It’s the same question I asked Irish fans when Tommy Rees was playing. Before we get to Book, let’s backtrack to Rees. Their stories are so similar and their reception nearly the same. Either hated or loved. I don’t understand the hate for either. Rees and I were never on the same team. I graduated, and he arrived the next year where he saw playing time his freshman year (and wearing No. 13, too). Strangely enough, it was following the 2012 season that I wrote a piece about Rees, who was slated to start his first season opener, granted he had ample starting experience by that point. I couldn’t help but find the parallels between his time as a player and now as a coach, and as I mentioned the similarities Book has experienced. Rees was criticized and scrutinized; Book the same. Here is part of my article on Rees, but one could easily replace Book with Rees:
Fans and coaches alike seemingly ask the Irish quarterback, “What have you done for me lately?” So, let’s ask the Irish starter for the 2013 opener, “What has Tommy Rees done for the Irish lately?”
Over his career, Tommy Rees is 14-4 as a starter. Interestingly, this will be his first start in a season opener. He ranks first in career completion percentage (63.8 percent), is tied for third in career 300-yard passing games, is fifth in career pass completions, tied for fifth in career touchdown passes (34), is sixth in career pass attempts, and is seventh all-time for career passing yards. Rees’ Achilles heel, as it were, has been his vulnerability to turnovers (24 career interceptions).
Irish fans either love the guy or hate him. Two years ago, we saw Tommy lead the Irish on great drives and consistently turn the ball over in the red zone. Last year, when he came in during key situations, Rees performed with skill and precision. The 2013 Irish offense needs Rees’ leadership and confidence. Is it possible for Rees to evolve into an elite quarterback? Yes, in my opinion, an elite “game manager.” The Irish need Rees to manage the game, put the offense in the right play, protect the football, and play to his strengths. Rees does not have the “wow-you” tools but can be an elite game manager by making the right reads, be accurate, and rely on his team being successful instead of trying to do too much. The 2013 version of Tommy Rees will showcase a mature and crafty veteran. He has the game experience, has a proven record as a starting QB, and has the knowledge of the offense to take ownership and have a great season.
Much like Rees, Book came to Notre Dame without much pomp and circumstance.
At that time, I was working for Irish247 covering Irish football and recruiting. After watching Book’s film, here is what I had to say prior to him stepping foot in South Bend, Ind. :
Book is a leader. He will arrive on campus at Notre Dame and push the upperclassmen. Great mental makeup. Book is an exceptionally gifted passer with impeccable finesse and touch. He displays comfortability both in the gun and under-center. On play action bootlegs and out of pocket throws, Book is very efficient in regards to properly positioning his body to make accurate throws on the run to either side. Book flashes a smooth, quick release with great accuracy and put his receivers in great positions to make plays. In the pocket, Book displays active feet and has the ability to extend plays when needed. Consistently creates a solid lower-half power position for his throws which allows Book to get the ball out with velocity and high levels of spin. Book has a tremendous upside as a passer, and is only beginning to scratch the surface. Great athleticism in and out of the pocket. Hawkeye vision and playmaking ability.
Playing well and winning can change people’s minds very quickly.
Like Rees, Book continues to have his doubters, but playing well and winning can change people’s minds very quickly. Book has done that, and more. Rees 2.0? While Rees is still top five in a handful of passing categories, Book has scurried near the top of every list, save for Irish great Brady Quinn. He currently has 8,214 career passing yards, and 69 TD passes, trailing only Quinn in both categories. He’s also tied for fifth all time in rushing TDs, and second in rushing yards behind Tony Rice with 1,444 career rushing yards. But more important than those stats, he’s tied with Tom Clements, Ron Powlus and Brady Quinn with 29 career victories for the Blue and Gold. However, with a win on Saturday against Syracuse, Book will be all alone at the top. So, why the hate? Over the last 10 seasons, only five players have a better career win percentage as a starting quarterback than Book. Four of those players, Trevor Lawrence, Tua Tagovailoa, Deshaun Watson and Jameis Winston, won a national championship. The only other quarterback to have a higher winning percentage than Book is Justin Fields, who was a runner up for the Heisman last season. That’s crazy! Irish fans better appreciate what they have in Ian Book. He’s a winner.
Brian Kelly has said all season that plain and simple, Book is a winner - and he deserves what is coming his way.
“Wow, right,” Kelly said. “Pretty good. I’d like that on my resume. Ian Book has got a great opportunity with one win to become the all-time winningest quarterback at Notre Dame. It might get you a gig on Fox even. Brady, that was said in all sincerity. Again, to achieve at that level at Notre Dame, it’s an amazing feat. We’re gonna make sure he gets to that.”
Book will go for win No. 30 on Saturday against Syracuse. The Fighting Irish will take on the Orange at 2:30 PM.