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Notre Dame Football: Top 5 Fighting Irish Quarterbacks – Completion Rate

A data breakdown of the Irish’s top 5 passers in terms of completion rate over the last 30 years.

Connecticut v Notre Dame Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Here’s part two of the 30 year Notre Dame quarterback review. As we get closer to the 2023 season and Sam Hartman’s helming the Irish offense, this article will focus on breaking down the quarterbacks who’ve had the highest, seasonal pass completion rates.

Completion rates are always a special stat to break down because it’s damn near impossible to get any two fans to agree on how they should be compared from season-to-season or passer-to-passer. We’ll stay pretty high-level here, though, just focusing on the highest completion rates at the end of the season without controlling for other factors.

So this is it.

#1 – Ian Book (2018)

Ian Book is one of the many Notre Dame quarterbacks over the last 30 years who we imagine should’ve played done better but for a whole bunch of reasons we never got to see their full potential. Book’s completion rate of 68.2% during the 2018 puts him at the top of this list. In total he played 10 games, only losing in the bowl game to Clemson. Book did some of his best work in terms of completion rate during the seasons first half, not dropping below 70% until the Northwestern game. Things consistently slid downhill from that point in total it was a pretty exceptional outing.

#2 – Jimmy Clausen (2009)

Jimmy Clausen is another controversial Irish quarterback. For me it all boils down to wrong place at the wrong time. Clausen’s tenure was handcuffed to the frustrations of the overall Weis era and some of his off the field shenanigans. I was a freshman on campus during the 2009 season and let’s just say it wasn’t the prettiest time, particularly from a morale perspective, to be thrust into Irish fandom. Despite it all, Clausen’s pass completion rate during the 2009 season puts him at #2 on this list. For the season, he completed 68.0% of his passes, without any real consistent trend. Things got off to a great 83.3% completion rate against Nevada (Go Irish Beat Wolfpack) and then it devolved into a bit of roller coaster ride that I’ve gone to great lengths to forget over the years.

#3 Tie – Tommy Rees (2011)

The third spot on this list is rounded out by another controversial Notre Dame figure. During his 2011 season, Tommy Rees completed 65.5% of his passes. The marquee losses, along with the ridiculous scares that came with almost every game season have clouded over what was a very successful season for the ND passing attack under the leadership of Tommy Rees. But couple that with everything that’s transpired between Tom/Tommy Rees over the years and it becomes almost impossible to speak too highly of his time taking snaps for the Irish.

#3 Tie – Jack Coan (2021)

Had timing in terms of the pandemic and Brian Kelly been different, I imagine Jack Coan would’ve been praised a lot more for his quarterback performance at Notre Dame. In the 2021 season, he tied Tommy Rees for a 65.5% pass completion rate. Unlike a lot of the other passers on the list, Coan’s season was characterized by a slower start and really ramping up the completion efficiency towards the end of things. After the Cincinnati loss, he completed over 70% of his passes in 6 out of 7 of the next games. The only exception during this stretch was a 66.& completion rate in a win against UNC.

#4 – Brady Quinn (2005)

In the list for total completions, Brady Quinn appeared much more often. In terms of pass completion rate, Quinn’s 2005 performance places him at #4 on this list. He completed 64.9% of his passes, with no consistent trend throughout the season. Quinn hit a season high of 80.6% of passes completed in a victory over Purdue but hit a season low of 54.3% completed in a midseason loss to USC.

#5 – Ian Book (2020)

Ian Book makes a second appearance and bookends the list. During his 2020 season, Book completed 64.6% of his passes. Compared with his 2018 outing, though, it was anything but a consistent run. While the Irish were able to pull out wins in all of their regular season games, Book ranged from 74.1% against Boston College down to 53.3% against Pitt. Similar to Coan’s 2021 performance, another successful season for Notre Dame’s passing game that’ll likely never get the attention it deserved because of a whole host of weird factors in the college football world.

Final Thoughts

In comparison, Sam Hartman will be coming in as a much less efficient quarterback than some of the performances we’ve seen in the last 30 years. In 2018, he completed 55.3% of his 291 attempts and by 2021 that had improved to completing 58.9% of 508 attempts. He significantly stepped up his efficiency game last season, though, completing 63.1% o f 428 attempts.

With so many question marks about the Irish offense (particularly the receiver/tight end corps) coming off last season’s debacle and an almost completely overhauled staff, it’s pretty hard to set efficiency expectations for Hartman. The good thing is that over his long college career he’s gotten progressively more accurate so let’s hope things keep trending that way for the Notre Dame’s 2023 season.

Cheers and Go Irish!!