Brian Kelly: Going with Tommy Rees
September, 6, 2011
By Matt Fortuna | ESPN.com
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images Tommy Rees will take the reins Saturday as the Irish look to overcome a disappointing Week 1 loss.SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It took Brian Kelly just 15 days to reverse course on his quarterback decision, as the Notre Dame head coach named Tommy Rees his starter for Saturday's game against Michigan.
In choosing a sophomore to lead a group whose BCS aspirations are on life support after a disappointing opening-game loss to South Florida, Kelly is going with a win-now formula rather than protecting the potential emotional consequences that come with benching a senior who overcame two devastating knee injuries.
Rees will be on the same leash Dayne Crist was if he fails to deliver.
"He knows what I told him: 'You gotta be productive,'" Kelly said of Rees. "If you're not productive, you should be looking over your shoulder. If you're a productive quarterback and you're doing the things that we ask you to do, you should just go out there and play the game the way you know how to play. When you have two really good quarterbacks, you know that if you're gonna err on one side or the other, you want your quarterback to be productive. And I keep coming back to that word, maybe I'm overusing it, but both of those guys are capable of leading our football team, and those are the expectations that are placed on them."
Kelly hinted that Rees developed a better rapport with Michael Floyd on Saturday, as 10 of Floyd's 12 catches and 107 of his 144 receiving yards came in the second half.
Getting the ball to Floyd, who is blitzing through the Fighting Irish's record books, is a must if this offense wants to click.
"I don't know that Tommy has a better relationship than Dayne has with Mike, but he seemed to find him at the right time," Kelly said. "Maybe sometimes he threw the ball when he shouldn't even have thrown it to him, so I think I've got to be careful we're not trying to feed the ball to Mike if he's being doubled. We just have to have those other guys step up -- T.J. [Jones], Theo [Riddick], Tyler Eifert have to step up if they're gonna double Mike."
One of the intangibles that has marked Rees' success in the past year has been his ability to step into game action and fit right in without any flaws. He did so in a failed comeback attempt last season against Tulsa and again Saturday, when he completed his first four passes before a costly interception in the red zone.
"I'm not here to cover Dayne's butt, OK? That's not my job," Kelly said. "But I'm going to tell you what: He did some really good things, and the offense comes pretty easy to him. The difference between being good and great sometimes is being decisive, not whether you can process and understand but decisiveness.
"Some of that is just what we're all talking about. Sometimes it just happens that way. And again, when you look at the film and you really break it down, Dayne did some really good things for us in the first half."
Just not good enough.