Cheer Up, Notre Dame Fans: Only One Game Left in Tommy Rees Era

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIDecember 16, 2013

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 05:  Tommy Rees #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish gives a thumbs up during play against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Cowboys Stadium on October 5, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

For Notre Dame, jumping from Everett Golson back to Tommy Rees is like seeing a new pizza place built in town, only to see it burn down, forcing a switch back to chain pizza.

At first the thought was, "Well, it won't be that bad. We've had the regular old pizza for years."

Then, covered in grease and stomach bloated, Fighting Irish fans leaned back in pain, longing for the fresh taste and quality ingredients lost in the pizza blaze.

However, that pile of smoldering rubble and melted cheese has been cleared away and a new pizza joint has been built. It will open this coming spring.

As reported by the Associated Press (h/t USA Today), Golson has been readmitted to Notre Dame after missing the fall semester for what he said was "poor judgement on a test."

The Irish were led to the national title game and a 12-1 record under Golson, but he left ND for the fall semester.

So cheer up Irish fans—the freshness is coming back.

Only one subpar meal with processed cheese crammed into soggy crust remains—the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers.

After Rees' final regular season game against Stanford, head coach Brian Kelly took a stab at defining the legacy of Rees, who saw action in all four of his years in South Bend, via

'Legacy' is such a big word for me. I just love the way the kid competes out there. He's not going to go in the College Football Hall of Fame. You know what I mean? He doesn't have those incredible skills. But he just puts his heart and soul into what he does. As a coach, what you appreciate is when somebody gives you all he has...He gives you everything he has. I don't know if that's a legacy answer. He just gives you all he has. That's all you can ask for.

While it might be all a coach can ask for, Notre Dame fans were left asking for more.

That final game was an excellent encapsulation of Rees' career. The senior from Lake Forest, Ill., was good—but it wasn't quite enough.

The good: Rees helped to lead a late rally against then-No. 8 Stanford. He tossed two touchdowns in the third quarter to send ND into the final frame trailing by just four points. Stanford started the fourth with a field goal and from there the Irish had three drives to answer and tie the game.

However, the not-good-enough came, as two of those series ended in interceptions thrown by Rees and Notre Dame came up short, falling 27-20.

An 8-4 record and a bowl berth is a desirable result for many programs, but not for the Irish, which Rees himself acknowledged afterward:

Not good enough, obviously. Proud of the guys. Proud of my teammates, how they fought all year. But you don't come to Notre Dame to be 8-4. Everybody understands that. We're not going to make excuses. We're going to look for solutions going ahead. We only have one game left, we want to leave a good legacy.

Even if Rees leads Notre Dame to a Pinstripe Bowl win over Rutgers, it won't change his legacy. He'll be remembered as a good quarterback, but not a great one.

Next year, the Irish will welcome back the one that was great in 2012, the one that beat Rees out for his starting job in the same year.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 07:  Everett Golson #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks on after failing to convert on third down against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship game at Sun Life Stadium on January 7,
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

As Golson comes back, the Irish look to improve immediately. They'll still have to shore up their rush defense, but with an upgrade at quarterback, 8-4 should be improved upon.

Golson threw for just 2,405 yards with 12 touchdowns last season, but he only threw six interceptions. Rees has thrown 13 this year, many of which hamstrung the Irish in close games.

It might feel like Rees has been throwing picks in South Bend for decades, but his on-again off-again era is now coming to its end.

So when the Irish faithful are watching it close in a cold Yankee Stadium, they can just close their eyes and think of some warm breadsticks, fresh toppings and happiness.