Ever since the news broke that Everett Golson would not be enrolled at Notre Dame for the fall semester, Notre Dame message boards have read like an obituary for the 2013 Notre Dame football season. Faced with the prospect of Tommy Rees starting at quarterback for the Fighting Irish once again this season, many Notre Dame fans have decided to start looking ahead to 2014. All because the likely guy under center for the upcoming season has won 76% of the games he’s started throughout his career.
Tommy Rees’s career has been a rollercoaster ride any theme park would be jealous of. Lightly recruited out of high school, Rees received a Notre Dame offer after Charlie Weis had a tough go recruiting quarterbacks after signing Jimmy Clausen and Dayne Crist in back to back classes, Rees enrolled at Notre Dame in 2010 with fairly low expectations.
Tommy Rees’s Unexpected Instant Impact
Not many felt Tommy Rees would start many games for Notre Dame, let alone as a true freshman. One Dayne Crist knee injury later though and Rees was thrust into the most high profile quarterback position in all of college football.
All Rees did in response to being thrown into a situation he wasn’t exactly ready for was throw four touchdown passes against Tulsa in his first bit of extended action. Ask anyone what they remember of him from that game, however, and they will undoubtedly mention the interception he threw in the end-zone that ended the game with the Irish in field goal range and down by just one point.
Rees then proceeded to guide Notre Dame to three straight wins including a home win over a top 10 ranked Utah team and the first win over arch rival Southern Cal in nine years to secure a bowl berth for the Irish after it looked like Notre Dame would be home for the holidays in 2010.
Fast forward a year and Rees lost out on the 2011 quarterback derby to Dayne Crist. After Crist was ineffective in the season opener, Rees was back under center for the Irish. Rees couldn’t guide the Irish to a comeback that day, but the following week he helped the Irish build a 24-7 fourth quarter lead. Ask anyone what they remember of Rees from that game and it’s the costly fumble he had during Michgian’s comeback.
People forget that after the Irish lost the lead, Rees guided Notre Dame on a four pay, 61 yard touchdown drive in just 42 seconds giving the Notre Dame a 31-28 lead with just 30 seconds on the clock. A lead that the 2011 defense, still a year away from being the force it is now, was unable to hold onto for half a minute.
Fast forward another year and Rees again lost a quarterback derby – this time to Golson. Despite being the reigning starter, Rees didn’t pout, wasn’t a distraction, and even offered guidance to the young quarterback who just took his starting job.
Tommy Rees Vital Role in 2012’s 12-0 Regular Season
Along the way during Notre Dame’s magical 2012 regular season, Tommy Rees was called upon more than once to either close out a game or relieve an ineffective or injured Golson.
With the Purdue game on the line, Brian Kelly called in Tommy Reesin the waning moments of the contest. Rees responded by leading the Irish to a game winning field goal on Notre Dame’s final drive of the game.
A week later when Michigan came to town, a young and shaken Golson was pulled by Kelly after a couple bad turnovers. Rees came into the game, calmed the situation, and Notre Dame ended up beating Michigan for the first time in the Kelly Era and ending the month of September undefeated for the first time in over a decade.
A few weeks later against Stanford with ESPN College Gameday visiting for the first time in seven years, Golson was knocked out of the game after a blow to the head on a scramble late in the game. Rees came into the game and led the Irish to a game tying field with 20 seconds on the clock. Rees then connected with TJ Jones for a touchdown on the first possession in overtime to set up Notre Dame’s epic goal line stand as the Irish knocked off the 17th ranked Cardinal.
All of this isn’t to say that Rees is perfect or that he gives Notre Dame a better chance to win games in 2013 than Everett Golson. I don’t think anyone could reasonably argue either one of those points. Rather, my point in all of this is that Tommy Rees is not nearly as bad of a quarterback as many Notre Dame fans would have you believe.
Has Rees made his fair share of silly mistakes throughout his career and have some of those mistakes cost Notre Dame football games? Of course. Name a quarterback who hasn’t made dumb mistakes that cost his team games at some point in his career.
Does Rees have a rocket arm or blazing speed? Absolutely not. No one could argue either of those points either. In fact, it is fair to say that Rees’s physical limitations will certainly impact what Brian Kelly can and can’t do with his offense in 2013.
What is not fair to say at all, however, is that all is lost if Rees starts at quarterback for 12 regular season games in 2013. While he might not have a great arm and may be one of the slower players on the team, he’s shown he can win football games. In fact, he’s won 76% of the games he’s started throughout his career.
The last time we saw Tommy Rees…
Let’s also not forget that the last time Tommy Rees was a regular started for Notre Dame he was a true sophomore. Remember Brady Quinn as a sophomore? He threw 10 interceptions as a sophomore in 2004. Jimmy Clausen? He threw 17 interceptions his sophomore campaign in 2008. Ress tossed 14 picks his sophomore season in 2011. Four more than quinn and three fewer than Clausen. He also threw 20 touchdowns in 2011 – three more than Quinn, six less than Clausen.
It’s rare to find a quarterback that’s won that many of his games who has lost his job once before and then remained positive and actually helped his successor. It’s even more rare to find a quarterback that is so under appreciated by his fan base too.
Tommy Rees has won football games for Notre Dame. He’s handled himself well on the field and been a positive influence on the team. Heck, he;’s even helped Notre Dame win games since losing his starting job. And, at the end of the day, his winning percentage and his stats – a common point of contention – actually compare quite favorably to those of Brady Quinn And Jimmy Clausen threw their first two seasons as a starting quarterbacks.
If Tommy Rees’s senior stats can fall somewhere in between those of Quinn and Clausen as his sophomore stats from two years ago did, a repeat BCS bowl berth is not out of the cards for the 2013 Fighting Irish by any means.