In the same manner that his mentor, Charlie Weis, introduced himself to the Fighting Irish by telling them, "You are what you are folks, and right now you're a 6-5 football team," right now the one-time wunderkind from Oaks Christian is a (potential) second-round talent.
A few reasons why Clausen, who has been Mel Kiper, Jr.'s "Best Available" talent on the board since Kansas City selected Eric Berry at No. 5 Thursday night, took that long, slow slide:
1. Charlie Weis
No player personifies the Weis era at Notre Dame more so than Clausen. His numbers as a junior were incredible (28 TDs, 4 picks, for example). His mechanics and understanding of defenses are nonpareil , thanks in large part to the same man who helped develop Tom Brady.
But Jimmy didn't win. Never beat USC. The Irish were 1-8 in November in Clausen's final two seasons, and the lone victory was a 27-21 win at Navy.
How does a team with that much talent play that poorly when it matters most?
It's not all Clausen's fault -- in fact the Irish lost in spite of many a brilliant performance he put together in those November games -- but eventually losses fall at the feet of the head coach and the quarterback .
Weis banked his future at Notre Dame on Clausen, and Clausen banked his NFL future on Weis. It didn't work out quite the way they planned.
2. JaMarcus Russell
ESPN draft expert Todd McShay referred to picks 7-9 on Thursday evening as "Quarterback Row." The Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills owned those picks, respectively, and each need a franchise quarterback.
However, new Browns GM Mike Holmgren wasn't "exactly sold" on Clausen and did you really expect Cleveland to take a chance on a Golden Domer QB for the second time in four seasons?
Next came the Silver & Black, who could use a franchise QB the way that Iggy Pop could use a T-shirt?
Having squandered the No. 1 overall pick three years ago with the selection of LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the Raiders were unwilling to roll the dice on anything less than the surest of things. And apparently Clausen is not that.
Instead, they selected Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain, whom teammate Greg McElroy last year suggested was the Tide's best player. Heady compliment from the 'Bama quarterback considering that teammate Mark Ingram won the Heisman and the Tide won the national championship.
Finally, Buffalo had a shot at a surer thing: tailback/punt returner C.J. Spiller, whom ESPN analyst Jon Gruden predicted would win the NFL Rookie of the Year Award next season.
There are only so many teams who need a quarterback badly enough to spend a first-round pick on one. When these three passed on this passer, it became evident that Clausen was about to experience a free fall.
3. The "Me" Thing
On Thursday night, one NFL scout said that the first-round draft results "wiped the smirk off" Clausen's face. Earlier on Thursday, new Irish head coach Brian Kelly told ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd that his imperative was to change the culture from recruiting guys who choose Notre Dame to improve their draft position to "recruiting guys who are here to help Notre Dame win football games."
Wonder who he was talking about.
In the past three years, I saw plenty of Notre Dame gridders cry after yet another heartbreaking, stultifying and inexplicable loss. No one ever saw Jimmy Clausen come close to tears.
On his pro day earlier this month, Clausen was asked what his most memorable moment in a Notre Dame uniform was. His answer: "Purdue."
Granted Clausen, who'd torn ligaments -- or was it tendons -- in his big toe only a week earlier, played heroically at Ross-Ade Stadium, leading the Irish on a game-winning drive that culminated in a fourth-down touchdown toss to tight end Kyle Rudolph.
But .. .Purdue!?!
The Boilermakers had a first-year head coach and a first-year quarterback and had just lost a week earlier -- at home -- to Northern Illinois.
Jump ahead three weeks to the USC game. The Irish, having mounted an inspiring comeback against their nemesis -- who've won seven straight in this series -- have first-and-goal at the 4 with :14 remaining. They trail by a touchdown.
Clausen throws three straight incompletions (again, not entirely his fault; the first pass was catchable and, on the third, Duval Kamara fell coming out of his cut) and the Irish lose. If he completes one of those, and if the Irish go on to win, the entire perception of Clausen and Notre Dame in the Weis era changes. The Irish go to 5-1 and who knows how the rest of the season plays out.
I will say this: Had the Irish beaten USC in October, Clausen would be on someone's NFL roster when you woke up today. He might have even won the Heisman. It all hinged on one pass (and a two-point conversion), but on such moments are careers made. Ask Doug Flutie.
5. The Boy Scout Factor
No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford, last I checked, had a 3.9 GPA in finance and comes across about as humble as any college football player since Forrest Gump.
Tim Tebow -- do I need to say anything? Even Colt McCoy, right down to that moniker, comes straight out of a Western. He literally wore a white hat during his college days.
Measured against such Rockwell-ian counterparts, Clausen's cockiness -- and while he is no criminal, he is cocky -- finds an even starker contrast. And while, again, his mechanics and his film room acumen are outstanding, he is not a good enough athlete, he is not enough of a proven winner and he is certainly not enough of an established leader -- just because someone elects (or appoints) you captain does not mean you've earned the "C"-- to overcome that reputation.
Perhaps this is all for the best. Clausen is going to get drafted on Friday night and while the second-round designation will cost him some signing-bonus coin, it will also come with decidedly less pressure. He may not have the "Date my daughter, please!" sheen of Bradford, Tebow and McCoy, but he is not a delinquent. Nor is he a slacker.
Thursday evening was a humbling experience for Clausen. Time will tell if he uses this memory to his advantage.