Notre Dame completed their best season in about a quarter century in January with a 12-1 mark. Led by Heisman Trophy finalist (and hoax victim) Manti Te’o, the Irish played in their first National Championship Game since the beginning of 1989, when the Irish defeated West Virginia for the school’s 11th National Championship. Other than Te’o‘s inspirational story that was later turned into an online prank, the biggest storyline of the season for the Irish was the quarterback move from Tommy Rees to redshirt freshman Everett Golson.
After Rees’ off-field issues last summer, Golson ascended to the top of depth chart in South Bend. After some early season struggles against Purdue and Michigan in which Rees came in and led the Irish on scoring drives to clinch those ballgames, Golson began to progress and become a dangerous dual threat for the Irish. Although Golson will most likely be Notre Dame’s opening game starter against Temple in August, the question is albeit random but interesting just to ask; what if Tommy Rees was the starter instead of “the closer”?
Rees doesn’t have the ability to escape the pocket and make plays to extend the chains like Golson displayed last season, but his quiet confidence and knowledge of the offense led the Irish to a 12-5 record over his 17 career starts. But with his limited ability to escape the pocket and questionable decision making in key situations, could he have led the Irish to an undefeated regular season?
Personally, I like Tommy. I think he just caught up in being the starting quarterback for one of the nation’s premier college football programs got to his head a tad and being a college kid, he just felt like having fun. I was very disappointed in his off-season minor consumption charge, but his ability to accept the backup role for the Irish was vital in Golson’s development. Now on the field, I think the Irish would have won their fair share of games with Rees under center, but undefeated might a big stretch.
If I had to give an estimation of a record for the Irish on the year with Rees under center, I would probably hang around in that 10-2, 9-3 area. 11-1 would not be a huge stretch but so many Notre Dame possessions were extending by Golson’s escape ability and speed. Regardless of who started for the Irish this past season, you cannot be displeased with the results.