Notre Dame has not been able to get it done with just one quarterback this season. Wins at Purdue and at home against Michigan and Stanford would not have come to fruition without the steady hand of Tommy Rees.
With half of the season in the books, it is clear the Irish need both Rees and Everett Golson to win. Rees is the Steady Eddie veteran in the offense, Golson the high-ceiling kid who brings a bit of dynamism to the table.
Before we get into how to use these two quarterbacks, it must be stated that this is all based upon Golson being healthy. Yes, as USA Today reported, Golson passed his concussion test today to get cleared to play. Pardon me for being overly cautious, but the first-year starter is not out of the woods, and while he's been cleared to play, there is still the threat of second-impact syndrome that will only become a reality Saturday.
In Tommy Rees, we know what the Irish are going to get. A guy who knows the offense backwards and forwards, who will put them in the right call and right protections to be successful and who will work to get the ball to his playmakers. We also know he is not completely turnover averse when playing big minutes and forced to be "the guy" for the Irish.
With Everett Golson there is a ball of potential, flashes of what might be and the up-and-down play that led Kelly to label Golson as a heart attack player in the spring. Golson brings the ability to open up the offense: he can roll out; he can sprint out; he brings the element of the zone-read and the ability to extend the play. The sky truly is the limit for Golson; unfortunately, he has a problem finding his ceiling because the inconsistency holds him back.
So, how do you go about using these two to raise the ceiling for the Irish?
For all of the heartache that the Golson-Rees situation is causing Irish fans and Brian Kelly, the fact that neither is comfortably the "go-to guy" for the Irish has to be wreaking havoc on their psyches.
Some folks will point to Chris Leak and Tim Tebow as a model of how to blend two different quarterbacks together. That mold doesn't necessarily work. Leak-Tebow are far more Landry Jones and Blake Bell than they are a model for Tommy Rees and Everett Golson.
If you really need a model to lead the way, look no further than the current Irish team: Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese. Yeah, I know they play linebacker, not quarterback. However, look further into it. In Fox you've got the versatile body whom the Irish need in a multitude of scenarios and personnel packages. In Calabrese, Notre Dame has the plug guy who fits certain situations perfectly.
Divided, they're two players who are a step away from truly getting the job done to a satisfactory level. However, when their services are employed together, you get a sound linebacker against the run, pass and straight-ahead and side-to-side runs.
In Golson you've got a more Fox-type player. He's versatile, and he can do things that the other guy, Rees, cannot do on the football field. With Rees, you've got the situational, Calabrese-type player. He fits his role perfectly. And when called upon, he performs.
Brian Kelly needs to continue to use them as such. Let Golson, when healthy, be the versatile body. When the situation calls for it, insert Tommy Rees into the game to ensure that the Irish get the win. They won't change out mid-series the way Calabrese and Fox do on a situational basis. For Rees and Golson, the situations are bit bigger; the stakes are higher but not as immediate.
You want Golson's ceiling early. You take the good with the bad and you hope for the best. You let Golson force defenses to play more base packages, bring fewer pressures and to be wary of the zone-read, which will help get the running game going. Later, when the game hangs in the balance, look to Rees to be the guiding hand. The specialist. The closer.
That's dropping the hammer on a short-yardage play, as we've seen Calabrese do several times. Rees comes in, gets the game-icing drive and the Irish continue to walk away winners.