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Five Days of Notre Dame Takes: Was Drew Pyne Delusional?

Pyne’s December portal entrance hastened the inevitable, but the reasoning is head-scratching

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Southern California Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Whew! It’s been a while since I’ve been on here because final exams are a mother. But I’m back and, to make up for lost time, I have TAKES: five of them, one for each golden ring of the holiday season. Some may be hot, some may be cold and some may just be. So stay tuned over the next five days, and hopefully this one will set a nice tone to keep you on the edge of your seat.

When it comes to evaluating Drew Pyne’s decision to enter the transfer portal a month in advance of Notre Dame’s bowl game, all I have to go on is external evidence. So if you know what’s going through Pyne’s head right now, you know better than me. But to an outsider, the only word to describe Pyne is delusional.

Rather than wait until after spring practice, during which time he would a) get his degree and b) have a non-zero chance of staking his claim to the starting quarterback job for 2023, Pyne decided to enter the portal. That was right after Marcus Freeman told him that Notre Dame planned to take a transfer quarterback.

It’s been speculated that Pyne and his camp didn’t appreciate the idea of bringing in a transfer to compete against a guy who went 8-2 as the starting quarterback for the Irish. Assuming all that’s true, I feel the need to ask… was Drew Pyne the only person unaware that Notre Dame was going to bring in a transfer quarterback this offseason? Because it seemed pretty obvious to me, every Notre Dame follower with any common sense and even Pyne’s fellow quarterback Tyler Buchner.

Well, to be completely honest, it’s not just out of injury concerns. Because even before Buchner’s season-ending injury, Notre Dame was about to lose to Marshall. And then, Notre Dame lost to Stanford.

Marshall and Stanford.

The quarterbacks on the Irish roster heading into the 2022 season were some combination of unprepared and incapable when it came to playing competent football. That’s how the Irish lost to the Herd and Cardinal and were one bobbled Hail Mary away from the unthinkable against Cal.

Forget what the ceiling could have been; the bottom completely fell out at the position. Declining to bring in a transfer quarterback after what happened this season would be—to borrow a certain Notre Dame beat writer’s favorite two words—roster malpractice.™

It’s really this simple: the starting quarterback at Notre Dame cannot miss the best tight end in the country running wide open like this, let alone throw a pick-six on the same play.

The starting quarterback at Notre Dame can’t throw this interception in a must-score situation against Marshall.

The starting quarterback at Notre Dame can’t airmail this pass to Braden Lenzy and then proceed to lose to Stanford at home.

Bringing in a transfer quarterback is about separating the wheat from the chaff. That’s not to say Pyne and Buchner (and Steve Angeli) are lost causes. Players get better with experience. That’s why Buchner’s 10-game absence was a travesty for a guy that missed two full seasons of high school football. And to be sure Pyne showed growth from where he started to where he ended the season, but it was not a linear journey from point A to point B.

Yes, Pyne finished No. 20 in the country in passer rating at 155.27, the fourth-best mark in Notre Dame history. But Marshall and Stanford still happened. As did the first quarter of the Cal game. And the second half against Navy. And the majority of the UNLV game. And a 9-17 passing performance for 85 yards against Clemson (no interceptions though!).

In short, Drew Pyne is a serviceable but wildly inconsistent college quarterback at the Power-5 level. He had some high highs, some low lows and quite a bit of mediocrity this season. I have to think he’s entering the portal out of a sense of pride because I can’t imagine he’s leaving early to entice other portal players to accompany him.

Pyne isn’t a talent-attracting quarterback. He piggybacked on the talent around him at Notre Dame more than he enhanced it. To be fair, Ian Book wasn’t a whole lot better—although Book at least showed he could rely on multiple players from Miles Boykin to Chase Claypool to Javon McKinley to Ben Skowronek. With Pyne, it was Michael Mayer or bust aside from the occasional Deion Colzie third-down conversion.

Still, with the personnel the Irish have on the lines and at running back, that approach can win enough games to make a bowl. But it won’t win the big one for the Irish. Notre Dame isn’t Georgia; it’s going to take more than a “pretty good”— or, in Pyne’s case, “fine”—quarterback to compete for championships. We’ve known this since Trevor Lawrence gave Notre Dame a rude awakening in the second quarter of that 2018 Cotton Bowl.

Clemson v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

I’ve got nothing against Drew Pyne, and I wish him all the best. The frustration directed at him this season was largely misplaced, and anyone who was begging for Angeli to replace him was idiotic. I’d absolutely want Pyne in the quarterback room next season, but I realize that isn’t how college football works in the transfer portal era.

Of course, Pyne was probably going to transfer anyway, so he’s really only expedited the process. But he’s letting his pride blind him to reality and depriving himself of a chance to leave Notre Dame as a winner. That truly is a shame for a guy who conjured up every last ounce of ability within himself to salvage Marcus Freeman’s first season from the brink of disaster and succeeded.