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Talented Clausen can thank smirk for drastic draft fall

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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NEW YORK -- Things got so bad for him, at some point, it seemed as if this announcement was coming: "With the first pick in the United Football League Draft, the Las Vegas Locomotives select Jimmy Clausen, quarterback, Notre Dame."

Clausen slid and slid and slid, his likely landing spots each taking passes. The Cleveland Browns' quarterback is the broken down Jake Delhomme, who just threw another interception five minutes ago, and Seneca Wallace, who plays like Mike Wallace. A guy who breaks his hip every other play and a scrub. Still, the Browns passed on Clausen, eventually taking former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy with the 85th pick.

By the time Roger Goodell finally read Clausen's name he had fallen deep into the second round, going 48th overall to Carolina. Clausen was projected as a first-round pick. Indeed, a top 10 pick. It's likely by slipping so badly, his guaranteed money will be some $2 million. Had Clausen gone in the top 10, the guaranteed money might've been around $22 million.

In other words, Clausen's smirk may have cost him $20 million.

There are many villains in this story. Clausen himself is one. Clausen's falling is also an indictment on former coach Charlie Weis. The fact Notre Dame's arguably two best players on the team in Clausen and Golden Tate didn't go until the second round puts the exclamation point on Weis' bust of a tenure. He couldn't recruit and he couldn't coach. Other than that, Weis was fine.

But I come to defend Clausen after what had to be one of the more embarrassing moments in his athletic life and after all of the draft drama Clausen actually ended up in an ideal situation.

The Panthers are extremely thin at quarterback. Matt Moore sits atop the depth chart and, well, that about says it all. Clausen has a solid chance to take the job from Moore.

I'm hoping Clausen succeeds because I feel sorry for him despite his persnickety smirkness. He was the subject of a pretty intensive smear campaign by hypocritical NFL executives who secretly called Clausen a jerk to the media while drafting druggies and woman beaters on their own teams.

As a result, his tumble was almost historic. Brady Quinn and Aaron Rodgers both suffered draft day falls but neither fell completely out of the first round. No other draft day quarterback has had to endure what Clausen went though.

Jimmy Clausen's attitude might have cost him millions in the draft. (Getty Images)  
Jimmy Clausen's attitude might have cost him millions in the draft. (Getty Images)  
It's interesting how the minds of NFL executives work. They'll tolerate felons but not players who talk back. Teams will make a federal case if a player is late for meetings but sign dog killers.

Clausen was caught up in what's become an overly punitive and self-righteous period in NFL history.

Again, Clausen didn't help himself. Remember, in 2006, when Clausen announced he was going to Notre Dame, he did so in front of the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind. He pulled in front of the building in a stretch Hummer limo with family and friends. Then the little tart actually had the nerve to flash his high school championship rings and declare he was coming to Notre Dame to "try and get four national championship rings."

He was and is brash but NFL egos still got in the way of common sense during this draft.

Clausen played through sinister injuries last season at Notre Dame, never complained about his horrific defense, and in many ways was the sole reason the Irish didn't completely implode. In his career, he threw for more than 8,000 yards and had 60 touchdown passes.

Clausen is a jerk at times but he's a talented and tough jerk.

One day, I hope Clausen wins a Super Bowl, and tells all the self-righteous NFL teams that passed him to kiss his, well, you know what.

It'd be one of the few instances his extremely cockiness should be welcome.

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