Let Me Explain: My Top-25 Irish Players Sans Crist

Yeah. So, let’s use this post to try to calm the masses a bit. I’ve been rather astonished at the response I got for not including Dayne Crist in my rankings of the Top 25 Irish Players on the 2011 Roster, hosted by Keith at Inside the Irish. Not only have there been flumoxed responses to my ranking decision in completely unrelated posts, but I’ve received tweets, e-mail, and even text messages expressing either mild outrage or apocalyptic bafflement (that would be a great name for a college band, by the way – “Apocalyptic Bafflement” – you’re welcome, aspiring college band dude). I mean, seriously, who the hell gave Biscuit my phone number so he could text me? Anyway, let me try to explain better, as the snipped that Keith shared with you all was meant to be an amuse-bouche, tempting your senses into telling your brain to direct your index finger to click a link our way.

So, first, let’s look at what Keith shared from my answer to Keith’s first question to the council…

“Who did you have sitting at No. 26? Are you reconsidering after looking at everybody else’s lists?”

Crist. had Crist at #26. Or maybe 40th. Or maybe lower. Wherever I had him, he wasn’t 1-25. And I’m actually feeling pretty good about it, having stolen a look at everyone’s 1-25. It went about the way I thought it would. And I understand the points of view of the other fine members of this council, but, while this team may not be full of 1st-round talent from 1-25, it’s full of a nice bit of depth, and I just couldn’t see clear to move Crist into the top 25 given he was the QB who started in the latest loss to Navy.

And I don’t blame Keith for snipping from the original one bit. Lots of ground to cover, many members of the council to quote, deadlines to keep, etc… But something got lost, I feel, in that translation; Namely most of my rationale. So here’s the full explanation that I sent to Keith, with the part that was cropped out in bold…

Crist. I had Crist at #26. Or maybe 40th. Or maybe lower. Wherever I had him, he wasn’t 1-25. What? And I’m actually feeling pretty good about it, having stolen a look at everyone’s 1-25. It went about the way I thought it would. And I understand the points of view of the other fine members of this council, but, while this team may not be full of 1st-round talent from 1-25, it’s full of a nice bit of depth, and I just couldn’t see clear to move Crist into the top 25 given he was the QB who started in the latest loss to Navy. And while a ton of blame for that horrible waste of a day God created sits upon the defense the way an old ND alum sits on a bleacher, you gotta put half a cheek right on top of Crist’s performance in that game – his last remaining meaningful PT.

Placing any blame on Crist for the Navy loss really seems to grind some gears in the ND fan-base, but hear me out. Crist threw 2 interceptions in that game at critical moments. In the past, ND didn’t often stonewall the Navy offense entirely, but the Irish offense was often so capable of putting up points on the board against Navy so quickly that it would just out-run the Navy offense and force Navy to play a style of football it didn’t want to play. (Note: By “in the past,” I mean, “aside from the last 4 years. Damn it.) And I was at the stadium to watch that game and to see what Crist was seeing (I was sitting way, way up high in the end zone). And there’s no way he should have thrown some of the passes he threw. That the last meaningful playing-time impression I’m left with from Crist, no matter the mitigating circumstances. And it’s an awful one.

Now, let’s just suppose that by ranking Crist out of the top-25, I may have ranked Rees higher. I’m not letting any cats out of any bags just yet, but I could see that possibility. At the very least, I think the 2011 numbers match up quite favorably in Rees’ corner.

Rees has a better completion % than Crist. He’s got comparable yds/attempt and yds/completion (despite “everyone” on ND message boards claiming all Reese completes are 3-4 yard possession passes). Rees has the slight edge in TDs/pass attempt, and Crist is a bit safer with the ball. But you know which stat isn’t on that sheet that I just can’t ignore? Wins and Losses, specifically “what sort of wins and losses are on the guy’s record?” Crist lost to Navy. (And, by the way, lots of people noticed Rees looked a lot more comfortable when he went into the Navy game.) Rees beat a Top-25 Utah, triple-option-heavy Army, Southern Cal, and Miami. That’s simply a run you don’t ignore if you’re a purveyor of Notre Dame Football history. It may not have been a true gauntlet of titans, but it sure as hell can’t be brushed away either. What’s Crist’s biggest win on his resume? Let’s put it this way, if Crist and Rees found themselves in some sort of comical “bragging rights” battle, with a live audience and everything, and all they could bring with them were accomplishments on the field of college football, who’s going to win?

So that’s why I left him off my list. Not because I don’t believe Crist could transform into something of an excellent quaterback for the Irish in 2011, but because I know it would take a great deal of transforming for him to do so.

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  • SDI

    I don’t have a problem with you leaving Crist off the list. I disagree, but you make a fair argument. But you just can’t compare Crist and Rees fairly using stats. The defense, running game, and play calling gave Rees a huge advantage. I have no doubt Crist would have been 4-0 in November also, and the USC game would likely have been an ND blowout.

    • http://www.herloyalsons.com domer_mq

      But the thing is, in Crist’s games with Floyd, it’s not like the 2 were on the same page. There wasn’t much about Crist’s game that made you think his time in CFB to that point made him much better than Rees.

      • SDI

        I’m not arguing that Crist is much better than Rees. But they had similar stats (and Rees didn’t have to play against Stanford), with less run support, worse play calling, and much worse defense for Crist. And from that, you seem to suggest that Rees is the better QB. I just don’t think that is fair to Crist.

        I agree Floyd was much more effective late in the year–against USC and Miami anyways. But I wonder how much of that was Rees, and how much of that was due to a more effective running game, which made it much more difficult to double Floyd. Also, I wonder if Kelly got better as the year went along at finding ways to effectively use Floyd.

      • SDI

        And I don’t think it will take a great deal of transforming for Crist to be an excellent QB. I think he already was at times last year. He just needs to be more consistent and I think he will be. And a good running game has made plenty of average QBs look better than they are. When a team drops 8 guys into coverage (Stanford) because you can’t run a lick, it’s going to be a long day for most college QBs.

      • TLNDMA

        No but , there was much in Ree’s game that showed he was no where near as talented as Crist.
        It was not clear what the criteria was for this top 25 but, you way off leaving Crist out of it.

      • pchristner9

        Did you watch the MSU game?

    • DJ

      I deleted this comment because it makes character judgments that are not possible to make. – mq

      • SDI

        Please–that is just weak, you know nothing about the kid’s heart.

        • Casey

          We know a lot about his heart…twice came back earlier than expected from knee surgeries…kid has a TON of heart

  • Piratey

    To cite that Rees beat USC is like citing that in his first win, Brady Quinn beat Pitt.(If you remember he had 5 completions, 33yds of passing and a pick. That was the game Julius Jones went nuts for 262yds)

    Rees was in the game against USC but he tried awfully hard to lose the game, 4 turnovers inside our 30? Really? Every point they scored came off Rees turnovers. The defense put together one the greatest defensive performances of the last 20 years. Robert Hughes? ‘Nuff said.

    Yes he was the quarterback of the game in which we beat USC but don’t you agree that any quarterback in the nation could have beaten USC that day? Cierre Wood wins that game playing straight Lepre-Cat all game.

    • http://www.herloyalsons.com domer_mq

      Brady Quinn did beat Pitt, and went on to become a 1st round pick, so… not sure what you’re saying there.

      Rees had a rough game against SoCal, for sure, but he was still the winning QB. I just don’t believe you can gloss over that. You don’t go changing the brand of tires on a lead car when the car is winning despite the tires. New tires make the car run differently, and “different” might mean “not winning.”

      • Piratey

        It’s the old Trent Dilfer argument. Any QB who helmed the Ravens that year would have won the Super Bowl, Trent Dilfer happen to be along for the ride.

        I guess we just disagree when it comes to glossing things over. Tommy Rees may have beaten USC but HE didn’t beat USC. Frankly that was the norm throughout our winning streak. Two field goals or a single TD would have beaten both Army and Utah, Miami threw 4 picks before halftime. I think there is certainly a case of giving too much credit to Tommy Rees afflicting our fanbase.

        • BaltND

          RE: Dilfer vs Rees: Dilfer protected the football

      • Craig

        When you consider how hard Rees tried to give away the USC game, I’m sure as hell willing to gloss over that he was the winning QB. ND won that game more in spite of him than because of him.

        (Mind you, that’s probably the only game I’d say that for.)

  • AkronND

    What about the fact that Christ is an injury-prone quarterback who is fighting for a starting spot on the roster? I think that’s reason enough to leave him out of the top 25, although I hope he proves everyone wrong and is a top 5 performer in 2011.

    • http://www.herloyalsons.com domer_mq

      I hesitate to call a kid injury prone. Though it is true his injuries have limited his production.

  • The Biscuit

    I can get your rationale for leaving him off top 25. But I can’t get an argument for Rees>Crist last year, especially after I made a pretty solid argument about why a bit back right here. Rees had a superior D, played against weaker defenses, and had a superior run game helping him.

    Now, that it’s not clear who should start – that’s a reason to keep Crist out of the top 25. With you there. But the stats comparison you show here is less than half the story.

    • E-Man

      I’d like to see the backing behind “Rees played against weaker defenses”. Weren’t Miami and USC ranked higher than any other defense short of Stanford? And it’s not like Crist lit up anyone but Michigan.

      • SDI

        He lit up Michigan State and BC also. He has much to prove, but he did show potential at times.

      • The Biscuit

        I did a writeup on it. Link below in my other comment

  • The Biscuit

    Here’s my Crist>Rees argument. Its not super clear cut but I fall on the Crist side.


  • Jeremy

    I certainly understand the view that there are 25 players on the team that are better than Crist right now — I am not convinced a QB should be rated that high for 2011 compared to the rest of our talent. But I disagree with the Rees / Crist analysis. Rees made the rest of the team stronger because they realized like we did that we were SOL without Crist and that they better do something if we wanted to win more than 4 games last year. That was a great learning experience for the team and showed what type of team that are becoming, but that doesn’t mean I want a starting QB who will continually make the rest of the team feel in every game like “the breaks are beating the boys.”

  • kyndfan

    If Crist starts and the Irish win, all is well. Having said that, I would like to see Hendrix win the spot with Rees backing him up. Crist has been inaccurate and inconsistent. He does not belong in the top 25 until he proves otherwise.

  • kyndfan

    Making the top 25 is extremely difficult anyway since LNIII takes up spots 1-20. (I couldn’t help myself.)

  • Dave

    Agree with Piratey. The analysis needs to be more sophisticated than just wins. E.g., we know better than to judge pitchers based soley on their win/loss, because it doesn’t accurately reflect their individual performance.

    • Trey

      No one wins the Cy Young with a 5-12 record and a 1.50 ERA. I HAVE seen the guy who has 20 wins and a 3.00 era win it, though.

      • rocket89

        Felix Hernandez’ 13-12 record won him a Cy Young last year.

        • Trey

          He had 232 Ks, thats why.

        • Trey

          As mq’s analysis points out, Crist isnt substantially better in any category than Rees. Hence, my analogy fits. In the end, the ultimate tiebreaker is win/loss

          • SDI

            He wasn’t STATISTICALLY better. Physically, he is bigger, has a stronger arm, and even with bum knees more mobile than Rees.

            For anyone who thinks Crist doesn’t have the goods, think back to when Clausen and Brady Quinn were in their first 2 years as starters. Clausen’s game at BC was just as bad if not worse than Crist against Stanford and Navy. Clausen’s third season was pretty decent as I recall it.

          • Trey

            What has all that done for him? In 8 games as a starter, the team wins the game half the time. And in about a quarter of the games he plays in, he seriously injures himself.

  • rocket89

    Let us accept the argument that Rees is “better” than Crist and therefore should be ranked higher than in this Top 25 list. I don’t buy it at all, and don’t really find your evidence very compelling in the least bit.

    For example, Rees had a higher completion percentage while attempting so-called “easier” throws. Even still, his 1.8% difference isn’t really turning heads. I’ll fully admit Crist had problems with his accuracy, but he was also out there trying to complete tougher throws.

    And the yards/attempt and yards/completion: There were still a ton of short passes that went for long gains. Again, Crist somewhat struggled with a few of the screen passes and short throws, but even with that, he was still able to throw the ball down field effectively to still have better numbers than Rees here. My point is, Rees threw a ton of screens and short passes where the receivers scurried for big gains.

    As for TD’s per attempt: This stat is skewed because Rees threw so many short touchdown passes. 8 of Rees’ TD passes (66%) came from 12 yards or less. Half of his passes came from inside the 6 yard line. 5 TD passes came inside the 5 yard line.

    Now, I won’t really take those away from Rees, but it’s like saying a running back is better because he gets the ball at the goal line all the time and scores a bunch of TD’s versus a running back who doesn’t. If we punch in just 6 of those touchdowns, Rees’ passer rating falls all the way to 119 and almost outside the top 100 in the nation.

    And Crist was much safer with the ball. The way you have the stats laid out it doesn’t really show it, but Crist threw a pick once every 42 attempts versus Rees who threw one once every 20.5 attempts. That’s a huge advantage for Crist.

    But let’s put that all aside, and just accept that Crist shouldn’t be in the top 25.

    You don’t have to argue about Rees being better or anything of that, what you have to prove is how or why someone like Bennett Jackson, Kona Schwenke, or Robby Toma should be higher on this list.

    Once you look at it like that, you see how absurd your placement of Crist is. He was on pace to break many first-year starting records. At times he was dominant and clearly our best player on offense. But he’s ranked below some role players who barely made an impact in 2010 and each had a couple good plays on the whole season? Huh?

    That’s what I don’t get…and I’m pretty sure you don’t really believe Crist isn’t in the top 25 too.

    Rees ahead of Crist….okay some people are going to make that argument even if I don’t believe it. But reserves and special teamers better than the starting QB? Beyond ridiculous.

    • Whiskeyjack


    • yellowleprechaun


  • Buzz

    I totally agree with this article. The things that bugged me about Crist most last year were his read and recognition skills when he walked to the line of scrimmage. He almost always took the full play clock to snap the ball because he was always so unsure of his reads. Tommy Rees was worlds better at this and the offense just flowed.

    Another thing that bugged me about Crist was his erratic arm. Every game he played I could count at least 3-4 balls he would throw in dirt, and 2-3 balls he would overthrow receivers giving zero chance to catch. You may think no big deal but how many of those were in key situations?

    Maybe Crist will improve this year? His mechanics last year were horrid, and he was also easily confused by multiple variations of defensive fronts.

    As for myself, I am rooting for Tommy Rees!

    • pchristner9

      That’s because Rees was running a very simple offense. Did NBC keep showing the huge play cards when Crist was playing QB? I don’t believe so. Rees wasn’t asked to make those reads prior to the snap. That’s why you always see him looking to the sideline, and Kelly would make the audible if necessary. Have you every watched football??????

      • http://www.herloyalsons.com domer_mq

        I’m gonna have to stop you right here. 1, I’m not really loving the ‘tude you’re throwing fellow commenters. 2, anyone who followed ND for half a micro-second last year learned that the cards were being used by Kelly because he felt that other teams had deciphered the signals they’d been using earlier in the season.
        I suggest you buff up your actual knowledge of the program and tone down the ‘tude.

        • pchristner9

          Sorry about the tude. So you think Tommy was reading the defense before every snap like Dayne was? Watch Tommy look at the sideline a lot, I think Kelly was making the audibles to make it easier on Rees. As he should, Tommy was a true freshman. I suggest you buff up on your actual knowledge of the quarterback play.

  • GregS

    I agree, Crist has not yet mastered the reads and running required to make the spread work. I hope I’m wrong, he looks like a great guy.

  • terry

    I said in an earlier post on another link that BK is looking for the guy who makes things happen just coming on the field. No disrespect to Crist – he doesn’t seem to be that guy. My pick is Hendrix. Just a hunch.

    BK is looking for the guy who makes things happen. He hasn’t found him yet, or the guy hasn’t emerged yet. It’s great that we’ve got a QB derby coming up instead of giving the job to Crist as happened last year. No disrespect intended to Crist. He came to ND with 5 stars and all kinds of credentials, etc. but for one reason or another IT hasn’t happened yet.


    • SDI

      I think you are right that neither Rees nor Crist is the ideal QB for BK. But he needs one of them to play well this season and bridge the gap to Hendrix or Golson because I don’t think either of them will be ready to be “the guy” until 2012.

      • Nate

        We have an “easier” schedule this year in the sense that there are no heavy hitters of the BCS bowl caliber, yet in 2012 we pick up Oklahoma and Miami (and Miami won’t be the same team they were in the Sun Bowl). With that, perhaps Crist or Rees start, but Hendrix/Golson (whichever one Kelly deems “the future”) gets worked in gradually and takes over by the end of the season? That way, we go in to a stronger 2012 schedule with a QB who’s not taking his first meaningful snaps. Just throwing that out there–not saying I believe it. I realize that Crist has another year after 2011, and Rees is only a sophomore, but I don’t like either of them as the long term solution.

  • IrishLion10

    Notre Dame “turned it on” in the final four games last season, and they improved in November for the first time in a LONG time because of 1) the defense being phenomenal, and 2) the running game coming around.

    Once BK started calling plays for Cierre Wood and Robert Hughes to be in good situations when running, and once Wood started to find a “rhythm” next to Hughes, everything about the offense got easier. And the defensive play over the last four games is self-explanatory. And because the running game and defense took ALL pressure off of Rees (quarterback), I think it is completely reasonable to leave all quarterbacks off of the top 25. With a running game and good D being the keys to winning, its easy to pick 25 players ahead of a QB

  • Whiskeyjack

    I’m surprised to see such hand-waving passed off as serious argument by domer_mq. His analysis is usually worth reading.

    The 2010 offense averaged 3.6 more APPG with Crist than Rees (see Football Outsider’s 2011 Notre Dame preview), and that was without the benefit of our late season rushing, defense, and conservative play-calling. That oughta put this argument to bed.

    • domer.mq

      While I enjoy the work of FO, I’m not convinced that it serves in any dispositive way to my point of view, and that’s all it is. He’ll, there isn’t even a definition of what makes a top 25 player. But more to the point, no matter my ranking of Rees, Crist hasn’t achieved anything to merit a T25 ranking.

      • Whiskeyjack

        That’s defensible. I just don’t think one can seriously argue for Rees over Crist (however you rate them against the rest of the team) based on the available statistical evidence.

        • TLNDMA


  • http://ndnation.com irishize

    I deleted this entire comment because there’s no need for calling players names. – mq

    • IrishRugger2013

      Dude, you really going to call the guy an “injury-prone loser”? Completely uncalled for.

      That throw was terrible though, however I think Crist is clearly superior to Rees.

    • NDnBama

      That was the worst? Somehow the most embarassing “TOSS” of the season was at the end of the TULSA gm. INCOMPLETE OR FG-not throw it to TULSA. All these STATS do you people watch the games? Crist is by far the superior QB it’s not even that close. Keep your stats and ill use the eyeball test.

      • TLNDMA


  • Scranton Dave

    Domer, are you serious giving Rees credit for the USC game? Did you watch any of it? he single handedly tried to lose that game. he has the least talent/upside out of the 4 QBs on our roster. I hope he only sees the field in garbage time. If not Crist than I would like to see Hedrix step up.

    • domer.mq

      I give him credit for being the QB in the winning effort. I simply subscribe to a theory that you can’t actually just say tha putting Crist in that game would have resulted in a win + much better offensive output. I believe in chaos theory. Every outcome is entirely dependent on the previous states of the entire system. Perhaps Crist would have won that game too. O perhaps he’d have thrown 3 picks.

  • Scranton Dave

    Hendrix I meant

  • Trey

    This article is spot on. Crist isnt even the best player at his position, so how the hell would he ever be top 25 on the team? Insane.
    All of yall trying to make the case for Crist being the better QB, are you out of your mind? Have you EVER watched a game with him in it and though, “This one’s in the bag.” Liar, no you didnt. You were either holding you breath for when he went down for the season…AGAIN or screaming at your TV for Crist throwing bullet passes to the trumpet section when Floyd was wide open in the end zone.
    Screw the numbers, Crist never gets it done. This whole, ‘Rees only wins because he had better defenses’ argument is ludicrous too. Like biz said, you dont take the tires of the lead car. If the defense collectively got together and said, ‘Look, we’re going to have to step up our game because we dont have our #1 qb’ id much rather have that mindset continue than throw in a guy who has some mythical superior talent just because he’s the upperclassman.


    • TLNDMA

      Why did Crist start last year and why will he be the starter this year. Our minds are fine. (at least in this case) BTW It’s really not close.

  • BruceB

    To be fair, the Tulsa loss belongs a lot more to Rees than Crist. The defense played a very good game and most of Tulsa’s scoring came from turnovers or good field position. And, of course, the interception at the end of the game. Bad play calling or not, anything but an interception means a probable win.

    • Whiskeyjack

      Say what you want about the play-call, but that interception is 99% on Rees. He first chose to force a pass into double coverage, and then underthrow a wounded duck into that double coverage. Two bad decisions followed be a bad pass.

      • Craig

        It wasn’t really double coverage, or at any rate, the double didn’t get over in time to be involved in the play. The real problem was that Rees missed the throw the one place he couldn’t miss the throw.

  • rocket89

    Guys come on! This isn’t about Rees vs. Crist!!

    Like Whiskeyjack said, “I’m surprised to see such hand-waving passed off as serious argument by domer_mq.”

    DMQ hasn’t posted his individual Top 25, but as part of the “selection committee” I know that he has Kona Schwenke at #24.

    Schwenke played in 5 games last year.

    He made 2 tackles on the season.

    Yet, he’s ranked ahead of Crist???

    Could even the trolliest of trolls explain that position, or worse yet, get away with it??

    Now, I don’t think this is a huge injustice, mainly because like I said I really don’t believe DMQ is being honest and this is a good way to drum up offseason chatter, but the way in which the other commentators have been like, “Yeah dur dur, Rees is better,” without really thinking about what putting some third stringer ahead of Crist actually means.

    We’re way better than this.

    • The Biscuit

      to be fair to those taking the discussion to ‘crist vs rees’ land – DMQ did put up stats one next to the other trying to prove a point…

  • canuck75

    Great discussion. The tricky part is that Crist at his best,(early Michigan, MSU) looked like the 2nd coming. But he was terrible against Navy and Stanford, and clearly panicked imo.
    I think he’s the better athlete and this year he won’t be protected and will add the running dimension. But like so many, I love Rees and feel badly that he may end up no.3.

  • Nate

    52 comments and counting, arguing about DMQ’s picks and “snubbing” of Crist. Lulz. It truly is darkest before the dawn. The season cannot get here soon enough.

  • Trey

    I think the more important argument is how the hell Irish Chocolate comes in at 19. That’s tempting skme SERIOUS bad juju

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  • Josh

    So, you won’t hang losses on a QB but you will credit them for the wins? How about putting up the run and defense stats as well?

    “…and Crist is a bit safer with the ball.” What? Try 60% safer with the ball. Rees had 8 INTs in 4 games!

  • pchristner9

    Crist lost to Navy, but Rees lost to Tulsa. Let me repeat, TULSA. I know Crist started the game, but Rees played most of it. Should I say it again, TULSA. If you dog Crist for NAVY, you have to dog Rees for TULSA. I get tired of the Rees was undefeated line. What did Crist play 1 drive of Tulsa, or maybe a couple.

  • tjak

    I still cannot get out of my head the pass that Crist made to John Goodman two years ago in the Washington State game. I love Tommy Rees and how he shook of four turnovers in the USC game, but I just don’t think he could ever make that throw.

    • kt37

      Yeah man, that was some pass.

      • The Biscuit

        I am more likely to remember all the 5 yard-toss-into-the-ground-behind-the-receiver plays. #pessimism?