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Thanks Tommy, Rees (finally) Leaves South Bend

By: Murray O'Connell | Writer | Twitter: @MurrayOConnell | Profile: @MurrayOConnell

Photo courtesy of Ronald Martinez/ Getty Images

There are certain images I’ve stored in my mind from the 2012 season. 2012 of course being the last season Notre Dame played their final game of the season with a national championship on the line. Of course we know how that story ends, but before that there was the Navy game in Dublin, Ireland when Stephon Tuitt rumbled for a 77 yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. There was the triple overtime victory over Pitt when the Everett Golson led Irish would rally from 14 points behind to win the game and keep their national championship hopes alive. And of course, there was the goal line stand against Stanford in the rain. An iconic moment from an iconic team.

However, what is sometimes a little too easily forgotten about that 2012 season is who led the Irish under center. There was the young, talented with a lot of potential, Everett Golson who showed flashes of how special a player he could have been. But also taking snaps that year, in a relief role, was Tommy Rees.

Rees probably didn’t receive the credit he was due for that special 2012 season. However, if Irish fans are being honest with themselves, they have to admit, there is no way they make it to Miami that year to play for a championship if it wasn’t for Rees’ calm, steady, heroics. What Mariano Rivera was to the New York Yankees, Rees was for the Irish that year.

Rees deserves credit for all he did that season, and perhaps more importantly, what he didn’t do that season. Rees was the veteran, he was already a team leader. He could have easily pouted about having his starting job taken away from him in favor of the younger, flashier Golson. However, he didn’t. He put the needs of the team ahead of his own, and that attitude might have been the final piece of the puzzle that got the Irish within reach of their 12th national championship.

Rees, as a player, has my respect. He was never going to win a Heisman, or run for more than 3 yards a play, but Irish fans would not have been witness to such an exciting season if not for him.

Rees, as a coach, well here’s where the frustrations for many begin.

It can be argued that Rees failed to deliver in the quarterback development process. It can be argued that Rees failed to adapt to in-game situations until it was too late. It can be argued that until recently Rees did not recruit as well as he needed to.

Rees was at the controls when Ian Book was starting for the Irish. Book would go on to set many individual records, and should be commended for such. However, did Irish fans see any progress in Book’s game from one year to the next, or were we all witnessing a good kid punching above his weight?

Jack Coan was brought in because there was not a quarterback on the roster ready to take over. Phil Jurkovec was supposed to get the job but, unhappy with the coaching staff, he ended up leaving. Coan, despite some herculean efforts, was not right for the offense Rees was calling. It took several weeks before Rees would adjust his play calling to better fit what Coan had to offer.

Why did it take so long to adapt? As great a kid as Coan was, why was he even brought in to begin with if he didn’t fit Rees’ scheme? How much of this is on Rees and how much of this was on Brian Kelly? Was Rees just following the orders of his boss?

This season was a frustrating one as once again Rees had to readjust his play calling to fit a quarterback that wasn’t supposed to be a starter. Irish fans can still remember the frustrations and head scratching losses to Marshall and Stanford and the near loss to Navy when at times the offense looked as energetic as an old dog taking a nap.

Irish fans shouldn’t fault Rees for leaving. Sure, it would have been nice for him to stay and finish his f%#?ing job. It would have been exciting to see what he could have done with Hartman, and eventually Minchey and Carr. However, Rees has been intricately involved with Notre Dame since 2010. Surely we can understand Rees having an itch to see why the grass might be a little greener a little further south.

As much as Notre Dame fans despise Alabama, the opportunity to work with arguably the best coach ever to butcher an Aflak commercial doesn’t happen every day. As much as it upsets our stomachs to publicly admit, Saban is a legend and for Rees to be able to learn from such a coach is certainly understandable. If I had the opportunity to work with the best in the business, it would be next to impossible to say no, and I believe most of us out there would follow suit.

With Rees leaving, Freeman will have an opportunity to prove if he really is as smart as Notre Dame fans want him to be. Will his next hire be the one to lead Notre Dame to where it hasn't been to in a very long time, or will this be, similar to Kelly, the Brian Van Gorder blemish on his coaching resume? Irish fans will find out soon enough.

It didn’t end the way Notre Dame fans imagined it would, Freeman and Rees covered in confetti, hoisting up the National Championship trophy while giving each other bro hugs and smoking a couple of La Flor Dominicana Mysterios.

But perhaps it might end even sweeter, Freeman hoisting up a National Championship trophy, while both Saban and Rees watch from the visitor’s sidelines. Could Irish fans imagine anything better than that?

Thanks for all you’ve done for Notre Dame Tommy, you helped get us further than we've been in a very long time and you deserve our respect for that, but now our f&%#?ing job is to keep you from doing yours.


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