LAKE FOREST — For all of the offensive uncertainty regarding backup battles at running back and wide receiver, the Bears confirmed Sunday what we’ve expected to hear since early in training camp – Jimmy Clausen will be the No. 2 quarterback behind Jay Cutler.
Clausen’s arrival in early June, after the Bears had held three of five offseason training activities, was the first sign they weren't set on then-No. 2 Jordan Palmer, part of the club’s first wave of cuts Sunday.
The former Notre Dame standout and second-round pick by the Panthers in 2010, Clausen’s edge over Palmer in terms of physical tools was evident from the first time he stepped on the practice field. His passes had more accuracy and zip, and his footwork and mobility in the pocket were much smoother.
One of the few questions Clausen needed to answer was how quickly he’d grasp the offense.
Marc Trestman reiterated Monday that Clausen’s attention to detail and strong work ethic to quickly grasp the playbook impressed him. Trestman pointed to not only Clausen’s youth and experience – at 26, Clausen is four years younger than Palmer and has started 13 NFL games compared to none by Palmer – but the way he handled adversity early in his career as positives that convinced Trestman that Clausen was the right choice.
“I think the upside for Jimmy, his age, his experience, and he came highly recommended from some people I trust in Carolina,” said Trestman of the key factors in making his decision. “His ability to handle the adversity that he had in his first year, his leadership qualities, he stood up tall through a lot of tough times in Carolina and gained the respect of his teammates and the team there with the way he handled himself in a very, very difficult year.”
One of those teammates, tight end Dante Rosario, agreed with Trestman’s assessment. He noted not only Clausen’s growth as a passer, but his football character and mental strength after a lot of the blame for a 2-14 season was levied in his direction as reasons he has so much respect for Clausen.
“When you have a season like that, you find out guys that really love playing football and guys that aren’t in it for that,” said Rosario. “It’s not just improvement on the field but also as a leader. Clearly he stuck with it, persevered, and he’s come out so much stronger because of it.”
As Josh McCown proved last season, when he parlayed his dynamite relief role into a multi-year contract and starting chance in Tampa Bay, being Jay Cutler’s backup and learning under Trestman can lead to bigger things.
But from rookie starter to clipboard holder, then out of the league altogether last year to now being one big hit on Cutler away from starting, Clausen is happy the coaches have placed confidence in him, but his journey getting here helps shape his perspective.
“You have clarity that you’re the No. 2 guy,” Clausen said. “But it doesn’t change my mindset… go out each and every day and prepare.”