An Outsiders Opinion on Notre Dame's Present and Future.

Quick disclaimer, I maybe used the outsider team loosely in the title. I actively root for Notre Dame, and grew up with NBC every Saturday. However, I am a student of another University with a very good football program, so I do not consider myself a die-hard, or 'true' ND fan. Luckily these two teams, though geographically close, rarely meet or even cross paths. So I can still give Notre Dame the love I so desperately want to. While still supporting the home team.

This started as a comment on Eric Murtaugh's post titled Thinking about Notre Dame's Offense: Where Are We and Where Are We Going?. However, I noticed that I had written much more than is necessary for a single comment. So I punched it up and put it here. Please Enjoy my first fan post on OFD.

Lately I have been reading a lot of people talk writing about about Golson and Hendrix in the comment threads. Hoping that maybe we will see one of them this year, or speculationg on when they will make an appearence. However, one has to acknowledge that it could be 2014 before Kelly is looking at a change in his QB position. Of course, if that is the case it means Rees is playing well enough to keep his job.   This season, like every other, I have followed the Irish closely having watched all of ND's games, while reading this site and the threads almost daily, and have noticed a general sense of apprehension. I do not feel the same way Y'all do. The offense has been producing, and save for a couple of horrible mistakes, and generally bad luck, Rees and company have played very well. While the defense hasn't been world beaters by any stretch, they were able to hold Pitt at home to only 12 points. More importantly the week after the Irish, and specifically the Irish defense were nationally embarassed on ABC Primetime, they responded by beating a top-20 team by three scores. When Goodman muffed the punt and MSU had a 1st and goal, with about 4:00 left on the clock and all three time outs and only down two scores, I got a text message from my brother saying "Notre Dame just gave away another game, Awful team, awful season." My dad, shortly chimmed in on the awfulness of Notre Dame as well. On the next play, Cousins throws the INT, and ND wins the game comfortably. Do you think a Weis, or Willingham team holds on to that MSU victory? Do they respond to all the critizism they had recieved so wonderfully? No, I do not think so. That anecdote about my brother and father is a small example of the greater view of the fan base. The defeated sense, maybe it was just because of the previous two weeks, but I really doubt it. More likely, it came from having a rough decade (no need to explain the aughts again). When comparing Rees to Crist there is some room for head-scratching, doesn't Dayne Crist just resemble what a QB should, but Rees is the without-a-doubt the starter. There is (IMHO) a more concrete reason, than mental toughness, as to why Rees got the job. He's just a better Quarter-Back, he is more accurate and makes better decisions*. Assigning something like mental toughness to the reason that Kelly is sticking with Rees, and not going back to Crist, assumes that Rees and the offense as a whole have not been producing. That simply is not the case, Notre Dame has not been completely flaccid on offense this year. Yes, the fumble inside Michigan's 10, where it just slipped out of Rees' hands was strait up bad. Or the deluge of incompletions that comes every 2nd Quarter like the april showers. But who among us was not completely impressed with that final drive against Pitt, or any one of the Lasers Rees threw for touchdowns in the aforementioned MSU game. Shit, even the final offensive drive against Michigan was poetic and impressive, all 110,000 people are yelling and hoping that the Irish fail, everything was against them, and they knew they had let a lesser back into the game. But they still put together one gorgeous drive to take the lead with (well, you guys know how that one ended) *I personally do not believe in the mental toughness idea behind it. However, I am not trying to take a shot at Whiskey OFD, this is his site, this is my first fan post, I'm not trying to challenge anyone. Plus, even though I disagree'd, the article was still great and I read and enjoyed it.

I know for this fan base the idea of 'waiting for the QB to mature' seems like another long year in purgatory, but please be patient. This team just looks much better than during the Weis (save for the Quinn to Samardjiza teams) or Whillingham era's. Frankly, being 19 and handling an elite college playbook is a really hard thing to do. Remember Graham Harrell, the Texas Tech Quater-Back, who threw for eleventy billion yards and was the best that Leach ever had? Well his sophomore year was really rough, and Tech fans were sitting around saying 'this guy has a weak arm, the offense looks way to simple, and this is not what we expect.' The next two years, he put together incredible seasons and was statiscally one of the best college QB's ever. Another great example is that of Colt McCoy. McCoys first two years were not without controversy. There were plenty of Texas fans claiming he was simply too slow, or too little. McCoy had a much weaker arm than Rees does now, and everytime he got tackled, you just thought he was going to have to leave the game. Many Texas fans actually wanted Jevan Snead to step in and lead the offense. Snead saw the writing on the wall and transfered to The Houston Nutt Reform School of Oxford Mississippi. (Where Snead and Harrell met in the 2009 Cotton Bowl, the last college game for both QB's. Wierd, I know. Snead won btw, probably because of SEC speed)

Reporters and fans kept asking Mack Brown about QB depth and who else might play, and when can the Longhorns expect to see more of Snead. Mack Brown answered these questions with the answer that McCoy was the QB#1 for now, and the forseable future. Sounds Familiar Doesnt It?

What I am trying to say is that Rees is still very young. The system and coaches are still new, in football program terms, and everything is still looking better than it did this time last year, or two, or three years ago. With Michael Floyd and Jonas Gray in their senior season, and Cierre Wood a very NFL-tempting junior, it would make alot of sense to feel anxious about the QB situation since that seems to be the only missing piece to a totally bad-ass offense. Try your best to avoid this feeling of anxiety. For comparison, myself and Rees are exactly the same age, both of us call May, 22nd 1992 our birthday. I honestly have yet to figure out the bus system at my college, today I wound up on the exact opposite side of town than I wanted. So, complex things like the 'No-Huddle Spread Option' or 'Do I take Red or Blue route to get to campus?' just come with time and lots of practice. If Kelly and staff are willing to baptize Rees by fire, with this season and the second half of last year they must see something truly special and unique in the kid. If Kelly and staff thought neither Rees nor Crist could get the job done, they could just have Michael Floyd line up at QB and Jonas Gray at RB and do speed options all day. Honestly, that could probably work, those guys are fast enough. But the coaches aren't doing that, because Rees is good enough not to.

Also, as the Spread offense quickly becomes the norm and not the exception in College Football, expect a general drop-off in production from it. I am clearly not saying it is going to become obsolete, football as a whole is much higher scoring than it was even, 7 years ago, but it is becoming less potent. Around the turn of the century when only a handful of teams were running 4 WR formations and motion plays, it was (almost) a guareented 40 points a game. Now even the Iowa Hawkeyes are routinely putting out 300 yards passing, and showing 5 WR sets on the field. It isn't a new or crazy thing to Defenses anymore. Even one of the pioneers of the Spread-Offense, Mike Leach saw his raw numbers go down from Kliff Kingsbury in 2000 to Harrell in 2008. 

It is also too easy to look at what Chip Kelly has at Oregon, or what Dana Holgorson had (and now Todd Monken has) at Okie State and think, 'Notre Dame should be there.' Consider for a moment; Is Chip Kelly successful without LaMichael James and Darren Thomas? Does OSU's funny bidness (yes, that is meant to be read bidness) work without a 27 year old Brandon Weeden at QB, and a RS Junior Justin Blackmon (not to mention, Dez Bryant before him)? I think not. If you want a prolific offense, you need a great scheme, and great players who have years of experience in that scheme. I believe right now Notre Dame has the Scheme and the Players, its just a matter of getting the years into the equation.

Notre Dame, Brian Kelly, and especially Tommy Rees need time. I understand loud and clear that this is a fan base and school that have used up all their faith and patience on previous dud coaches. Who build up your hope with great first seasons, then just leave you disapointed every year after. Everytime I talk to my brother (who is a ND alum) about Irish football he just sounds sad, and somewhere the word 'losers' comes out. Asking him for a little more time is like asking the American worker for a little more Tax dollars. But can you not see the writing on the wall? It is obvious to me, that things are getting better. Yes, I am very aware of the fact that when you are so deep in a program it is hard to be patient. When Iowa (oh yeah, thats where I'm at) lost to Iowa State earlier this year, I wrote on an Iowa message board that James Vandenberg should be benched. Seven days later, the same guy I wanted off the field, put up 399 yards passing and had the largest comeback in school history. I think it is much easier for me to be positive about Notre Dames future, than someone like my brother, since I am maybe one or two steps removed. I also think it is easy for me to be positive about this teams future because there is simply so much to be positive about.

I am on the fringes of the Notre Dame fanbase I attend college in Iowa City, not South Bend, and they are second on my list of priority teams in college football. (considering how much time I spend on college football though, they still get plenty of attention) However, I grew up with it, and I still manage to catch every game. Either live, or on tape delay (if I was at the Iowa game). There is something special and unique about Notre Dame, Indiana. Who doesn't remember the first time they learned to words to The Victory March?  Please, good fans of the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish, stand together in the support of your coach and QB. There are enough haters and doubters out-there. Its cool to hate Notre Dame, to make Tom Hammond jokes, to poke fun at the rivers of tradition and legend that flow from the Golden Dome every day. It's funny and cool to see all the majesty and regalness of Notre Dame, and make some snide remark about expectations, or the religious affiliation of the school. Never mind them, they are too busy telling you, how much faster the SEC is, or how much stronger the B1G is. Claiming that Notre Dame is a dinosaur, contemporarily irrelevant like its biggest cheer-leader Lou Holtz. It does not matter, let the penut gallery take pebble sized shots at the Mountain that is the University of Notre Dame.

The future is not here. These are not the players. This is not the team. Some of these players will be on The Team. Some of these coaches are building The Future. It is not complete yet, and it might not be next year. But Notre Dame finally, has all the ingredients to make a diamond, they just need time.  


If you made it all the way thru that, thanks. Wake Up The God-Damn Echo's.

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