(AP Photo/LM Otero)
Despite starting games in all four of his seasons at Notre Dame, Tommy Rees still has plenty of critics. In fact, Rees may have more critics now as a senior than he did as a freshman.
The Notre Dame nation hasn't been kind to the Irish quarterback, often placing the blame on Tommy for Notre Dame's failures.
Rees would be the first to admit that he didn't play well at all against Oklahoma when the Irish dropped their 2nd game of the season. Rees had three interceptions, including two in the first four minutes that put Notre Dame in a hole it couldn't get out of.
One week later, Rees played probably his best game of the season--leading the Irish to a 37-34 victory over #22 Arizona State in North Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Tommy wasn't perfect---he never will be. He made a costly mistake to start the 4th quarter, throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown--allowing Arizona State to get back into the game. That wasn't Rees' only mistake on Saturday night but it was the only one that hurt his team.
He made far more positive plays--including throwing for three touchdowns--one of which came with 10 seconds left in the 1st half that gave ND the lead at the break.
Overall, Rees was a major reason the Irish won Saturday to improve to 4-2 as opposed to a reason why they lost like the week before.
After the game, Brian Kelly was asked about Rees performance.
"Do you feel with his performance he was able to silence some of those critics?," a reporter asked Kelly.
"No, no--they'll still be there," Kelly answered.
A few minutes later, Rees was asked a similar question.
"I don't even know what you are talking about," Rees said with a smile. "No I'm just kidding."
"Being the quarterback at Notre Dame, it's one of the things you sign up for. I rely on my teammates first, coaches, family and the people I care about. For me, it's staying focused and staying within the people that matter."
It's easy to pick on Rees for what he doesn't do right but its unfair perhaps not to give him credit for what he does do well and for his loyalty to his university. After all, after the BCS National Championship game--Rees was 3rd on the Irish depth chart behind Everett Golson and Gunner Kiel.
Rees didn't care--he declared to NewsCenter 16 that he was a "Notre Dame guy" and would not transfer.
Kiel ultimately transferred and Golson ultimately was suspended from school for the fall semester.
Don't blame Rees for being the guy left to pick up the pieces---putting together the puzzle rather well and helping ND salvage its season. Midway thru 2013, a trip to the national title game is gone but a successful season ending with a BCS game appearance--that remains very much in play.
But even if he gets you there---ND nation will still have its doubters.
And Tommy's ok with that.