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The vast majority of local sports punditry seemed pre-determined to not give any credit whatsoever to Jimmy Clausen - or, by proxy, Marc Trestman - regardless of the outcome of the Bears game on Sunday. I wish they'd get off his case.
Consider: Clausen hadn't started a game since 2010 and had gone three years without throwing a single pass in a real game until earlier this season - when he threw one.
Also consider he was facing one of the league's toughest defenses on a team playing for a playoff seed while his own side was in complete disarray - and missing its No. 1 receiver and playing two undrafted free agents on the offensive line.
Given that, I'd say Clausen's 23-of-39 for 181 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT (on the last play of the game) - plus nine yards rushing on three carries - was pretty damn respectable.
Most important of all was what Clausen did that Jay Cutler didn't in his time in there: He ran the offense as proscribed. Just like Josh McCown did last season, albeit with somewhat less success.
Oh, and did I mention Alshon Jeffery's drops?
Give the guy some credit - and give Trestman some credit. We now know definitively what we have in Jay Cutler, and it's not good.
"The ball was never in harm's way, until the last play," former Bears quarterback Jim Miller said on The Score this morning, praising Clausen.
During the game, Bears radio play-by-play announcer Jeff Joniak continually remarked on Clausen's nice, tight spirals and hard, accurate throws.
Clausen was capable, which was enough.
"After benching Jay Cutler, the Chicago Bears nearly hung an embarrassing loss on the playoff-bound Detroit Lions.
"Thanks to a late touchdown run by Joique Bell, the Lions managed to get past Jimmy Clausen and the chaotic Chicago Bears 20-14 Sunday. That set up a showdown with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers for the NFC North championship."
Managed to get past Jimmy Clausen and the chaotic Chicago Bears.
"Matthew Stafford outplayed Clausen, but just barely."
I normally wouldn't turn to a Rockford TV station to bolster an argument, but I came across a piece by Lauren Screeden up there headlined "Lions Trump Bears Despite Clausen's Efforts:"
"Jimmy Clausen did indeed provide a spark for the Bears. They played with more energy, more vigor and more life than we've seen in several weeks."
Several game accounts noted that when Clausen bounced right up after getting speared in the helmet and got in Ziggy Ansah's face, his teammates took note.
Does that mean Clausen is the answer? No. But you wonder how the season might have gone if Josh McCown had still been around to replace Cutler sooner. We should all feel clarified about Cutler at this point.
If anything, Clausen may have proven to be an acceptable answer as backup next year.
An exception to the lame punditry: ESPN Chicago Bears reporter Michael C. Wright.
"Clausen stayed within the confines of the scheme - which is what Trestman wanted all along from the original starter - without taking unnecessary risks and making the same game-changing mistakes that ultimately led to the decision to bench Cutler," Wright writes.
"[I]f Clausen plays mistake-free football within Trestman's scheme and experiences success to close the season next week at Minnesota, perhaps it proves the coach's system works just fine, and that Cutler was the problem all along. Again, it's probably too late for Cutler's benching to save Trestman's job. But if Clausen closes on a positive note, it at least gives ownership pause when making decisions about the futures of Trestman, Cutler and even Emery, who has been steadfast in his support of the quarterback."
The Tribune's Steve Rosenbloom, on the other hand, argues that Clausen didn't deliver anything different than Cutler. Well, isn't that more an indictment of Cutler than Clausen?
I agree that Trestman and Phil Emery must go, but I don't see how that conclusion follows Clausen's performance unless the argument is that they erred badly in giving Cutler that huge contract and then not benching him sooner.
You also can't argue that the Bears dropped passes all season with Cutler too, but then argue that Clausen was the beneficiary of turnovers that the defense hadn't gotten for Cutler. Neither is necessarily true.
Yahoo Sports Radio's Jason Goch also brought some needed perspective to the proceedings:
Remember, McCown last year threw 13 TDs against just one INT.
Finally, the Bears can't even got their soda right.
@BeachwoodReport haha. ...by the way the Press box also has Dr. Pepper— Adam Jahns (@adamjahns) December 22, 2014
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays - except when he's on vacation. We still welcome your comments.