Jimmy Clausen to start for Bears Sunday against Lions

Jimmy Clausen
Jimmy Clausen

By Brandon Reid
Senior Assistant Editor

Jimmy Clausen will start at quarterback for the Chicago Bears Sunday, Dec. 21, as the team faces the division-leading Detroit Lions at noon at Soldier Field. Clausen is 1-9 in his career as a starter.

A second-round draft pick in 2010, Clausen was 1-9 as a starter for the Carolina Panthers in his rookie season. He threw for 1,558 yards, three touchdowns and nine interceptions that season, with a completion percentage of 52.5.

Clausen threw zero passes between 2011 and 2013 as a backup to Cam Newton in Carolina. He has thrown nine passes, completing three for 42 yards, for the Bears in 2014.

Clausen, 27, who was a three-year starter at Notre Dame, replaces the struggling Jay Cutler under center for the Bears.

Cutler, 31, signed a seven-year, $126 million extension with the Bears Jan. 2, 2014. That contract made him the highest-paid offensive player in the NFL this season. However, Cutler has been under intense scrutiny after leading the team to a 5-9 record in 2014.

Cutler has thrown for 3,640 yards, 28 touchdowns and a league-leading 18 interceptions this season. He has a completion percentage of 66.1 and a quarterback rating of 89.5. His total Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) of 55.0 ranks him 19th among quarterbacks this season.

QBR measures the degree to which a quarterback contributes to scoring points for a team, and also to a win by a team. Cutler ranks ahead of the following in QBR in 2014: Newton, Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Teddy Bridgewater, Brian Hoyer, Derek Carr, Josh McCown, Kyle Orton, Austin Davis, Geno Smith and Blake Bortles. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads the league with an 81.1 QBR.

ESPN Stats & Information shows Cutler has averaged a turnover every 33.3 snaps this season, third-worst among all qualified players. His turnover rate is nearly twice as high as the average for a qualified NFL quarterback. The average is a turnover every 65.3 snaps.

Bears Head Coach Marc Trestman was brought in to replace Lovie Smith following the 2012 season. Trestman was hired largely because of his reputation of getting the most out of quarterbacks, including coaching Rich Gannon to an NFL MVP award in 2002 and working with Steve Young and Bernie Kosar.

In a 2013 report, Cutler said of Trestman: “He understands quarterbacks. He understands their thought process and the minds of quarterbacks and what we have to go through. It’s going to be a quarterback-friendly system, and I can’t wait to get started with him.”

In making the announcement that he would start Clausen Sunday, Trestman explained that things have not gone as planned with Cutler.

I haven’t been able [to coax the best from Cutler] and we haven’t been able to do the things that we want to get done,” Trestman said. “We’re working towards that. But the answer to that is obvious. I’m trying to give you the most truthful answer and that is, we’ve seen moments of it, but it’s not where we need to go. It’s not where we need to be. But it’s not all about Jay. It’s about our entire offense, working together to get it done.”

Former Bears quarterback and current Bears analyst Jim Miller discussed Cutler’s benching on SportsTalk Live Dec. 17. “I think it says that that’s Marc Trestman making a statement that the Bears made a big, $126 million mistake,” Miller said. “And he came out earlier saying, ‘I haven’t been able to reach the quarterback.’ I don’t see why this is a shock to anybody. Aaron Kromer, the offensive coordinator, was an unnamed source saying, ‘Our quarterback is killing us right now.’ But because of the money he’s being paid, they continue to go down this road. Marc Trestman is saying, ‘If this ship is sinking, it’s going to be sinking for everybody.’ I think last weekend’s loss by the Bears … that locker room in the post-game press conferences where players were starting to finger-point at the quarterback. That’s just the feeling I got. I think this should’ve happened a long time ago. For me, the game that Jimmy Clausen should’ve been inserted to was that second blowout by the Green Bay Packers. Minimum, to hold your quarterback accountable to not turn over the football. But there’s no doubt about it — I’m not a real estate agent, but there’s a huge ‘for sale’ sign, and the Bears have a quarterback available.”

The Bears have suffered a number of nationally televised losses this season, including a 55-14 loss at Green Bay Sunday night, Nov. 9; a 34-17 loss at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27; a 41-28 loss at home against Dallas Thursday, Dec. 4; and a 31-15 loss at home to New Orleans Monday, Dec. 15.

The Bears’ defense has given up 409 points in 14 games this season, worst in the NFL. The team is also tied for third worst in turnovers with 28 and is tied for second worst in the NFL with 18 interceptions.

In two seasons under Trestman, Cutler has a record of 10-15 and has thrown 47 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. Trestman, meantime, is 13-17 in two seasons with the team.

Following the Dec. 21 match-up against Detroit, the Bears finish the season at Minnesota Sunday, Dec. 28.

Posted Dec. 18, 2014

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