Forget what happened to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game; what quarterback Everett Golson and his teammates accomplished leading up to their title game appearance was the stuff of legends.
Between the team waking those damned echoes NBC constantly talks about, all the way to Golson doing the most important thing a Notre Dame QB has been able to do in the last few decades–prevent Tommy Rees from playing meaningful snaps–the Fighting Irish seemed destined to build off 2012. Brian Kelly had the makings of a perennial contender among college football’s big boys.
Then, because college, Golson decided to partake in a little academic tomfoolery. That resulted in Golson being booted from the school, which prevented him from playing last season, which — unfortunately for the Irish — meant the return of Tommy Rees. The return of Tommy Rees meant the kind of QB play we’d come to expect from Tommy Rees.
Naturally, the Fighting Irish slipped back to being just another ho-hum college football program. While it’s not fair to pin the Irish’s regression exclusively on Rees playing quarterback–Notre Dame did lose a lot of quality players to the NFL and graduation. But his penchant for inopportune interceptions and his lack of Golson’s mobility makes Rees an easy scapegoat.
Because of Notre Dame’s struggles and Rees being in the precarious position of assigned fault, the legend of Everett Golson started to build: The mythology of a quarterback who throws one interception for every two touchdowns, had a raw quarterback rating of 60.6 and only threw for over 300 yards once in his redshirt freshman (and thus far, only) season.
More importantly, the Golson mythos became the thing that helped Notre Dame fans keep some hope burning.
That is to say, Everett Golson has a lot of expected of him by Notre Dame fans because…well…I am not too sure why, other than he was helped significantly by his defense in the 2012 season to play in the National Title game. That apparently makes him the defacto savior of the program. Sounds, um, fair — right?
Here is what Golson does bring to the table, however: He’s a quarterback who doesn’t necessarily need the greatest offensive line ever because he has the ability to make plays with his feet. He has an arm considered to be as strong as almost any other quarterback’s in the nation, though I have yet to see it.
Golson also happens to be a quarterback with tremendous upside. That’s a good thing for Golson’s future prospects, as he should develop into a good-to-great QB, but it’s a lot less meaningful for both his and the Fighting Irish’ immediate outlook.
There is plenty of bad to be remedied. Despite his mobility, which one would assume a perfect fit in Brian Kelly’s spread offense, Golson isn’t yet great at pushing the pace, a necessary facet of the system meant to keep opposing defenses back on their heels.
He also made some pretty poor decisions in his redshirt freshman campaign that could be attributed to his inexperience. While he has that year under his belt, Golson was also out of action for more than a year. Lastly, and most importantly, Golson is going to be thought of as unreliable for missing last season, until he proves otherwise.
One could argue the last item is unfair. However, I caution you to be honest with how you treat other people in all other walks of life. When trust is broken, even if the intent was not to directly hurt, that trust is gone until that person not only rectifies both with an apology and through action. That is, of course, if that person can ever even regain the trust of the people who he took advantage of.
Golson was contrite from the moment he was dismissed. This season is his shot at putting that into action as a team leader.
The above is all pretty well established and understood. Here’s what we know of Golson from the 2012 season: Despite his own limitations, he was the best option at QB for the Irish; he helped them reclaim some of the glory Notre Dame faithful have eagerly awaited for the better part of two decades; and, the future of the Notre Dame football program were largely placed on his shoulders.
A missed season later, Everett Golson is on the Walter Camp Award Watch List and the hero-hype is even greater than if he hadn’t missed last season, what with the memories of Rees’ inconsistent play still fresh.
That does not mean he didn’t grow or continue to grow throughout the season. Nor does it mean Golson will not end up being an incredibly successful college quarterback. It does, however, mean expectations of him should be tempered–and the same is true for the entire 2014 Fighting Irish campaign.
The first step is actually pinpointing the bar Golson’s expected to meet. Are goals such as the Walter Camp and Davey O’Brien Awards actually expectations that, if he fails to contend for, he’ll be seen as a failure? Or is it more of a hope that he can be what other, previous Notre Dame quarterbacks weren’t?
When Golson took over in 2012, Notre Dame struggled through one disappointing run at quarterback after another: from the ridiculously hyped, former 5-star recruit Jimmy Clausen; to the Dayne Crist-Tommy Rees back-and-forth.
Yes, Everett Golson has already proven to be better than Tommy Rees, and Golson and has the potential to surpass gunslinger Brady Quinn, whose pro career was…well, you know…
But Quinn was individually great for the Irish. All things considered, if Golson can play beyond Quinn’s level, he’s in great position to be a Notre Dame–if not college football–legend as the quarterback who led one of the most proud programs back to national prominence. It even has its own built-in redemption story.
All Golson has to do is get Notre Dame back to the title game, rewrite the ending of its last championship appearance, and be more than just a somewhat effective game-manager.
No pressure or anything.