Bears: Making sense out of 'Clausen vs. Palmer'

Bears: Making sense out of 'Clausen vs. Palmer'
July 29, 2014, 1:45 pm
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Marc Trestman’s irritation was palpable, and understandable: A reporter referenced a news story stating that Trestman had Jordan Palmer ahead of Jimmy Clausen in the competition for the No. 2 quarterback job.

“That couldn't be,” Trestman said. “I've never said anything to that at all. I've said that it's a competition, that it's an open competition, and I also said, I'm certain that I said even at the initial press conference, 'Let's not say that David Fales is out of the competition to be the No. 2 either.

“But the process is that Jordan and Jimmy are going to continue to battle. Matt's going to move them around in different situations with 2’s and 3’s, and Fales is going to continue to get his reps as you saw today and we'll continue to evaluate through camp and that's always the way it's been. I've never been asked a question in two years like that but my answer is as simple as it can be and that is that it's a competition. I haven't even thought about at this point who that guy would be.”

Indeed, coaches have been clear in cautioning about assigning excessive significance to whether Clausen or Palmer took which reps with which unit in practice. Fales is part of the discussion, as Trestman clarified, but realistically the rookie would need stunning performances in preseason games, with decreasing reps as preseason goes on to work his way up the depth chart.

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Right now only one “indicator” stands out as far as which of the two veterans has any advantage, and that’s one that could be eclipsed by game performances. That indicator was pre-camp, from GM Phil Emery rather than Trestman. And given that Trestman didn’t anoint Jay Cutler as the franchise quarterback when he was hired, he certainly isn’t likely to be anointing anyone as Cutler’s understudy just yet.

But a talent assessment by Emery was the clue to a starting perception of Clausen:

“I said, ‘Ya know what Marc, I’ve seen [Clausen] work out twice since he’s been in the league,’ Emery said. “Once was his rookie workout. And I thought, ‘That guy’s an NFL player.’ And then he came back a couple years later and threw to the tight end who’s in Minnesota from Notre Dame and I said ‘Who is that guy?’ Someboyd said, ‘That’s Jimmy Clausen.’ I said, ‘That’s Jimmy Clausen?’

“I could see why. That all looked good and that looked unified. That guy’s a pro. And he came in and did the same thing. So someone that hits our eyes and comes in here and shows us that he has something that can help our team and help the competitive level, we’re all in for that competition.”

If Palmer has one intangible working against him, it is that he is 30, which is getting beyond the reach of “potential.” Clausen is 26. He arguably still has some, which is part of why the Bears signed him.

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Misunderstanding commitments to draft picks

All of this gets to something that is frequently misunderstood where draft choices are concerned, and Clausen was a No. 2 pick of the Carolina Panthers and obviously held in high talent regard by Emery.

Critics will argue that the reason a team stays with one player over another because of draft position (and the money that goes with that). In fact, the reason why a player is drafted is because of a perception of one player’s higher talent level.

Meaning: The draft choice may be accorded more time to demonstrate that talent, and may get the nod in a position battle because of upside. It is rarely purely a money decision in the longer term; the reason the money was paid was based on the talent assessment, which led to the draft selection.

Clausen was a second-round draft choice for a reason, and it was apparent that Emery was still seeing the reasons for that lofty draft status.

“Jimmy made a lot of progress between his last year and his second to last year he was in college in terms of his overall accuracy, his deep ball,” said Emery, who called Clausen’s Bears workout “as good a quarterback workout that we’ve seen since I’ve been here.

“I think he grew from a leadership perspective. I think his focus grew. He always showed me he could be creative and make some plays on his own. I don’t think mobility is his biggest asset but I definitely saw a player that knows how to get out of the way and get the ball off in time, and a mentally tough player that will take a hit to deliver the ball with accuracy and precision.”