Over the past few weeks, fellow domer Jim Miesle and myself have had a debate over who should be the starting quarterback for Notre Dame going into 2011. He believes it should be Dayne Crist and I think that Brian Kelly should stay with Tommy Rees.
While I have the utmost respect for Miesle, as he is as passionate about Notre Dame as I am, I have to say that I just flat out disagree with him here.
Miesle believes that Rees doesn't have the same tangible skills as Crist or even Andrew Hendrix. Both Crist and Hendrix have stronger arms than Rees. Miesle also says that Kelly had a very simplified playbook after Rees took over as the starter.
Miesle is right about every single one of those points, so I will concede all of them.
There is one thing that Miesle is overlooking and that is a big deal: It is the intangibles. That is leadership, the IT factor, knowledge of the game, etc. The things that cannot be measured in practice drills are what Rees has.
Quarterback is a different animal than the other positions. At quarterback, the intangible skills are just more important than the tangible skills.
This reminds me of another debate I had with Miesle a couple years back. He and I debated on who was a better quarterback between Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen. He felt Clausen was better because he had a stronger and more accurate arm; again, that is a point I will concede.
However, the farthest the Fighting Irish ever got with Clausen was the Hawaii Bowl. While I loved the Hawaii Bowl (I was there.), Notre Dame football is expected to be much better than the Hawaii Bowl.
Meanwhile, Quinn with his weaker and less accurate arm led the Irish to back to back BCS Bowls.
The reason is that Quinn had something that Clausen just never really mastered—that is the intangibles. Quinn was a leader and coach on the field. He could read a defense better than Clausen ever thought of. The team just followed Quinn.
Clausen just never had a team follow him that way.
That is exactly what I see happening now.
I am not here to beat up on Crist. I honestly think he did a really nice job last season and I hope he transfers to a place to where he can play. However, there is just something about the way the whole team played in those last four games when Rees was the quarterback would not allow me to take out if I were Kelly.
The team played hard and looked together. I saw a unit that looked like a well oiled machine. I haven't seen that since the Quinn years.
The fact is that Rees, with his weaker arm and simplified playbook, was 4-0 as a starter. It is simply because the team flat out believed in him and would follow him into battle.
About a decade ago, I remember Shannon Sharpe had a good quote. He played for the Baltimore Ravens in a year in which the defense dominated. Going into the Super Bowl, he said, "You know what all the good offenses are doing this weekend? Watching the bad offenses play."
Along those exact same lines, I think the more talented quarterbacks for Notre Dame should be watching the less talented quarterback play.