Notre Dame Football: In Defense of Tommy Rees

Notre Dame Offensive Coordinator Tommy Rees has received the brunt of the criticism from the Irish faithful in the wake of Notre Dame’s opening losses to start the 2022 season. The Irish are averaging 15.5 points per game and rank near the bottom in FBS in most offensive statistical categories, though they do rank first in red zone conversions at 100%.

A closer look at Rees’ tenure as the play caller reveals that he likely has not forgotten how to coach and is simply getting used to new receivers and running backs.

Under Rees’ offense, before this season, the Irish had a record of 21-4 and were in the top 30 in the country in points per game and total offense in 2020 and 2021. Last season, the Irish offense ranked 19th in the country.

Kyren Williams left early for the draft, but before his departure, he racked up back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons in Rees’ offense. Tight end Michael Mayer broke the school receptions record for a tight end last season under Rees’ play-calling.

Though the Irish offense hit some ruts throughout the Fiesta Bowl in January, they scored 35 points against a top 10 defense.

Rees, this season, has a new quarterback, young receivers with little game experience, and mostly new running backs. Now, Rees has a backup quarterback due to sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner’s season-ending injury. However, junior Drew Pyne is more than capable of leading the offense, as he showed in last season’s Wisconsin victory.

In today’s press conference, Rees said, “I’ll take every ounce of fricking blame because I’m in charge of it.” Rees is a leader; he is not shying away from the difficulties the Irish offense faces or its slow start. While he deserves some of the blame, his track record is that he is more than capable of developing quarterbacks, receivers, running backs, and tight ends, and he is more than capable of leading the Irish offense. He knows how to put up points.

This column’s bet is that Rees and the offense get things figured out. The offensive line will gel, opening up more holes for the young running backs. Pyne will be comfortable passing to running back Chris Tyree out of the backfield and targets such as wide receiver Lorenzo Styles and Tight End Michael Mayer, who has already had two strong games.

“ We believe in our group. We believe in our ability to run the football. That’s not going to change. We want that to be part of our identity from the very top down,” Rees said.

“So we’re going to continue to attack that week in and week out and make sure that we give our guys a chance.”

Rees speaks from experience, as a player, and as a coach, in navigating rocky times at Notre Dame:

“I’ve been in harder times here before, personally, and just as a team, certainly, you can look to a couple of years that early on. You try to bring a perspective that way. You try to allow guys to focus on us and improve and do all those things as much as you can these days,” Rees said.

Rees believes the team can turn a corner, as there remains lots of football to be played.

“As much as we can be the example for how we want to continue to push through this and rally together,” Rees said.

Los Angeles Rams and Super Bowl-defending head coach Sean McVay praised Rees when speaking of Williams: “One thing I really like about his game — you could see the things that Tommy Rees and those guys at Notre Dame were asking of him was very translatable to the NFL. … It makes it an easier eval, and that’s one of the things we saw with him. We’ll find out when it gets live, but he’s shown he’s capable,” McVay said.

The team is young. The head coach is new. The season is young. Rees’ track record as both a quarterback and a coach is that he’ll figure things out just fine.

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  1. Not thrilled with Reese’s unimaginative play calling, but plenty of blame to go around. When Kyren Williams opted for the NFL, I knew it was a mistake. He’s on IR now and not sure if he’ll even stay with the Rams. Considering our pathetic running “attack”, he would have provided some balance and stability, as well as gaining maturity and potentially improving his draft status (believe he was selected in the 5th round).

  2. Guys, I’m a dunce. I just now realized that Bruce Johnson is (or was) the Ubiversity Photographer. He had an office right where the second floor elevator dropped off
    For junior and senior year my required student job was to deliver campus mail from the mailroom in the dome and BJ was on my route
    How did I miss that? Is that general knowledge; is it like when I was the only one who did not know the Real Dyranko was dead

    BGC 77 82

  3. I disagree. Tommy called 3 great deep passing plays, caught Marshall off guard, and the players didn’t execute. We’ve got to get a run game going, run blocking wasn’t very good at all.

  4. Rees can……and should…. leave ND. Fans here will never give him any credit for anything until he achieves it elsewhere. Which is pathetic, but a fact.

  5. Reese is not good not sure what you could possibly like about his ability as a play caller. Zero creativity. Zero explosiveness. He is the most conservative play caller in all of college football. He needs to go and if the Irish struggle again this week vs Cal he should be the first to go.

  6. Unfortunately, the common denominator with Reese, was coach Kelly. I don’t like coach Kelly, but I think he played a major role in Tommy’s success. Now without Kelly, Reese is struggling mightily.

    Now on the other hand, I blame coach Kelly and his staff for the lack of depth on offense AND defense. No way, NO POSSIBLE WAY, should a top ten program be short skill players. There is no reason we should be this short at wide receiver.

    And they have to go under center more to run the ball. Block down hill and run down hill!!!!!!!!

    1. Yes, poor recruiting and player development by Del, Quinn and Kelly. Also, Tommy so far hasn’t hit on the quarterback, I hope I’m wrong but don’t see it with Buchner, Pyne. Angeli, we don’t know yet. So far missed on 2023 qb. Carr is impressive but remember being great in high school doesn’t mean college greatness. Finally one thing I am more confidant in with Freeman than with Kelly is he will fire quickly any assistant not pulling his weight in coaching or recruiting. I want Tommy to succeed but if the offense isn’t much better going forward starting this week I don’t seem him lasting. If he is let go I would love for Freeman to go after Tom Herman. Go check out his offenses as offensive coordinator.. He put up a zillion points. Very creative.

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