A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about why I thought Dayne Crist should be the starter over Tommy Rees. The four reasons I cited were talent, learning curve, advanced metrics, and the future of the program. I felt like the combination of those four points gave Crist the edge in what many(including Coach Kelly) said was an extremely even quarterback competition. Well…when you are wrong you are wrong and I was certainly wrong about this.
I underestimated Rees’s edge in accuracy and perhaps undervalued his intangibles. Rees may not have NFL arm strength like Dayne Crist, but he does a much better job of putting the ball on his receivers. After rewatching the broadcast there were several examples of Rees’s accuracy being well beyond Crist’s. Crist missed Michael Floyd on simple curl and comebacks routes that stall drives and kill momentum. Rees was able to execute the offense much more effectively because his accuracy put the Irish in 3rd-and-manageable situations.
While the accuracy disparity became evident, it’s the intangibles that ultimately separates the two quarterbacks. Crist seems to be a bit of a front-runner. He led a terrific drive on the opening possession before Jonas Gray fumbled the ball away for a score. On Crist’s next redzone possession he made a terrible throw and a terrible decision that ended in an interception in the endzone. Crist’s body language was noticeably different after that play. His throws became even less accurate and he seemed to shrink in the moment when the team needed him to be the leader. Compare that sequence to Rees’s first interception that went off of TJ Jones shoulder as he wasn’t looking(seriously…WTF TJ?). Rees came back on the very next possession and led the Irish to a 66-yard touchdown drive. Rees certainly wasn’t perfect. He seemed to be too locked into Floyd at times and did throw the INT that essentially ended the game, but Rees did enough to merit being the starting quarterback for Notre Dame going forward.
Rees looks about 11 years-old, he doesn’t have a big arm, he isn’t very athletic, but he just has ‘It’. Intangibles, a winner’s mentality, a calmness, leadership, what the french call a certain…I don’t know what. Flashback about ten years ago and you’ll see another quarterback controversy that is eerily similar to this one. The New England Patriots had a highly touted, veteran, quarterback with all the physical tools you would want in a quarterback and he was backed up by a young and gangly 6th round draft pick. Drew Bledsoe, like Crist last year, lost his job to injury and was replaced by the younger Tom Brady. Brady and Rees aren’t going to wow anybody with measurables, but they both have a quality that can’t be taught. The Patriots decided to go with Brady even when Bledsoe was cleared to play. Brady led the Patriots to the AFC Championship before injuring his ankle and being replaced by Bledsoe. Bledsoe was ready and his performance gave the Patriots a win and place in the Superbowl. Notre Dame can only hope that Dayne Crist handles this situation with the same class and professionalism as Drew Bledsoe. Crist’s job is still to help the Irish win games. He needs to be a leader on the sidelines, in the classroom, in practice, and in the locker room. The Irish, like the Patriots did in 2001, may need to call on Crist again should something happen to Rees.
PS: While I wouldn’t want Crist to transfer, I think Notre Dame should give him his release should he ask for it. Crist still has another year of eligibility and should be awarded a 6th year if he appeals to the NCAA for a medical redshirt. Crist provides depth at the position, but if he wants to leave the program for a school like Cal or UCLA then he should be allowed to do so.
PPS: I still agree with Coach Kelly’s decision to award Crist the starting position. Crist is the veteran, Crist has better physical tools, and Crist originally lost his starting position due to injury. Crist worked extremely hard to rehab from two major knee surgeries and he deserved the chance to prove he could lead the team on Saturdays. It’s unfortunate that this decision resulted in a loss for the Irish, but Kelly made the correct call by giving Crist a chance…and is also making the correct decision now by awarding the starting job to Rees.
PPPS: I want to see some Everett Golson packages.
PPPPS: To all the commentors from the Crist blog who wanted Rees….You were right, I was wrong. You’re smart, I am stupid. You’re good looking, I am…not attractive.
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The four-man quarterback competition taking place this fall at Notre Dame is getting plenty of media coverage and everyone seems to have an opinion. It is easy to get into Tommy Rees’s corner. The kid went 4-0 down the stretch with wins against “quality” opponents like Utah, USC, and Miami, while Crist went 4-4 with embarrassing losses to Stanford and Navy. Having said that, Dayne Crist MUST be the starting quarterback for Notre Dame. Giving the nod to Dane Crist is the best move for the Irish in both the short and long-term.
Crist is just better. Even though it often looked like Coach Kelly hated Dayne Crist on the sidelines, the truth of the matter is that Crist gives the offense a greater ceiling than Tommy Rees. Crist has far superior physical skills that enables the Irish offense to threaten defenses both vertically and horizontally. As much as I like Tommy Rees, there are certain throws that he simply can’t make. Notre Dame’s offense will be far less predictable with Crist running the show. Crist is also the superior athlete, and all reports are that he has regained his mobility after his second major knee surgery.
Year Two in the System. If Dayne Crist looked completely lost on the field at times last year, it’s because he was. Crist and Rees had essentially the same amount of time to learn the new system as both quarterbacks participated in the 2010 spring practice. Crist’s participation was even somewhat more limited than Rees’s due to his knee surgery. However, being the upper classman, Crist had much more of the playbook thrown at him in comparison to Rees. By the time Rees became the starter, the 10 other guys on the field were also more comfortable in the new system. Crist had to deal with not only his learning curve, but that of his teammates as well.
Numbers Don’t Lie: Crist actually faced tougher competition. Rees certainly knocked off some impressive names, and ND fans everywhere will remember him as the starting QB who finally beat SC. The truth of the matter is that the Irish faced much tougher teams in the beginning of their season. Crist played against 6 teams that played in bowl games including two conference champions in Michigan State and Stanford. Advanced metrics show that Crist played much higher quality defenses than Rees.
The Future of the Program: No matter who wins the starting job this fall, neither Dayne Crist nor Tommy Rees are the future of the position. I believe that title will belong to freshman Everett Golson. Golson is the most mobile of any quarterback on campus, but Golson isn’t just an athlete. Golson has an explosive arm and was rated as the most accurate high school quarterback when he attended the ELITE 11 camp. If Golson were 6’3″ and 210lbs, he would have been the top rated player in the country coming out of high school. Golson has all the tools to be a great college quarterback that can lead the Irish to a national title. He is a Troy Smith clone who seems to have been born to play in the Kelly spread offense. If Rees becomes the starter this season, that could stunt not only the growth of the program, but the growth of Golson. The quarterback position would be again unsettled next season and possibly the 2013 season as well. Allowing Crist to be the bridge to Golson is the best route for the future of the Notre Dame football program.
wake up the echoes. Go Irish
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I am calling it now, the National Champ in 2011 will come from a school outside of the SEC. I watched some of the SEC Media Day coverage on ESPNU and I am so tired of everyone kissing the SEC’s ass. Yeah, yeah, yeah you guys won the last five national championships…whatever. That streak ends now. They are still the best conference, but there isn’t a dominant team among them. Auburn lost 99.6 percent of their offense when Newton bolted for the NFL. LSU can’t go undefeated with Jordan Jefferson at QB, and Les Miles easily could have had some of those crazy plays go against him and he would be out of a job. Alabama has QB issues too. Florida is in transition with Will Muschamp and Charlie Weis taking over in Gainseville. South Carolina is good, but Stephen Garcia is basically a functioning derelict at quarterback. Those teams will all beat each other up, paving the way for a new Conference to take home that Glass football(side note: I am a little clumsy and would be scared to death to touch that thing. Good thing I never won a national title…or got a scholarship). Mark my words, the National Championship will be won by one of the following schools”
Wisconsin Badgers: +2500
The Badgers have a tricky game early against Oregon State and then open up their Big10 slate with newcomer, Nebraska. The Badgers also face back-to-back tough road night games in October when they meet Michigan State and Ohio State respectively. Schedule makers didn’t do the defending Big10 Champs any favors, but Russell Wilson gives the Badgers talent at QB like they have never had. If he can acclimate himself to the system quickly, and Wisconsin makes it through October undefeated they will be in great shape to go to the BCS Title Game.
Oklahoma Sooners: +350
The Sooners are the favorite according to most odds makers at +350 to win the National Championship and with good reason. Oklahoma returns both Landry Jones and his favorite target, Ryan Broyles. The Sooners’ biggest challenge will come in week 2 against Florida State. If Oklahoma survives their trip to Tallahassee they won’t have too many more challenges the rest of the way. Oklahoma will battle Texas in Dallas, but the Longhorns are in the midst of rebuilding phase and the Sooners should take care of business. Oklahoma also gets Big12 challenger, Texas A&M at home. If the Sooners are undefeated after week 2, you can pretty much punch their BCS ticket.
Oregon Ducks: +1000
Full disclosure I wouldn’t make this bet in a million years. The Pac-12 is just goofy. I never know quite what is going on over there on the West Coast. The only sure-fire bet in the conference is that if everyone is saying Cal is good, it means they really suck. Oregon’s schedule is sneaky tough. Starting the year off against LSU. Then they end it with @Stanford, USC, and rival Oregon State. Then would have to win the Pac-12 title game. Having said all of that…the Ducks could very well make it back to the title game. Kicking off the year in SEC territory against LSU will be their most difficult challenge. A win against the Tigers and all of our retinas could be burned by those highlighter yellow unis the Ducks rock in the National Title game again.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish: +3000
Ok, hear me out on this one. Notre Dame has tremendous momentum from the end of last season as they head into year 2 of Brian Kelly’s system. Notre Dame has two of their most difficult games at home(Michigan State and USC) and should be favored in every other game with the exception of Stanford in the season finale. The Irish could very well be undefeated when they head to Palo Alto on November 26th. The Irish have depth and experience coming back on both sides of the ball and have a few blue chip recruits who will bolster the pass rush. Floyd will be catching bombs and Te’o will be crushing skulls and breaking wills. Wake up the echoes and watch out for the Irish.
Dark horse Pick…West Virginia+2500…you heard it here first.
PS: On second thought…Alabama is totally winning the National Championship.
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