Palmer joined the team late last season and was slated to be Jay Cutler’s backup heading into offseason activities. Yet on June 7, Clausen was signed as a free agent to battle Palmer for the position.
After spending four years in Carolina, one as a starter and three as Cam Newton’s backup, Clausen said the hardest part about joining the Bears late was, “the terminology. That’s the biggest thing. Concepts are the same since high school and college until now but learning a whole different language in a month-and-a-half is pretty tough. You’ve just got to grind it out every day. Spending hours studying, going over flash cards, just trying to memorize formations and plays and concepts and get all the old stuff out of my head and get this stuff ingrained.”
Clausen appeared to grasp the offense early in training camp. He also displayed arm strength and accuracy superior to Palmer. In addition, Clausen (26) has 10 NFL starts in his career, with 299 pass attempts, while Palmer (30) has never started an NFL game and has just 15 career pass attempts.
“They both competed really hard for the job,” coach Marc Trestman said today. “As I told Jordan, Jimmy played at a consistent level, as did Jordan. Jimmy’s played a lot more football in this league. He’s younger, and I thought the competition was very close. But I thought at the end of the day, I think the upside for Jimmy, his age, his experience, and he came highly recommended from some people I trust in Carolina.”
Clausen is far from guaranteed in terms of his ability to produce on the field. In 2010, his only year as a starter, he completed just 52.5 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and nine interceptions.
“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,” Trestman said. “So that, plus performance, plus experience, plus youth were a lot of the reasons.”
Clausen said his time on the bench between 2011-2013 was therapeutic after a rough rookie season and helped him better learn the NFL game.
“One of the big things is sitting and looking back on the sidelines the past few years in Carolina just sitting and learning really did help,” he said. “I didn’t have that in college. I didn’t have that in high school. Just to sit back and take a step back and look at everything help the game slow down a little bit for me and just learned how to play in the NFL, because it’s totally different from college.”
Clausen said it gives him peace of mind to know he’s Chicago’s No. 2 signal caller, yet he admitted he’s still a work in progress.
“Yeah, you have clarity. That’s the biggest thing, you have clarity that you’re the No. 2 guy,” said Clausen. “But it doesn’t change my mindset of anything. I’ve still got to go out each and every day and prepare.
“I studied really hard when I first got here. I was playing catch-up and I was playing catch-up when I was back home getting ready for training camp. I grasped the offense pretty well but I’m still a long ways away from where I want to get to.”
Clausen attributed much of his ability to quickly pickup the offense to Jay Cutler, who immediately took Clausen under his wing.
“He’s helped me tremendously,” Clausen said. “First day I got here, he was in here helping me. In the morning, came picked me up and we started getting to work. Just to see him doing that for a guy they just brought in is something special. I really appreciate it.”
Trestman said choosing Clausen over Palmer wasn’t easy but, at the end of the day, it was the right move.
“Jordan, he did a heck of a job. We really did a good job, and [quarterbacks coach] Matt [Cavanaugh] did of giving the guys almost an equal amount or reps an opportunity,” said Trestman. “At the end of the day it really comes down to how you feel about things. You weigh some [factors] to make that decision. We wish Jordan the best. He not only competed hard, he really invested in our football team. He emotionally invested. He coached. He shared. He coached other guys up, guys at his position. He’s a tremendous young man, and we’ll look forward to him landing on his feet somewhere.”
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.