Here's the thing: Kellen Clemens is awful.
I don't mean to constantly berate the guy. From all intents and purposes, Kellen Clemens is a great guy. However, the prospect of him ever playing in a meaningful regular-season game as the San Diego Chargers' QB terrifies me and it should terrify you.
Let's start with the excuse....
"Kellen Clemens has starting experience."
This is the reason that is always given, by fans and coaches and front office members, as to why Clemens is Philip Rivers' backup on the depth chart.
Yes, that is true. Of Clemens' 42 appearances in (non-preseason) NFL games, he was the starter in half of them (21). To add in another oddly-satisfying statistic, Clemens has never started (or not started) games in consecutive seasons. Including his rookie season, the number of starts he has had per year go: 0, 8 0, 1, 0, 3, 0, 9, 0.
Now, I could use common logic and tell you that every time Clemens starts, NFL teams are eager to throw him back on the bench the following season. However, we're going to go deeper than that.
Here is Clemens' QBR each year he has started an NFL game: 22.3, 10.7, 32.9, 35.5. To put that into perspective, his best season would've still made him the 3rd worst starting QB in the league in 2014, above only Josh McCown and Blake Bortles....and he didn't edge out McCown by much. That season, 2013 with the Rams after Sam Bradford was injured, landed Clemens directly behind Chad Henne (JAX) and Matt Schaub (HOU), and among the worst QBRs in the league.
Kellen Clemens has starting experience because Chad Pennington got hurt. He got more starting experience because other head coaches wanted a backup QB that had starting experience, and he continually landed places where the guy in front of him got injured.
Basically, in a nut shell, Clemens got starting experience because he had starting experience. He got that original starting experience because he was second on the depth chart behind Pennington, who had a shoulder muscle made out of hopes and dreams. He was second on the depth chart because....
"He was a second round draft pick!"
Indeed he was.
Clemens was the successor to Joey Harrington in Oregon, placed into an offense that created big stats for the starting QB in a conference that didn't much care for defense at the time. Compared to Harrington, Clemens put up similar, although not quite as good, numbers with the Ducks.
By 2005, Harrington had almost already washed out of the league, but many attributed that to the fact that he was soft spoken and played piano. Surely, if you could throw 19 TDs against 4 INTs (as Clemens did his senior season), you could play NFL-level QB....right?
Well, either Clemens has a hidden hobby of playing piano and speaking softly, or that Oregon offense is still waiting to produce an NFL-caliber QB (hi, Marcus Mariota!). For his NFL career, Clemens has thrown 15 TDs against 20 INTs and has a sad 6.3 yards-per-attempt rate (compare to Rivers' 7.8 Y/A).
All you have to do is watch the group of QBs at Chargers practice to see that Clemens has the weakest, most inaccurate arm of the bunch. Watch a preseason game in which he's playing with the first-string offense to see that he has no command over his line or his receivers. Plainly put, Kellen Clemens is a 3rd string QB at best.
Wait, wasn't this about Sorensen?
It was, and congratulations for reading the headline and remembering it this long.
Ignoring salaries for a moment, and focusing strictly on the depth chart, Brad Sorensen appears to be the only guy who could knock Clemens' out of the backup spot behind Philip Rivers. He's third on the depth chart, he was drafted by Tom Telesco, and he seems to at least have some good qualities (quick release and good accuracy when he throws in rhythm).
This is now the second year in a row where I feel that Sorensen has outperformed Clemens, when factoring in performance at practice with what he has shown in games, but it won't matter.
As much as I just dispelled the notion that "starting experience" means anything (it really only means anything if you were a half-way decent starter), it still means a lot to the coaching staff and the front office. However, they're not blind.
Brad Sorensen could win the job as the team's #2 QB, forcing the team to make a decision about how valuable a 3rd QB is when Philip Rivers never leaves the game with an injury (which would then lead them to cutting Clemens). However, to do it, he has to be spectacular. He has to be so much better than Clemens that the coaching staff stops concerning themselves with Clemens' starting experience and starts wondering about Sorensen's potential.
Unfortunately, Sorensen has not been that guy. In fact, statistically, Sorensen has been worse than Clemens has been through two preseason games (although, you could probably expect that when you realize he's throwing to third-string receivers and tight ends behind third-string blocking). It doesn't help that his second pass against the Cardinals was an ugly interception.
The War is Over
With Philip Rivers probably playing near a half of football tomorrow night, Sorensen won't get enough snaps to prove a point. Against the San Francisco 49ers next week, nobody will be paying attention by time Sorensen hits the field. It'll be another year of potentially being on the practice squad for Sorensen.
The fact of the matter is that, even with the well-conducted late game-winning drives (which Sorensen did against Arizona and has done in preseason games in the past), the Chargers' third-string QB has not opened eyes wide enough for the decision-makers to think he's better than a guy who has been on that field in a regular-season game, as the starting QB, without embarrassing himself completely.
So, unless I'm proven wrong, I'll stop bagging on Clemens and hope that I never have to worry about the Chargers' backup QB situation. At least until next preseason, when Clemens will hopefully be playing for another team.