Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly is disproving the old football saw, attributed to the legendary coach Bill Parcells, that if you have two quarterbacks you really have none. Veteran Tommy Rees came off the bench again for Notre Dame to lead a game-winning drive against Stanford on October 13.
Each time Kelly decides to go with Rees, the circumstances seem to be different. While Kelly remains committed to sophomore Everett Golson as the Irish starter, events have conspired to put Rees into games and into the middle of game-winning rallies. Regardless of the situation, however, Rees has stepped up and performed well. Earlier in the season he replaced an ineffective Golson and led a late drive to beat Purdue. Most recently, when Golson left the game with concussion symptoms after an awkward hit from the Stanford defense, Reese engineered an overtime touchdown drive to give Notre Dame the win.
"He can manage difficult situations,'' Kelly said of Rees after the dramatic victory. ''He comes in and he can close games, if we need him - if we need him. He's an incredible young man that he can stay so focused in the game.''
Assuming that Golson, who had never taken a college football prior to being named the Irish starter at the beginning of the season, is medically cleared to play in Notre Dame's October 20 home game against BYU, Kelly is committed to sticking with him as the starter. That doesn't mean, however, that the Fighting Irish coach doesn't have worries. Turnovers, which plagued Notre Dame - and Rees in particular - last season, is an area where Golson must improve. Golson fumbled four times against Stamford, losing three - including a strip sack in his own endzone that gave the Cardinal their only touchdown. How concerned is Kelly with the incumbent starter?
"Very concerned," the third-year coach said. "It's something that obviously we cannot continue to have. He's got to take better care of the football, and he's got to do it in practice, and he's got to be smarter."
Despite the turnovers, Kelly says he remains confident that Golson will start when healthy, and continue to show improvement game by game. In fact, he was impressed by every other aspect of Golson's performance against Stamford.
"He grew up," Kelly insisted after the game. "I know it wasn't as clean and the numbers, you can analyze them and say, 'Well, didn't play well.' All I can tell you is that in his growth, he did some things for me as the head coach that allow us to keep progressing with Everett."
Many Notre Dame fans, and alumni like me, were skeptical of the shuttling quarterback approach. In other instances, using two different QBs could turn out badly. There is a reason the Bill Parcells quote has become a cliché - because it has so much truth to it. But it is impossible to question a coach whose team is 6-0 despite the toughest pre-season schedule in college football. It is impossible to second-guess bringing in Rees when the results have been so spectacular.
I guess we should stop worrying and learn to love the bomb… and the fade, and the out pattern, and whatever else Golson or Rees decide to throw.
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Rick Blaine, an award-winning broadcaster and columnist, holds two degrees from Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @RickBlaineCT.
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