In the wake of Notre Dame’s shattering loss to Northwestern, the short-comings and failures of the 2014 Fighting Irish touch every position group and go all the way up the coaching tree. But it is with Number Five that I find the most fault, for he has failed to lead the team in any manner that comes across on the field. While Brian Kelly was highly complimentary of his quarterback’s leadership following last week’s Arizona State loss, I did not see any on display yesterday.
There’s something rotten at the heart of this squad. Formerly solid Kyle Brindza suffered a crisis of confidence. Max Redfield sat. Cam McDaniel fumbled when merely holding on would have iced the game. The defense was an octopus on roller-skates throughout most of the game, handing the Wildcats acres of yardage up the middle of the field and, among other transgressions, committing a pathetic pass interference penalty to set up a Northwestern touchdown that cut Notre Dame’s lead to three points.
It may be that Everett feels he does not have the moral authority to challenge his teammates. Maybe he doesn’t. After all, he’s a player who flushed away an entire season due to academic issues and then who flushed away any Heisman consideration in a cascade of perplexing fumbles and turnovers. Sure, he’s owned up to his turnovers, and some of the ones at Arizona State were not his fault. But the point is that Golson has been more a cause of his team’s problems rather than a bulwark against them.
Compare him to Jameis Winston for a moment. The Florida State quarterback has been simply remarkable in his ability, especially in the second half of games, to put his team on his back, make critical plays, and win games. If Everett doesn’t lead because he perhaps feels he doesn’t have the moral authority to do so, Jameis has never heard the phrase. He certainly doesn’t care about moral authority. In that perception, he is joined by his teammates, his coaching staff, administration, fans, and local police department, who are all more than happy to ignore behaviors that would have put other players at other schools on ice for swaths of games, if not had them booted out altogether.
And maybe that’s the difference. Everett may feel that there’s always another chance, another redemptive moment to come, whereas Jameis knows that all he has is the next game. You don’t get a pass on rape charges if you’re not the lynch-pin of your team’s success. He knows that if he costs the ‘Noles a game, his disciplinary hearing doesn’t get postponed. Simply put, Jameis has too much at stake outside the lines to tolerate mistakes inside the lines.
It’s been a season of two teams for Notre Dame. The first team set alight the dumpster fire that was Michigan and almost dethroned the Seminoles. The second team is now itself a dumpster fire, sparked by that fateful OPI call in Tallahassee. It’s burned so bad and for so long because no one has had the courage to put it out. For that, I blame the quarterback.