As closely as I can tell, nearly everyone who cares at all about Notre Dame football is either puzzled or concerned—or both—regarding Brian Kelly's handling of the quarterback situation. I will not rehash what those concerns are here. We all know what they are.
I have a theory as to why Everett Golson has not been awarded the job on a full time "the job is yours alone no matter what" basis, as some would like to see. It's because the job is not his. Not yet. And maybe it never will be.
I am not being critical of Golson. He has made great strides and at times has shown flashes of what it takes to be a championship quarterback. But then there are other times when it is obvious that he is still on a learning curve that we have no guarantee he will ever conquer.
Brian Kelly has a stable of quarterbacks both today and continuing into the coming years that, according to experts who study such things, is as talented as any in the game when taken as a unit. Notice I said "talented," not "accomplished."
Kelly's challenge is to: develop and utilize the current and future talent he has coming in at that position in the most efficient and productive manner possible, and keep all of these talented kids interested and motivated that the QB1 position can and will be theirs sooner rather than later.
Forgetting for a moment the current crop of top talent being recruited by Kelly at the position, on the immediate horizon is one Gunner Kiel, a redshirt freshman and a much heralded prospect coming out of high school. Some say he was the best quarterback in the country coming into his college career.
My theory is this: Kelly is not about to hand the job to Golson flat out, no questions asked, unless Golson puts up numbers that rival any ever put up by the great college quarterbacks of the past or present.
If he does hand the job permanently to Golson prematurely, he will lose Kiel, who, with his credentials and promise, will not be satisfied to be Golson's backup for three or four years before he finally gets his shot.
Therefore, what Kelly is doing with the switch-off between Golson and Rees in almost every game is keeping hope alive in the mind of Kiel that this thing is not yet settled and that he still has a chance to truly compete for and win the job next spring and summer.
The way Kelly is doing it is actually quite clever, in that his words say that the job belongs to Golson, pleasing, motivating and rewarding Golson for the progress he has made to date. Yet Kelly's actions don't indicate at all that Golson's job is permanent, thus keeping Kiel interested and motivated for next year.
I realize that the last thing that most fans want to hear is that there will be yet another quarterback competition next year. But if you think about it, when the Irish have two really talented guys who want the QB 1 job; don't you want know that the guy who finally does take the reins for the next three or four years is the guy who is really most deserving and who has the most ability to get the job done, and that the guy who was actually better didn't get away because he was discouraged and didn't get a chance to prove himself?
Now, not all QB's deserve that kind of consideration. Some were born to be backups. But in Kiel's case, I think he does deserve a shot and Kelly would be foolish, even negligent, not to make sure that he gets one.
The Tommy Rees haters got their wish. He is not starting and plays sparingly, and so far the results have been a vast improvement over last season. So, now it is time for all of us to sit back and watch how the quarterback competition unfolds between the two immensely talented younger guys. One is currently being given his chance to succeed, but not without limits. The other will get a similar chance next year, and in the end, hopefully, one of the two will emerge as the guy we will see under center for the next three or four years.
If not, the process will continue with future star recruits until the next true championship level QB is identified and earns the job once and for all. Isn't that what we want, what we expect as Notre Dame fans? Excellence?
I know the theory exists that Kelly's current system is not good for the confidence level of whomever the current starter is, and with this way of managing things, Kelly is not giving his starter a chance to really assume and embrace the leadership role. To that, I say leaders emerge, they are not assigned. When the real leader, the real championship level QB does emerge, we will know it when we see it.
In the meantime, Kelly is being dumb like a fox in his handling of identifying who that is while keeping everyone who still has a shot at being "the guy" interested and motivated enough to stay in the Notre Dame stable until everything is settled once and for all, to (most) everyone's satisfaction.