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Notre Dame Football: What If Brady Quinn Had Redshirted In 2003?

It’s already peak offseason in my mind, and this scenario is dangerous.

Stanford v Notre Dame Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Quite simply... it’s the offseason for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team. We have brains. We have time. And this is what I think about as I’m landscaping the yard. What if Brady Quinn took a redshirt in 2003? What impact would that have had on the program during his time there — and would we still feel that impact today?

Grab a tasty beverage, because you might need to be a little sauced to get through all of this.


Brady Quinn arrives at Notre Dame as a wide-eyed pretty boy from the hard streets of Dublin, Ohio. The starting quarterback for the Irish is Carlyle Holiday. Despite a healthy Holiday, the season plays out in the same manner. Quinn gets a redshirt, and head coach Ty Willingham is trashed in the media for not giving the talented freshman a chance.


Quinn is basically made the starter in spring. Despite the high hopes, the season plays out about the same way — even that ridiculous loss to the BYU Cougars to start the season. Willingham is fired at the end of the regular season, and the media comes running to Ty’s defense.

Big Poppa Charlie Weis comes running to South Bend.


Everything happens the same. Tragically, the Bush Push still exists, and the major bowl beatdowns happen. Nineteen wins in two years, however, still has a lot of people backing the arrogant head coach.


In the spring of 2006, the #1 quarterback in the country still rides in a stretched Hummer to announce his commitment to Notre Dame at the College Football Hall of Fame. Yes, of course we are talking about Jimmy Clausen. At the time of Jimmy’s commitment, it was widely thought that Quinn would leave for the NFL Draft after the 2006 season. In doing so, it would allow Clausen to fully compete for playing time and a starting role in 2007.

Almost immediately after the Sugar Bowl loss to the LSU Tigers, both Quinn and running back Darius Walker get together and decide to come back and play one final year for the Irish in 2007. They both waited a few weeks, but then they held a joint press conference to announce that decision.

Although the Clausens are from California, they did not think to pull the Eddie Vanderdoes of decommitments (more so because Jimmy had already enrolled).


Keep in mind, 2007 was one of the wildest seasons in college football history. Part of that craziness was a 3-9 Notre Dame team that had all sorts of issues and, besides the record, is best known for losing to the Navy Midshipmen for the first time in 43 years. That team had two terrible flaws: Bad quarterback play, and a generous defense. One of those can be helped by great play from the other.

Purdue Boilermakers v Notre Dame Fighting Irish Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

So... with Brady Quinn (and in some respect Walker), the Irish would be considerably better than what they were. How does that season unfold?

  • Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Instead of Charlie Weis playing “schematic advantage” with the spread option for two weeks prior to the season, Brady Quinn rolls out there and does Brady Quinn things. Notre Dame wins.
  • Notre Dame drops the next two games on the road to the Penn State Nittany Lions and Michigan Wolverines, but instead of losing by a combined score of 69-10, they make a game of both — although neither game was very close in the 4th quarter. The Irish are 1-2 and heads are rolling.
  • The Irish head home to face the Michigan State Spartans, but in typical fashion for the time, Notre Dame loses to Sparty in a tight game. 1-3: Can you imagine what this would look like without Quinn?
  • The Irish, fighting for their life to get back to .500, pull it off with convincing wins against the Purdue Boilermakers and the UCLA Bruins.
  • Notre Dame heads home to face the #4 Boston College Eagles. In a weaker form of payback for 1993, Notre Dame crushes BC as Quinn outplays Matt Ryan.
  • The Irish are on a three game winning streak, with the game Quinn back to school for up next. The USC Trojans come to town...and they’re still a Pete Caroll-led death machine. They beat Notre Dame by three touchdowns.
  • Notre Dame then goes on a tear and wins their final four games against Navy, the Air Force Falcons, Stanford Cardinal, and Duke Blue Devils. (Yes the streak continues against Navy, after another close call).
  • At 8-4, Notre Dame heads to the Gator Bowl to face the Virginia Cavaliers. The Irish show up prepared and ready to fight under the leadership of Captain Brady, and Notre Dame wins their first bowl game since the 1993 season.
  • Final record: 9-4


With 28 wins in his first 3 seasons, Charlie Weis is entrenched as the head coach of the Notre Dame football team for the foreseeable future. The 3-9 season that put him on thin ice no longer exists, and it’s the best 3 year stretch since the 1992-1994 seasons.

The 2008 and 2009 seasons end in the same fashion, but Weis doesn’t get fired at the end of the 2009 season. The Irish face a South Carolina Gamecocks team in the Papa Johns Bowl and eek out another minor bowl win.

Michigan State v Notre Dame Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Clausen and Golden Tate come back for their senior year in 2010, and the Irish finish the regular season 11-1 with that lone loss against Stanford - but finally a win over the Trojans. Notre Dame loses to the Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl to continue their BCS Bowl losing streak.

The Irish look terrible in 2011 and only win 6 games and have a loss against Navy. Weis quits to take over the Miami Dolphins. He won 59 games in 7 seasons with 3 minor bowl wins in that total.

Notre Dame hires the retired Urban Meyer to take over as the head coach in 2012. Notre Dame wins the national championship in 2012 and 2015.

All because Brady Quinn got a redshirt from Tyrone Willingham in 2003.

Thanks Ty.

The End.