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.