While Tommy Rees shouldn't be pulled, Brian Kelly needs to find a way to work Dayne Crist into the game.
So, how does Coach Kelly give the senior quarterback another shot without making Rees constantly peer over his shoulder?
Coach Kelly has already made it clear that he plans to stick with Rees. That was not just emphatically stated by Coach Kelly, but it was also evident in the game against the Pittsburgh Panthers when he kept Rees in the game after an underwhelming first three quarters (Pittsburgh has one of the worst passing defenses in the NCAA).
Coach Kelly was right to let Rees keep playing. It wasn't pretty, but Rees put together a nice fourth quarter and led the Irish to victory.
Like it or not, Rees is going to remain the starter, but Crist should also have a chance to show what he can do.
Crist had one bad half against the University of South Florida before he was pulled for the rest of the season. He threw seven completions on 15 attempts for 95 yards, but what cemented Crist's fate was the goal-line interception that killed any momentum that the Irish had left.
It wasn't just Crist that was off of his game, though.
Players dropped drive-sustaining passes left and right, special teams were horrendous and a fumble by Jonas Gray on the first drive of the game was taken for a touchdown, deflating the team (after Crist drove the Irish down the field).
When Rees has had first halves as ugly as Crist did in his first game, what was Kelly's response? He asserted that Rees is still learning how to play the game.
But isn't Crist still learning as well?
Crist has only played eight full games, and that is including the Michigan game last season where he left in the first quarter and didn't return until the second half.
Even though the senior has been on the team longer than Rees, players don't get experience from sitting on the sidelines. Both Rees and Crist are in their second years under Coach Kelly, and Rees has now played more full games than Crist with nine (that's counting Rees playing versus Tulsa last season where he basically was in the whole game).
Football is not about one player, and Coach Kelly shouldn't put Crist in simply to show empathy.
Crist can help the team, and he is already doing so by being a consummate professional and assisting in Rees' development.
Whether Coach Kelly inserts Crist in a few packages because he can throw the ball much farther than Rees, or Crist plays inside the red zone because the Notre Dame offense has struggled to punch it in, Crist should get in the game.
For those who are worried that Crist can't lead the team, he was able to last year. Also, there is no way that after Coach Kelly was convinced that Crist was the right guy to lead the the team before the season started, and then lost all confidence after just one half.
Crist has the option of a fifth year. While it looks like he would return as a backup to Rees, would it really be to the team's detriment to have a fifth-year senior who could come in from time to time to change the dynamics of the game?
No one wants Crist to step on the toes of the younger guys, either.
Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson both have promising futures with the Irish, but their time will come.
After a poor first half against South Florida, should Crist not at least have another chance to make a substantial contribution to the team?