Jimmy Clausen’s two 3,000-yard-plus seasons at Notre Dame made it seem he was a can’t-miss quarterback prospect.
After all, Clausen’s cat-quick release had many experts comparing him to the great Joe Namath.
Some pundits also believed Clausen’s brash and cocky attitude made him slide down to 48th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Plus, he also left school after his junior season. Some pundits felt it was a red flag.
Nevertheless, the Carolina Panthers took the bait.
All Clausen did was throw for three touchdowns and nine interceptions in his rookie season in the NFL.
He also had a 1-9 win-loss record as the Panthers’ starting quarterback.
Five short years later, Clausen’s NFL career was over.
He’ll be remembered in NFL lore as an underdeveloped quarterback who played for mediocre teams.
James Richard Clausen was born to parents Jim and Cathy in Thousand Oaks, CA on September 21, 1987.
Jim Clausen coached several Southern California high school and college football teams during his children’s formative years. He ran an insurance business several years later.
When Jimmy Clausen was a child in the West Coast, he told the New York Post’s Ian O’Connor he grew up idolizing Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan and two-sport star Deion Sanders.
Clausen comes from a family of quarterbacks.
He has two brothers: Casey, who started at quarterback for the Tennessee Volunteers from 2000 to 2003, and Rick, who also played quarterback at Tennessee’s Knoxville campus.
Casey Clausen’s 9,707 passing yards and 75 touchdown passes made him one of the most prolific passers in Volunteers football history.
Steve Clarkson, a private quarterbacks coach who helped refine the Clausen brothers’ games, feels Jimmy combines his siblings’ upsides, and then some.
“Jimmy has the leadership of Casey, the intangibles of Rick, and the skills of Dan Marino,” Clarkson told Sports Illustrated’s Kelli Anderson in November 2005.
When the Clausen brothers were young, their mom Cathy loaded them into the car that trailed the team bus whenever it went on the road.
When Casey and Rick grew older, they hung out with the quarterbacks at the back of the bus.
One day, Jim Clausen and Steve Clarkson watched Jimmy sling pigskins on the gridiron.
Clarkson didn’t know who the kid was.
Clausen told him it was his youngest son Jimmy, who wanted to play linebacker.
After watching Jimmy throw several bombs downfield, Clarkson told Clausen he’s a better quarterback than his two brothers, per SI.com.
Clarkson eventually started working with Jimmy Clausen when he was in seventh grade.
I think I found the x-factor in Alemany’s win over Oaks Christian Friday night. Casey Clausen’s nephew Cooper was giving pregame instruction. Cooper is the son of Casey’s brother, Jimmy Clausen.@JimmyClausen | @AlemanyFootball pic.twitter.com/TXqabZEVOG
— Tarek Fattal (@Tarek_Fattal) September 14, 2019
Jimmy Clausen attended Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, CA which is just three miles east of his birthplace.
Clausen played quarterback for the Oaks Christian Lions.
He never started for the Lions in his freshman season.
However, he broke out of the gates as a sophomore, throwing for an insane 58 touchdowns.
That year, the Oaks Christian Lions took on the Oak Park Eagles in the title game.
The Lions, who played without star tailback Marc Tyler, trailed at halftime.
Clausen put Lions head football coach Bill Redell at ease.
He told Redell the Lions would win by two touchdowns.
They eventually won the game by three scores.
In one major turning point of the game, Clausen eludes a sack and completes a 60-yard pass.
Clausen ran to the end zone to celebrate, made his way to the Eagles bench, and mouthed off at their head coach saying, “What do you think about that?”
Even as a high school quarterback, Jimmy Clausen had plenty of swagger.
Nevertheless, he had the work ethic to back it up.
On one occasion, Clausen trained on the beachfront during a windstorm.
His coach, Joey Masiello, figured he had had enough and told him to hit the treadmill indoors instead.
Clausen, who already had an affinity for the University of Notre Dame back then (he wore Notre Dame shorts when he trained with Masiello), refused.
He asked Masiello if they can do three-a-days instead, per ESPN’s Tom Friend.
The Lions eventually hired Casey Clausen to be their quarterbacks coach.
Ironically, he ran film of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish with his youngest brother Jimmy soaking up the plays like a sponge.
Casey took it a step further: he asked his childhood buddy and New England Patriots backup quarterback Matt Cassel to spend some time with Jimmy and refine his game.
Even Cassel – who played college football for the USC Trojans – broke down Notre Dame head football coach Charlie Weis’ plays for Jimmy.
Clausen, who wound up throwing for 10,677 yards during his high school football career at Oaks Christian, became even more enamored with Notre Dame.
At the end of Clausen’s high school football stint, he earned several accolades.
He won the 2006 Hall Trophy and earned USA TODAY Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Parade Magazine also named him Co-Player of the Year together with USC Trojans running back Joe McKnight.
No other than Nick Saban, one of the winningest coaches in college football history, reached out to Clausen.
Saban, who just signed with the Alabama Crimson Tide as their next head football coach, texted Clausen in the winter of 2007.
Unfortunately for Saban, it was too little, too late.
Jimmy Clausen, the staunch Notre Dame Fighting Irish football fan, was already enrolled in South Bend, IN.
College Days With The Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Jimmy Clausen had been one of Notre Dame football’s most flamboyant recruits in recent memory.
He announced his commitment to Notre Dame in style: he stepped out of a limousine at the College Football Hall of Fame with a 2000s hairstyle wearing his high school state title rings.
Clausen wasn’t just about false hype, though: his game on the gridiron spoke volumes.
In fact, ESPN’s Tom VanHaaren proclaimed Clausen as Notre Dame’s most hyped recruit.
He had his work cut out for him: he was one of three quarterbacks looking to replace Brady Quinn, one of the best quarterbacks in the program’s football history.
Clausen competed with Evan Sharpley and Demetrius Jones for the Fighting Irish’s starting quarterback spot in the 2007 NCAA season.
However, Clausen ran into trouble even before he played a single down in college football.
He received a citation and a $170 fine for transporting alcohol in the summer of 2007, per The South Bend Tribune (via UHND.com’s Frank Vitovich).
Clausen eventually took the field ten times in his true freshman year in South Bend.
He started nine of those games and thew for 1,245 yards, seven touchdowns, and six interceptions.
The Jimmy Clausen era got off to a slow start.
Worse, the Irish won just three games in the 2007 NCAA campaign.
It was their worst showing in forty-four years.
Notre Dame also didn’t receive a bowl invite for the first time in four seasons.
Clausen arrived during a tumultuous time in South Bend.
The program was under a lot of scrutiny. The Irish, which have eleven national titles, simply weren’t accustomed to losing.
Clausen upped the ante in his sophomore campaign.
He passed for 3,172 yards and 25 touchdowns in thirteen games.
However, Clausen had a propensity for turning the ball over.
He threw 17 interceptions in the 2008 NCAA season.
— Jimmy Clausen (@JimmyClausen) January 1, 2021
Clausen’s best game of the regular season was his 347-yard and three-touchdown showing against the Stanford Cardinal on October 4, 2008.
The Irish won by a touchdown, 28-21.
With Clausen under center, Notre Dame squared off against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in the 2008 Hawaii Bowl.
He threw for a gaudy 401 yards, five touchdowns, and zero interceptions to the lead the Irish to a 49-21 blowout victory over the Rainbow Warriors.
It wasn’t the kind of bowl game that satisfied the Notre Dame faithful, but they’ll take it.
Plus, Clausen’s development heading into his junior season was encouraging.
Clausen took his performance to a higher level as a senior.
He threw for 3,722 yards and 28 touchdowns in twelve games for Notre Dame.
Better yet, he lowered his interception total to just four on the year.
At this point in his college football career, Clausen not only had a quick release, but he was also more accurate.
Clausen started his senior campaign on a solid note.
He passed for 315 yards, four touchdowns, and zero picks in the Irish’s 35-0 season-opening shutout win over the hapless Nevada Wolf Pack on September 5, 2009.
Clausen recorded five games of at least 300 yards and two games of at least 422 yards that year.
Sporting News named Clausen a midseason All-American in 2009.
Despite Clausen wreaking havoc at quarterback, Notre Dame was merely an average team in the 2009 NCAA season.
The Irish went 6-6 in Clausen’s third year in South Bend.
Notre Dame won six of its first eight games before the bottom fell out.
The Irish eventually fired Charlie Weis at the end of the season.
Weis’ dismissal ushered in the Brian Kelly era at Notre Dame.
On the other hand, Jimmy Clausen’s junior campaign ended on a sour note.
According to ESPN’s Joe Schad’s source, an irate fan “sucker-punched” Clausen in the face as he left CJ’s, a South Bend bar, with his parents and several teammates on November 21, 2009.
The incident occurred in the aftermath of Notre Dame’s 33-30 loss to the Connecticut Huskies on Senior Day.
Clausen remained unfazed: he passed for 340 yards, five touchdowns, and zero interceptions in the Irish’s 45-38 loss to the Stanford Cardinal a week later.
It turned out to be Jimmy Clausen’s final game in a Notre Dame uniform.
— Jimmy Clausen (@JimmyClausen) September 1, 2018
A week after Weis’ firing, Clausen decided to forego his senior season and declare for the 2010 NFL Draft.
Clausen told ESPN.com on December 7, 2009 he followed Weis’ advice:
“Coach Weis told me whether he was going to be here or not be here, it was time for me to go.”
“He thought I’ve improved so much since I came to Notre Dame.”
“So, I’m taking his advice, and I’m going to head out.”
Regrettably, Clausen’s decision to leave Notre Dame a year early would backfire as evidenced by his performance in the National Football League.
Clausen concluded his three-year stint at South Bend with 8,148 passing yards, 60 touchdowns, and 27 interceptions.
Notre Dame fans and experts alike also wonder what it would’ve been like had Clausen and wide receiver Golden Tate stayed for their senior seasons.
Whether they would’ve flourished and helped the Irish contend for a national title or not under Kelly’s leadership, we’ll never know.
When O’Connor asked Clausen prior to the 2010 NFL Draft what it was like to be Notre Dame’s signal caller, Clausen mentioned the scrutiny that goes with playing the position.
“Coach Weis and I always used to joke that you get too much blame when things go bad and when things go well, you get too much credit,” he quipped.
Some pundits credit Notre Dame’s mediocrity during Clausen’s time to an inept offensive line, the lack of a solid running game, and matador defense.
Long story short, the Irish pinned their hopes mainly on Jimmy Clausen’s arm.
Football is the ultimate team sport. Had Clausen had more weapons at his disposal, he would’ve led Notre Dame back to respectability.
Consequently, he will be remembered by Irish fans as the brash, gunslinging quarterback who was surrounded by mediocrity during his three-year stint.
Pro Football Career
The Carolina Panthers were a mediocre football team in 2009.
The Panthers went 8-8 in head coach John Fox’s eighth year at the helm.
It was a significant regression from their impressive 12-4 win-loss mark the year before.
Stalwarts such as quarterback Jake Delhomme, running back DeAngelo Williams, and wide receiver Steve Smith helped Carolina make just the fourth playoff appearance in franchise history in 2008.
One of the reasons why the Panthers took a step backward in 2009 was their putrid passing offense.
Carolina’s 2,799 passing yards ranked 27th in the NFL that year.
Could Jimmy Clausen, the quarterback who threw for more than 3,000 yards in two of his three seasons at Notre Dame, help the Panthers get over the hump?
No, he wouldn’t.
The Panthers made Clausen the 48th overall selection of the 2010 NFL Draft.
He was drafted ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals’ Carlos Dunlap (54th), the Seattle Seahawks’ Golden Tate (60th), the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Emmanuel Sanders (82nd), the Cleveland Browns’ Colt McCoy (85th), the New Orleans Saints’ Jimmy Graham (95th), and the Seattle Seahawks’ Kam Chancellor (133rd).
All of them had far more productive NFL careers than Clausen.
Clausen signed a four-year, $4.2 million contract (including $2.53 million in guaranteed money) with the Panthers on July 28, 2010.
— Thē Çröwń Čłûb (@CrownClubCLT) April 23, 2015
After Delhomme’s departure to the Browns, Fox named Matt Moore his starting quarterback for the 2010 NFL campaign.
However, Moore’s concussion in the season opener against the New York Giants on September 12, 2010 allowed Clausen to take the field.
Clausen’s stat line: two incomplete passes and a 39.6 passer rating.
The Panthers lost, 31-18.
Clausen took the field again the following week after Moore struggled against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Clausen converted on 7 of his 13 passes for 59 yards and an interception.
The Bucs prevailed, 20-7.
Clausen made his first NFL start against the Cincinnati Bengals on September 26, 2010.
It was a game he’d rather forget.
Not only did Carolina lose 20-7, but television cameras also caught Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith shouting at Clausen while he was talking to an assistant coach on the sideline.
Smith, a five-time Pro Bowler, recorded just three receptions and 22 yards in the loss.
For his part, Clausen downplayed the incident.
“That’s just Steve,” Clausen told Bleacher Report’s Paul Mueller on September 27, 2010. “He’s a fiery guy…just being competitive and wanting the ball and trying to make plays.”
After Clausen lost his eight consecutive start – a 31-10 blowout loss to the Atlanta Falcons on December 13, 2010 – Smith chimed in.
He told CarolinaGrowl.com (via SBNation.com’s Andrew Sharp) Clausen still had a long way to go as an NFL quarterback:
“I’m the last guy to tell anybody to be apologizing, but if you’re going to apologize, you know, you should apologize to the people in the huddle with you.”
“But he has a lot to learn. He ain’t at Notre Dame anymore, that’s for sure.”
Smith was right. Clausen wasn’t ready for the pro game yet.
The Panthers rookie quarterback had a woeful 1-9 win-loss record as Carolina’s starting quarterback in the 2010 NFL season.
He finished the year with 1,558 passing yards, three touchdown passes, and nine interceptions.
He also had a 13.8 total quarterback rating in his rookie season.
— Sports Radio WFNZ (@wfnz) December 19, 2018
The Panthers plummeted to a 2-14 win-loss mark in 2010 – their worst showing since the 2001 NFL campaign.
They were a far cry from the postseason contenders they were just two years ago.
Jimmy Clausen’s fall from grace in Carolina didn’t take long.
The Panthers drafted Auburn Tigers quarterback Cam Newton first overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.
To add insult to injury, Carolina signed Derek Anderson, who eventually became Newton’s chief backup.
The Panthers effectively demoted Clausen to third-string status.
Then-Detroit Lions wide receiver and Clausen’s teammate at Notre Dame Golden Tate chimed in on the quarterback’s situation, per The Detroit Free Press (via SI.com):
“I think it was unfair when he was in Carolina. He wasn’t on a great team and being a rookie, the next year, they draft Cam Newton, so he sits as a No. 3 because Derek Anderson was the No. 2”
“They wouldn’t let him go, so he couldn’t even get an opportunity to prove himself.”
Clausen’s third-string status went on for two seasons.
During that span, Carolina won a combined thirteen games and missed the postseason for a fourth straight year.
The Panthers released Jimmy Clausen on August 31, 2013.
After almost a year in limbo, Clausen signed with the Chicago Bears on June 5, 2014.
According to The Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs, Clausen knew Bears head coach Marc Trestman dating back to his pro day at Notre Dame four years earlier.
Clausen said he knows Trestman a little bit. Trestman ran his pro day at Notre Dame when he was coming out.
— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) June 5, 2014
Clausen competed with Jordan Palmer and David Fales for the main backup spot behind Jay Cutler.
Clausen won out and apparently had another shot at gridiron redemption.
He even briefly won the starting job from Cutler.
Unfortunately, Clausen sustained a concussion in his first start as Bears quarterback – a 20-14 loss to the Detroit Lions on December 21, 2014.
Consequently, Cutler promptly regained the starting job.
— Christopher Sosa (@chrismanuelsosa) August 14, 2015
Over the next two seasons in the Windy City, Clausen took the field a combined six times threw for 407 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Chicago was mired in mediocrity during that stretch, never winning more than six games in a season.
The Bears eventually released Clausen on November 23, 2015.
The Baltimore Ravens claimed him off waivers a day later after they placed starter Joe Flacco on season-ending injury reserve.
🚨HAIL MARY ALERT🚨
Jimmy Clausen to Kamar Aiken TD for the Ravens. pic.twitter.com/vHHx9SrSDK
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) December 20, 2015
Clausen’s best game as a member of the Ravens was his 281-yard, two-touchdown effort in a 34-14 blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on December 20, 2015.
After not receiving any feelers from other NFL teams, Jimmy Clausen had played his final down in the National Football League.
Clausen threw for 2,520 yards, seven touchdowns, and 14 interceptions in twenty-one career games.
He earned almost $5 million as an NFL quarterback, per Sportscasting.com’s Jake Elman.
Jimmy Clausen and his wife Jess have three children: Cooper, Jett, and Hailey.
According to his LinkedIn profile, he worked as a college football analyst for CBS Sports and NBC Sports.
He also did some high school football broadcasting in 2017, per The Los Angeles Times’ Eric Sondheimer (via USA TODAY High School Sports).
Clausen has seen action in several AFFL flag football games in recent years.
His Instagram profile indicates he’s currently dabbling in real estate.