Time for Brian Kelly to Can Notre Dame's Quarterback Carousel
Who’s up for a little office pool to celebrate the return of the Miami-Notre Dame series this Saturday?
Sure, we could just do a simple bet against the spread but come on, that’s old news.
We could definitely go the route of old-school Miami and have ourselves a little bounty pool. (Just watch ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary The U.)
If you’re up for that, congrats…You’re officially a horrible person!
No, no, we’re going to get a little more creative this weekend. Here it is…
How long will it take Brian Kelly to cut the juice on the Everett Golson Experience and throw a couple quarters in the machine and start up the Tommy Rees Roller Coaster?
This isn't Urban Meyer using Chris Leak and Tim Tebow’s unique talents in a timeshare designed to wreak havoc on defenses and cause defensive coordinators many a sleepless night. This is Brian Kelly desperately wanting to develop Golson, but then panicking the moment things get tight and saying, “I love you, but…” before telling him to park it on the bench and yelling at Rees to put on his chinstrap.
The problem with this quarterback carousel has little to do with whom is actually better, because for the most part, Golson and Rees are essentially a wash: they can both oscillate between at times being adequate and good-ish.
The only difference is, I know for a fact that the Irish are not winning a national championship with Rees at the helm. (I’d love nothing more than seeing the Irish beat Alabama, LSU or Oregon in this year’s BCS National Championship, just as I would very much love to have a Good Samaritan drop a million dollars down on my front door. The latter, unfortunately, seems much more likely to happen.)
I have some serious doubts when it comes to Golson—chief among them being if and when Gunner Kiel will unseat him—but he is still a redshirt freshman and his play can at least occasionally lead me to quote Jim Carey (circa when he was still funny) and say, “So you’re saying there’s a chance!”
The larger issue is the impact that trading quarterbacks like they are stocks will have, not just on Golson’s development, but on recruiting blue-chip quarterbacks down the road.
I mean, if you are a top-tier QB prospect, and you watched the Purdue and Michigan games unfold, what about this whole situation makes you say, “You know, I really want to play for that Brian Kelly guy!”
This is not something that can be oversold. Quarterback play, as ESPN’s Trent Dilfer will be all too happy to remind you, is the key to a successful football team. However, as vital as the quarterback is for most teams, it is doubly important for teams that cannot field a team as strong at all other positions.
Make no mistake, Notre Dame may have an advantage in national recruiting over other programs because of their TV contract with NBC (though with the birth of conference networks and hundreds of games being shown every Saturday on cable TV, this advantage does seem to be shrinking).
However, as Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples pointed out, their stringent admission standards make it difficult to get the best players in the country. (This is not necessarily a bad thing, just a fact that cannot be ignored.)
Who should quarterback the Irish the rest of the year?
The only way for Notre Dame to compete with the big boys (like Alabama and LSU) is to have the best players at the positions that matter most. And while quarterbacks can definitely be overrated at times, there is little debate that their production factors much more prominently than any other individual position in the overall success of the team.
Seeing Brian Kelly go hot and cold on his signal callers is not likely to inspire the best quarterback prospects in the country to come to South Bend in the future. (Yes, the Irish got Kiel last year, even in spite of the fact that Kelly switched from Dayne Crist to Rees in Game 1. However, I very much doubt that Kiel would sign on the dotted line again if he were a high school senior this year.)
The Irish would do well to take a page out of dreaded rival USC’s book and pick a quarterback and stick with them through thick and thin, come hell or high water. (USC’s recent quarterback line has been quite extraordinary: Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, John David Booty, Matt Sanchez and Matt Barkley.) Not only would Golson (or Rees) likely get better, but the top-flight quarterbacks that they would be able to recruit down the line might lead Notre Dame all the way back to national prominence.
Flip-flopping quarterbacks might help Notre Dame win an individual game or two throughout the year, but sticking with one guy is the best way for the Irish to win a national championship down the road.
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