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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