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Professor Clements Diving In Feet First

NFL: Arizona Cardinals-Rookie Minicamp The Arizona Republic-USA TODAY N

For the past two years, following 23 years of coaching (20 in the NFL, 5 as an offensive coordinator), Tom Clements was busy working in Los Angeles as a real estate developer.

After Kliff Kingsbury signed former Texas Tech assistant and Packers’ WR coach, David Raih to be the Cardinals’ new WR coach, Raih brought Tom Clement’s expertise to Kingsbury’s attention.

Clements had the itch to return to coaching and when he was offered a tailor-made position as QB coach and passing game coordinator, Clements was very pleased, not only with the position, but for the opportunity to work hand in hand with Kliff Kingsbury and QB Kyler Murray.

”It excites me to work with a guy like Kliff because it’s always good to work with offensive minded guys, and to work with a young quarterback, that’s always a plus,” Clements said. “You can help them develop, and it’s fun to take a guy in his early years, teach him a certain way and have him develop and have success.”

Clements was instrumental in developing one Hall of Fame QB (Brett Favre) and another QB who is on his way (Aaron Rodgers).

The reason why he is such a good fit in Arizona is that Clements was a dual-threat 1st Team All-American QB at Notre Dame back in the early 70s and his specialty at Notre Dame while winning a National Championship and in the CFL while winning two Grey Cups was using his feet to extend plays.

In fact, in Notre Dame’s upset Sugar Bowl win over Bear Bryant’s Alabama team in 1973, Tom Clements paved the way for the win on a big (3rd and 8) 36 yard sideline pass (with 2:00 left) from his own end zone to Robin Weber, a backup TE. Then on 3rd and long with a chance to run out the clock, Clements scrambled to his right, dove head first for the marker and was hammered out of bounds right at the yardstick to seal the thrilling 24-23 win.

When one looks at the tremendous success that Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers have generated in the NFL, both of them became very nifty at extending plays. That’s not purely by coincidence. With Tom Clements in the house, there was a considerable amount of design and preparation involved.

In a way, Tom Clements has seen it as his job to “free the QB.”

Because of Clements’ success with Favre and Rodgers, David Raih calls Clements “The Professor.”

And now with another professor on the Cardinals’ new faculty in legendary WR coach Jerry Sullivan, the Cardinals’ players are getting tutored by two of the wisest, most venerable assistant coaches in the history of the NFL.

One would imagine that during the weeks before the draft, it was very challenging for Tom Clements to rein in his enthusiasm about the prospect of coaching QB Kyler Murray. As a QB, Clements had a solid arm and good feet---but, by comparison, Murray’s arm and feet are from another solar system.

Therefore, it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to think that Tom Clements had a very persuasive influence on the Cardinals’ decision to draft Kyler Murray at #1.

If you have watched some of the QB drills that Kingsbury and Clements are conducting at practice, the primary emphasis right now is on footwork. Yesterday, the coaches had the QB stutter-stepping horizontally over bags while keeping their heads up, then motor stepping in, up, down and around the bags, then bolting from the bags to make a throw on the run down downfield.

At the same time the primary focus for David Raih and Jerry Sullivan with the WRs is on footwork---where every step in their routes and the timing of every step matters. The main objective is to get the QBs and WRs in total syncopation, step by step, pivot by pivot and break by break.

Feet first.

The rest to follow.

If Professor Tom Clements’ plans for developing Kyler Murray come to fruition, maybe David Raih can start calling him Saint Clement---for Saint Clement is the patron saint of marble workers. Whenever one asked Michelangelo what the purpose of art is, particularly in sculpting, Michelangelo always avowed, “It’s my job to free the angel from the marble.”