Jun 052012

Welcome to Round 2 of a scheduled 5 between Team Rees, represented by Tyler Moorehead, and Team Golson , represented by me, Steve Herring. Learn a little more about Tyler and the Debate Rules in Sunday’s Press Release. Our names link to Twitter accounts … so go follow us.

QUESTION #3: Are we looking to “win now” or making the best choice for the program in terms of pursuing a NC. Can those ideas conflate?

Tyler Moorehead (Team Rees): Those ideas definitely conflate. Certainly, the goal of every major program, but especially Notre Dame, is to win a national championship. So the belief is that sometimes you have to “sacrifice” and sit better, more experienced players on the bench during years that you likely won’t contend for a title, in order to let younger players develop and get better so they are prepared to chase the championship when the time is right.

But this logic has some serious flaws. First of all, coaches have to “win now” if they want to keep their jobs. Notre Dame fans do not want to see Brian Kelly win 8 games for the third year in a row. After all, how can you say that he is legitimately improving the team if the record shows otherwise? So the best players are going to play, and those usually (but obviously not always) are the older, veteran guys on the team. It is generally not a good sign if younger players are jumping their older teammates on the depth chart.

Secondly, a coach can’t simply sit better players for the sake of the future, or he will lose the support and respect of his team altogether. How can you convince your players to work and practice their asses off every day if you aren’t going to reward them with playing time? You can’t. Benching a lot of your veteran guys would have an unbelievable trickle-down effect that would de-motivate a lot of the players. Furthermore, it would have a profound negative effect on recruiting, because no talented players want to hear that a coach will not reward them for their efforts.

Steve Herring (Team Golson): Guess which Notre Dame English major worded this question ladies and gentlemen. (Hint: It’s not me. Looking up “conflate” in the dictionary: conflate: “to join or merge two or more thing into a unified whole”)

It is my belief that the choice of Everett Golson as the starting quarterback at Notre Dame can achieve conflation in our pursuit of winning this season and improving our chances of the long-awaited National Championship (nailed it.) I’m confused by any coach that would, in any situation, choose the QB they thought would result in fewer wins during that season. As we’re all realizing, the offseason is LONG and the program is provided ample time to decipher how they can project players in certain roles. What happened in that rain delay we may never know, but I think even Brian Kelly would agree that flip-flopping in 2012 would be far from ideal as he tries to win now AND later. If a true starter is named for September 1st, we should anticipate it’s the player that BK is plying his wares with for the next 1-2 full seasons minimum.

This is the University of Notre Dame’s football program – we’re always trying to win now and the goal is always the National Championship. The question seems to dictate that Kelly would start the player with less talent/potential in an effort to limit the damages that could await in 2012. But do we really think Tommy is even 1 game better over 12 full games? Due to the nature of Tommy’s athletic abilities and little threat of a deep ball, he will face packed fronts and 5-6 man rushes on passing downs. Assuming that the Irish fall behind in at least 1-2 of the marquee match-ups, doesn’t it concern you that he does nothing on his own to take advantage of mismatches? It does for me.

Selecting the right QB is really only a small part of the NC formula. It’s a team game and I believe Everett Golson gives his offensive teammates the best chance to succeed as a whole for the foreseeable future. The reigning National Champion Crimson Tide took home the crystal ball behind SOPHOMORE FIRST YEAR STARTER A.J. McCarron’s mediocre stats. McCarron did account for 13 fewer turnovers than “experienced sophomore” Tommy Rees. I don’t think a defense resembling Bama’s in 2011 will be wearing Blue & Gold this fall, despite the schedule’s SEC-like degree of difficulty. Everett can challenge quality defenses immediately and present bigger threats down the road. Golson presents the ideal scenario where Fighting Irish Football ideals can con∙flate.

QUESTION #4: How much does Rees experience outweigh his deficiencies in other areas?

Tyler Moorehead (Team Rees): There is nothing that I can stress more than the idea that experience matters enormously in college football. The whole premise of “experience” is based upon the idea that a player has to step on the field and make enough mistakes to learn the game’s most crucial lessons.

Well, there is no disputing that Tommy Rees has made his fair share of mistakes. He has 22 interceptions in 20 games, and large number of fumbles on top of that. But you can expect him to significantly cut down his turnovers this season, due mainly to the well-documented sophomore-to-junior quarterback jump .

When quarterbacks hit their third season, they often start using the phrase “the game is slowing down” or something to that effect. This is the ultimate testament to experience, because it means that they have had almost every defense thrown at them before and have begun to recognize how to attack them more efficiently. This tends to lead to marked improvement in offensive numbers across the board, and it also happens to be where Tommy Rees is at right now. Contrary to popular misperception, Tommy  improved his completion percentage, yards per attempt, and turnover ratio from his freshman to sophomore season. He also learned to spread the ball around more, completing passes to 12 different receivers (yes, I know Michael Floyd caught 100 balls. But a good quarterback also knows to get the ball in his playmaker’s hands. Dayne didn’t do this in one half versus USF, and consequently lost his job. Bottom line, Tommy still spreads it around). He hung tough in the pocket, and now is able to make much more advanced reads. Tommy is not a game-breaking athlete, and that will always remain his number one deficiency. But the quarterback position has always been about intangibles such as poise, leadership, savvy, and is ultimately a position where brains matter more than brawn.

The other side of the coin is that Golson is extremely inexperienced. It has been cited time and time again that he does not yet have a good grasp on the playbook, and in his only game action (the Blue-Gold game, not even real, live stuff) he struggled to even line up the team and get the ball hiked. He had so many delay of game penalties that the play clock had to be turned off. He simply is not ready to be thrown into the fire. Quarterbacks have to be leaders, and he isn’t mentally ready in terms of playbook knowledge and command to go out there and be the guy. All of the athleticism in the world cannot save him there. There is no denying that Everett Golson has awesome potential, but if plays this year, he could fizzle out before he ever really has a chance. He needs to continue to work hard in practice and get in the playbook for a much longer time before it is his turn.

Steve Herring (Team Golson): What does the term “experience” mean in college football? Dayne Crist played in 17 games at Notre Dame, but Kansas writers touting him as an “experienced 5th year senior” would be quietly mocked by the majority of Irish faithful coming across such a line. Tommy, who is 2 years younger with only 3 more games under his belt than Dayne, is then labeled “established veteran” in South Bend? This isn’t the NFL folks. Tommy Rees v. Everett Golson is not comparable to Tom Brady v. Robert Griffin in 2012 despite factions of Rees’s support base implying a massive experience discrepancy.

The answer to this question for me is “Rees’s experience doesn’t outweigh much right now”. You can’t know how a QB will handle 100,000 fans, national TV rivalries, down by 7 in the 4th quarter on the road, or a fumble on the first possession that results in a 14 point swing. These questions have faced every quarterback prospect at every major school in America for 100+ years. The uncertainty of their answers should not be accepted as a valid counterpoint. Every great Irish QB you can name trotted out against the Trojans for the first time once because he was given that opportunity. If it’s not Golson now, it will be somebody later.

I don’t mean to discount what we think we know of Tommy Rees and what he has accomplished. He’s been consistently frustrating during his time as our signal-caller, especially in marquee match-ups. Both of his best “big game” performances came in his career’s first six starts at SC & Michigan (Games 3 & 6). Quality opponents have since discovered how to contain his limited abilities. Without Michael Floyd that could result in his own series of growing pains.

While fans point out that Brady Quinn’s interception in years 1-3 went 15-10-7, you’re comparing Brady Quinn to Tommy Rees so you might want to stop. In those same seasons Quinn’s average number of passes between INTs went 22.1, 35.3, 64.3, which is astounding. Rees is looking at 20.5, 29.4 and you’re still comparing Tommy Rees to Brady Quinn.

Sticking feathers in your butt doesn’t make you a chicken. Taking snaps in games where you played poorly doesn’t improve your overall status and it shouldn’t be the leading argument in your defense.


Steve Herring is the Editor-in-Chief of HerringBoneSports.com and also hosts TNNDN’s Down the Line. As the TNNDN Network President he acts as Executive Producer of four Notre Dame related shows.
Steve worked in broadcasting at Madison Square Garden Media and the Arena Football League. You can find all his articles and radio show links on this site.
Contact Steve on Twitter @HB_Sports or e-mail HerringBoneSports@gmail.com

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  16 Responses to “Team Tommy Rees v. Team Everett Golson Round 2: Who Should Be Notre Dame’s Starting QB?”

  1. Hate to be the one to comment first, but Everett Golson for unofficial BG MVP? Did you not watch George Atkinson III?

  2. “But you can expect him to significantly cut down his turnovers this season, due mainly to the well-documented sophomore-to-junior quarterback jump .”

    1) If this supposed “jump” is so automatic, wouldn’t we have seen some evidence at the B&G game?
    Looked like the same old turnover prone Tommy to me.

    2) Experience is moot here. He’s shown zero progress since his first game vs Tulsa.
    Many would say he’s gotten worse. I’m one of them.

    3) Technically, his first game was against Michigan when he came in for 1 snap.
    Take a guess what happened on that play.

    Where’s the sledge hammer? Where’s the filly?

  3. Haha. Let’s call that picture a bit of a “home-field advantage”. Like you Tyler, I left Notre Dame Stadium after the B&G game salivating over the prospects of GAIII. I also left after Golson led multiple quality drives and was the only QB without a terrible INT. Also, fans in the stands didn’t realize the clock issue so despite it being a headline later, we were just enjoying the EG Show in the stands.

    If the refs want to call that tagline (with an *asterisk indicating no formal affiliation, just Herring Bone Sports) we’ll award Team Rees a point, because they’re clearly down big already.

  4. Umm look at his numbers from year 1 to year 2…no improvement since tulsa? He I’m proved in almost every major statistical category. Nudeman, do you really think that watching Tommy in 6 series in a practice game is supposed to just blow you away with crazy improvement? Remember, most improvement occurs in practices before the season, which don’t start until August 6th. According to almost every article during the other 14 spring practices (the BG game being the 15th, and truly just another practice to the players), all of the media was mentioning how Rees was distancing himself from the competition. That is reality, not just fan wishes or biases.

  5. the aj point isnt a fair comparision he isnt asked to the same things as rees. the system saban ran last yr just called for aj to not lose the games. kelly doesnt limit what ree is able to do. maybe kellyisnt puttin rees into position to succeed. also aj had trent richardson and lacy to hand off too

  6. The A.J. comparison was not an offensive philosophy comparison. It was a point that a SOPHOMORE 1st year starter just won the National Championship and a pretty average one. Rees supporters want to make the case that a SOPHOMORE 1st year starter can’t possibly win a NC. It doesn’t add up.

    Like Bama in 2011, the 2012 Irish attack should be ground attack heavy and Golson’s threat with the ball in his hands opens lanes and introduces the option attack. The comparison is actually quite good if I say so myself.

  7. the tide could have had you as there qb and won the nc they gave up 8pts a game. those situations are nowhere near the same

  8. First off, AJ McCarron was a redshirt sophomore, so he had one more year to develop than Everett would if he was thrown in now…and that’s a big deal. Everett a year from now should really be able to command the offense.

    Also, what seems interesting to me is that you’ll credit McCarron with winning with a hell of a supporting cast (that defense was phenomenal, and having a Top 3 pick RB to rely ondoesn’t hurt either), even in games where his performance was abysmal…but then you’ll turn around and take away from wins where Rees struggled but the rest of the team helped him out, like USC his freshman year (there were other times as well).

  9. This question about experience is easy. Experience is defined in my book as having been there played in a real live setting and yes made some mistakes.Tommy clearly has the experience edge and you can twist and turn the word to make your point but your point is weak. Tommy does have the repect and backing of his fellow team mates. Golson does not. Period. My statement here is based on Tommy’s 12-4 record. Golson 0-0. Nothing more can be said.

  10. A “perfect” comparison for any player or situation doesn’t exist. McCarron spent his 1st season as a starter winning the national championship. If you claim Golson can’t win because he’s inexperienced or young, or can’t win the title, then 2011 already proves you dead wrong.

    If the 2012 ND defense doesn’t stack up to Bama’s 2011, then don’t we need the guy who can open up the run game on multiple levels and challenge over the top?

  11. Sorry, but the absence of Hendrix from this debate is bullshit. Some of the biggest name in ND sports have already put him in the starter role. These guys are up for 2nd/3rd string AKA insurance for Kiel in 2013.

    Gotta say experience is important and when Hendrix is named the starter I’d like to see Tommy as the number two guy because we know he’ll keep working and be ready like he was in 2011.

    Golson might be a great player, but it probably won’t be for the Irish.

  12. Well said Marcus.

  13. It was 6 series in a practice game against 2nd & 3rd string defenders. Yes – he should have shown us something, ANYTHING to indicate he was making strides. Hell, I wrote on this site he needed to put on 30 lbs of muscle between January and Fall Camp to even be considered as a starter and he didn’t look an ounce bigger.

    Too many signs pointing to his failed improvement and an offense in transition to something he can’t operate.

  14. Kiel is old news bro. It’s already about Malik Zaire. Sorry, but this was a boxing theme for ND alum Mike Lee. We’re doing it as a two man game for now.

  15. Good work, Tyler and Steve. You are both zealous advocates for your respective parties.

    Question 1: Coach’s always have to have a win now approach. That said, I don’t think starting one over the other changes the win/loss projection for 2012. I do think, however, that starting Golson this season raises the bar for 2013 and beyond. Tommy Rees was a good bridge from the Dayne Crist era to the Golson/Hendrix/Kiel era. While it’s difficult to see any of these guys leading ND to a National title, I’m pretty confident Tommy Rees will not lead ND past a Nick Saban led defense to a title.

    Question 2: Rees’ experience is important, but it does not outweigh his physical limitations. On one hand, Tommy’s lack of arm strength allows defenses to put a safety in the box to clog the short and intermediate passing lanes and add a defender in run support. On the other hand, his lack of mobility allows defenses to drop 8 into coverage without any threat of a run. I think Tommy will improve, but his skill limits him to being a game manager who will struggle against top-end defenses. Although Tommy checks into the right plays most of the time (things the average fan probably doesn’t notice) and makes some quick decisions, he has to play nearly flawless for ND to win big games.

    Golson will give fans heartache next season (forcing throws off his back foot), but his upside outweighs his inexperience. I’ll role the dice.

  16. I mean I’ll “roll” the dice. And coach’s should be coaches. Apparently, it was a long day yesterday.

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