Some guy from some place said sometime that "Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it." And as Notre Dame fans, we know all about history and legends and whatnot. However, recent history has not been kind to us... Especially last year when turnovers cost our beloved Irish a slot among the elite teams in the nation. And it seems that all the anger and frustrations has been directed at one man wearing number eleven on the Irish sideline...
Ever since Tommy Rees came into the USF game down 16 points, he has been the most controversial three-star recruit in perhaps all of Notre Dame history. By the time the season ended, Rees was 12-4 as a starter... having committed 25 turnovers in those games. To remind my fellow Irish fans of all the anguish he caused us this past season, I will break down every single turnover Tommy Rees committed in 2011 (Note: I have nothing personal against Mr. Rees, it's just strictly business).
So put your handguns and cyanide capsules away, because here we go.Number One: Interception against USF (REDZONE)
Third Quarter, 1st and Goal. USF 16 ND 0
Oh yeah... This play. Well for starters, TR has some great protection and has all day to survey the field. As we all know, he throws the ball to TJ Jones and then Coach Kelly suffers a half-stroke/allergic reaction of sorts. It's a pretty safe pass by Rees, and immediate reaction places the blame on the receiver. And judging from CBK's reaction, Jones clearly erred so close to six points by not looking for the ball.
However, a closer look reveals that just as TR is about to release the ball, Michael Floyd breaks wide open in the middle of the field. Had Rees waited an extra nanosecond, this play is an easy touchdown, no questions asked. While I'll give him the benefit of the doubt because he did make a safe read and it should have been a positive play if not for the disaster, that throw probably should not have had to be made, especially with the amount of time he had.
Number Two: Interception against USF
Fourth Quarter, 2nd and Six. USF 23 ND 13
Just an all-around dumb play by Rees. After protection breaks down, he runs out of the pocket and looks downfield, where there is nobody open. However, Cierre Wood is a safe and easy dump-off throw away from about six or seven yards. Either TR doesn't see him or is not interested at this juncture of the game and throws into double coverage and way behind Floyd. This is the cardinal sin of quarterbacking, throwing across your body while on the run into coverage, and Rees did exactly that.
Number Three: Interception against Michigan
Second Quarter, 3rd and Nine. ND 14 UM 0
Simply forcing the ball here and it really deflates a team that has just been dominating this game so far. Rees rolls out to his right and John Goodman is wide freakin' open down the seam. TR can punt the ball to him right here and FC Goodman can fair-catch it for at least a twenty-yard gain. It's not even a hard throw for Rees, yet Floyd is his buddy and is hanging out by the sideline. Instead of throwing an insta-touchdown to Goodman, Rees tries to thread the needle to Floyd on the sideline... which is exactly what Greg Mattison wants him to do. The throw is very late and Jordan Kovacs pounces on the ball for an interception after baiting Rees to do exactly that for the entire play.
Number Four: Interception against Michigan (REDZONE)
Second Quarter, 1st and Ten. ND 14 UM 7
An almost identical copy of the first pick, except Rees really forces this one to a QUADRUPOLE-covered Michael Floyd. Again, TR rolls out to his right and he really only has two options right off the bat, throwing the ball away or eating it for a sack. Riddick is well-covered, as is Floyd. He chooses none of the above and throws a wounded duck to Wolverine Nation. Just a horrible play. If we score on that drive, it's 21-7 and we're sitting pretty on the road.
Number Five: Fumble against Michigan (REDZONE)
Fourth Quarter, 1st and Goal ND 24 UM 21
Really nothing that can be said here. I guess it was ghosts or something.
Number Five: Fumble against Michigan State
First Quarter, 2nd and 12. ND 7 MSU 0
This one really isn't on Rees, nobody picks up the defensive lineman and he blindsides TR. Most quarterbacks would fumble in that situation.
Number Six: Interception against Michigan State
First Quarter, 3rd and 12. ND 7 MSU 0
This is Tommy Rees trying to make a play on 3rd down. MSU has pretty good coverage on the outside receivers which takes away TR's first options. He then throws it quickly in Tyler Eifert's direction. Eifert is relatively open, but Rees makes the wrong sort of throw; he needed to get the ball over the linebacker and didn't do that. Instead, he rifles it into a dead zone and it is picked off.
Number Seven: Fumble against Pitt
First Quarter, 3rd and 11. ND 0 PITT 0
TR not protecting the football here. Pitt brings six on this play and the O-line can't pick up the linebackers. At this point, it's a negative play no matter what. But TR tries to step away from pressure and gets the ball knocked out because he's not looking to be brought down for a sack; he's still looking downfield and is not holding the ball with both hands. Just bad ball-handling right there.
Number Eight: Interception against Pitt (REDZONE)
Second Quarter, 1st and Ten. ND 7 PITT 6
On this play, TR drops back to pass and make the right read.Tyler Eifert is open at the one-yard line and a sharp pass to him is probably a touchdown. However, a Pitt lineman forces Rees to step up in the pocket and he takes his eyes off Eifert. At this point, he should restart his progression or throw the ball away. Instead, he throws late to Eifert and the safety jumps the route and makes the pick. A great example on how a pass rush can upset TR's timing.
Number Nine: Backwards Lateral against USC
Fourth Quarter, 2nd and Three. USC 24 ND 17
This stupid play. Well, everything is hunky dory to begin with. C-Wood has a convoy and probably gets 10-plus yards if he catches it cleanly. However, Rees simply makes a bad throw. The bad ball catches Wood by surprise and he mishandles it. As it bounces away, so does Notre Dame's chances in this game. Jeez, what an absolute killer...
Number Ten: Interception against USC
Fourth Quarter, 3rd and One. USC 31 ND 17
Rees stares down Floyd all the way and it's an easy play for Nickell Robey. Yet another throw by TR into triple coverage. Gah, I will never get over that night.
Number Eleven: Backwards Lateral against Navy
Second Quarter, 1st and Ten. ND 14 NAVY 0
See number nine. It's basically the exact same play.
Number Twelve: Interception against Navy
Fourth Quarter, 3rd and Six. ND 49 NAVY 7
A really weird play. First off, TR is playing in garbage time with all of the second stringers; which is odd enough. Second, he tries to fit the ball over the linebacker Peter Warrick to TJ Jones except the ball is late and seems to be thrown with the arm strength of an egg. Half-assed is really the only way to describe it.
Number Thirteen: Interception against Wake Forest
Second Quater, 1st and Ten. WAKE 17 ND 10
Just a weak throw on a Hail Mary. Not much to say about this one except that this isn't just a lame duck, it's a Boeing 747 tumbling out of the sky. Got arm strength?
Number Fourteen: Interception against Wake Forest
Third Quarter, 1st and Ten, ND 24 WAKE 17
This play probably works if Notre Dame doesn't have a receiver named Michael Floyd. However, the defense loves to double cover him, and Tommy Rees loves to throw to him. So Jonas Gray takes the hand-off and laterals back to Rees for the classic flea-flicker. Unfortunately, Rees looks predetermined to throw a bomb to Floyd who is well covered. In somewhat of a surprise, TR overthrows Floyd and it is an easy play for the safety who settles under the fluttering pass and intercepts it.
Number Fifteen: Interception against Boston College
Third Quarter, 1st and Ten. ND 13 BC 7
A blind throw right here. Rees drops back to throw the middle screen to TJ Jones and lets go of the ball without even checking to see if he's open. Sure enough, Max Holloway is right there to intercept the pass and kills one of the only promising drives of the game for the Notre Dame offense. This seems to sum up the real problem Tommy Rees has, and that's not arm strength or athleticism, but making poor decisions at inopportune times.
Number Sixteen: Fumble against Stanford
First Quarter, 1st and Ten, STAN 7 ND 0
Now the offensive line was absolutely abused all night long, but TR barely gets hit on this play and the ball comes squirting out. While this wasn't a redzone turnover, we were on about the 25 yard-line and this was one of our best chances at scoring in the first half. Back to the play, Stanford overwhelms our line and and Rees again tries to make something out of nothing. The D-lineman again is making a wrap out but the ball still comes out. This is very concerning because it almost seems that when Tommy gets hit in the pocket, he fumbles.
Number Seventeen: Interception against Stanford
Second Quarter, 3rd and Five, STAN 14 ND 0
At this point in the game, Tommy is really rattled. Yeah spare me the argument that he never gets rattled, but he definitely was from the first play of the game when he got jacked up by Chase Thomas. This time, he throws it to no one in particular except the corner. I think this was the last straw for CBK just because it was such an errant throw. And in comes Hendrix after that.
Number Eighteen: Interception against Florida State (REDZONE)
First Quarter, 1st and Goal. ND 0 FSU 0
Seriously, what the hell Tommy... FSU plays the pass the whole way. Rees has all the time in the world and wants to get it to his buddy Floyd who is blanketed in the endzone by the corner. FSU is playing zone with two linebackers also right in front of Floyd. And true to character, TR rifles the ball right towards the linebackers and it is picked off. By the way, that marked the seventh redzone turnover Notre Dame had during the year.
Number Nineteen: Interception against Florida State
Fourth Quarter, 1st and 20, FSU 18 ND 14
Perhaps the most egregious of all the turnovers made by TR the entire year. Floyd is out of the game, Goodman is double-covered in the endzone, and C-Wood is open for at least five yards on the far side of the field. The game and a 9-4 season is on the line. So what does Tommy do? If you guessed "PULL PIN OUT OF GRENADE AND CLUTCH TO CHEST", then you were absolutely correct. I still can't believe that throw. That play defined everything that is wrong with TR. It was a poor decision, a forced throw that had no shot, and a shot put that looked more like a bad punt then anything else. Ugh, I hope Coach Kelly still remembers this play.
So there you have it! All 19 turnovers committed by Tommy Rees in 2011. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed writing it. The moral of the story? If Notre Dame wants to win and win big in the coming years, it is my professional opinion that it cannot be done with Tommy Rees at the helm making these same bad decisions. And again, it's only business, nothing personal.