Coach Kelly has been pretty clear, and pretty adamant, that there is no QB Controversy (again) at ND, and that Rees is the starter.
â€œRight now, Tommy is 6-1 as a starter,â€ Kelly said. â€œHeâ€™s obviously not a finished product; nobody is. Heâ€™ll continue to get better and better and weâ€™ll continue to help him in terms of play calling and getting him in the right kind of situation so he can be successful.
â€œBut no, weâ€™re not in a situation right now where we need to think about what other quarterbacks are going to get in the game. Tommy is the starter.â€
But what many people are feeling, that Rees isn’t improving a whole lot, is made pretty clear when looking at statistics as well. And while I won’t continue to call for Crist’s insertion (was calling for it a lot after that ugly first half vs Pitt), the ‘progression’ of Rees as a QB isn’t all that comforting.
First, let’s look at raw production. Here are Rees’ passing yards in the first 4 games: 296 (in a half), 315, 161, 216. In the first 2 games, Rees was producing like mad. In the last two, he’s averaged just over 180 yards. While in the first 2 games, it was easy to forgive some of the TOs, because we were moving the ball so much, that hasn’t held up the last 2.
Efficiency is also an issue. Rees’ production per attempt was 8.7 and 8.1 in the first two games, and dropped to 6.2 and then 5.3 against MSU and Pitt respectively. Ouch.
And then there’s the Turnovers, which have really been the killer. While Rees’ production has decreased, his Turnovers have not. He has turned the ball over at least twice in every game this year, and many of those have led to significant point swings in those games. Thus far in the year, Rees has 9 turnovers, which is more than many teams have thus far in the year. And the TOs continue to be the same problems – bad decisions/reads, and holding onto the ball too long in the pocket. So long as Tommy puts the ball on the ground and into the arms of defenders, this team is going to continue to struggle. I kept thinking it an anomaly – this seriously can’t happen AGAIN, can it? – yet there it is, time and again.
Points Earned vs Lost Experiment
As an exercise, I took all of ND’s drives this year and tried to determine how many points Rees had ‘Earned’ and how many points he ‘Lost’. To do this, I made some assumptions:
-If we drove inside the 20 and we turned the ball over but it was NOT Rees’ fault (missed FG, someone else fumbles), I gave Tommy 3 points
-If we drove inside the 20 and Rees turned the ball over, I counted it as Rees ‘losing’ us 3 points
-If Rees turned the ball over and the other team scored as a result, I counted those points against Rees
-On any drive where we scored points, I credited Rees with them (outside of the Gray run against Pitt, because Rees had nothing to do with it)
-If the Turnover wasn’t Rees’ fault (eg Jones not turning around to catch the ball) I didn’t count it against Rees
Of course, in some of those cases inside the 20 we had a legit chance at a TD, but I needed to make some kind of assumption. The MI fumble inside the 5 was probably more likely a TD than a FG, but I felt like the assumption of 3 points made everything a bit more conservative, so I went with it. I know this is a bit convoluted, but I am trying to figure out how much Tommy has been helping vs hurting our cause through all the TOs, and this is what we get:
Points Earned Points Lost Net
USF: 20 0 20
MI: 31 13 18
MSU: 24 3 21
Pitt: 7 6 1
Given the absurd number of times he’s turned the ball over, I am amazed that Rees hasn’t actually cost us more points. When adjusting for all of those factors, Rees was consistently helping us earn ~20 points per game up until Pitt, when he clearly had his worst game of the year. This doesn’t mean that the Turnovers in the first few games didn’t ultimately cost us something in those games. TOs = Field Position, and Field Position leads to points one way or the other more often than not. So this isn’t a perfect metric by a long shot. But, leading up to the Pitt game, the TOs weren’t immediately contributing to net-negative points.
The glaring issue is Michigan. The Turnovers that Rees had in that game pretty much cost us a W there. 13 points given away in a game that went down to the wire is a huge issue. Rees’ end-of-game drive was solid, and he deserves credit there. And the D’s meltdown in the 4th can certainly be blamed for that loss as well. But a big hunk of the issue was the 13 points given away in Tommy’s TOs.
This is a weird stat, but I think it’s interesting to see where the Turnovers are having direct impact vs not.
I’m not sure where I fall on Rees vs Anyone. Coach was pretty quick to yank Crist and he hasn’t looked back. He’s obviously sticking with Rees because he sees something there that he didn’t get with Crist. But at some point, if the TOs continue they will result in something more like Michigan and less like MSU/Pitt. And when that happens, I am predicting: controversy.