Notre Dame football quarterback Brandon Wimbush’s play seems to have polarized the Irish fan base.
There are very few certainties in this life. Death and taxes are two of them — as cliché as that reference may be. Another certainty I’ve discovered recently happens in the comments section of articles and social media posts in regard to Notre Dame football quarterback Brandon Wimbush.
Click any article or read the comments section on Facebook or Reddit on a post about Brandon Wimbush and what you’ll see is a bitter war amongst Irish fans as they toss their opinions on the signal caller into the ring.
On one side, you have the supporters. They look at Wimbush as a playmaker with a special skill set that allows Notre Dame to do things offensively that not every team can. They like his experience and maturity as well.
On the other side, you have people who don’t feel like Wimbush should be the starter. They ramble on about the Miami and Stanford games, the bowl game and perhaps most of all, Wimbush’s completion percentage (49.5 percent in 2017).
But are the detractors looking at the big picture?
Every athlete — from Tom Brady to Michael Jordan — has bad games. Sometimes those bad games cost their teams wins. It happens. It’s part of life. Every athlete also has a particular skill set he or she brings to the table. Nobody excels at every facet of the game. Everyone has flaws.
Wimbush has his.
The big question, however, is whether or not those flaws overshadow his production. No, he’s not the best passer in college football. He’s not former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson — a dual-threat quarterback who also excelled as a passer. But not many are.
To focus only on Wimbush’s completion percentage and bad games is a bit unfair to him and a bit short-sighted by Notre Dame fans.
Let’s start win the bottom line: Wins and losses.
Wimbush quarterbacked his team to nine wins during the 2017 regualr season. Did he do it alone? No, and neither did anyone else. He played the role he was asked to play with the skills he had — just like every other player on the Irish roster.
In Notre Dame’s three losses last season, Wimbush wasn’t the only player or unit who underperformed. The Irish only averaged 106 rushing yards in those games. They averaged 269.3 yards per game all season. The running game was Notre Dame’s strength, and in those losses, it failed them.
That’s not on Wimbush.
Looking around the country for quarterbacks who play a similar style to what Wimbush does, I landed on Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke. Lewerke is one of the more underrated dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation. Like Wimbush, he started for a team that won 10 games a season ago.
He completed 59 percent of his passes in 2017 for 2793 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He ran the ball 123 times for 559 yards and five scores.
When you dive into Lewerke’s numbers a little deeper, we can see that between completed passes and run, he averaged 9.08 yards per positive play. Between pass attempts and runs, Lewerke was involved in 56 percent of Michigan State’s total plays.
When we dive into Wimbush’s numbers the same way, we see that the Irish signal caller averaged 9.64 yards per positive play and was involved in 49 percent of Notre Dame’s total offensive plays.
As a passer, Lewerke has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 4-to-1.4. Wimbush’s ratio was 4-to-1.5. Wimbush also had a slightly higher yards per attempt number than Lewerke (6.8 vs. 6.7).
In terms of scoring, Lewerke accounted for one touchdown every 21 times he controlled the play via a run or a pass. Wimbush’s number using the same metric was 13.8.
What do these numbers mean?
When you dive deeper into Wimbush’s numbers and stop focusing on his completion percentage, you get a better grasp of just how valuable he is to the Notre Dame offense. You also see how he compares and in some cases outperforms a player of a similar style.
Why did I choose to compare Wimbush to Brian Lewerke?
In East Lansing, Lewerke is being celebrated as a hero and in some cases projected to be the best quarterback Mark Dantonio has ever had. Brandon Wimbush, on the other hand, has half of the Notre Dame football fan base hoping he loses his starting job before Fall camp.