 (No. 2 with 445 points scored), under Marc Trestman, despite being led by a journeyman QB (Josh McCown) who has since go on to struggle elsewhere. So when I hear a rumor like this:


I have to have a sliver of hope that Jimmy Clausen is better than the Jimmy Clausen of history. And maybe Clausen will pull a McCown, and Jimmy Clausen under Trestman's system will be even better than Jimmy Clausen.

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