It might not be fair to say Drew Brees has plenty of reason not to want to return to Notre Dame, but the former Purdue quarterback did lose two last-minute games in South Bend during his playing days. The first of those, his fourth career start, Brees’ two interceptions in the final two minutes coughed up a Boilermakers’ lead and then cut short any final heroics.
Back then, Brees was plenty hard on himself.
“We had the game won,” Brees said in 1998. “All we had to do was get a first down or punt and let the defense do the rest. We had great confidence in our defense, but I just overthrew the receiver. It was a bad decision on my part.”
Now, with a return to South Bend set for Sept. 11 as the analyst half of the ND on NBC broadcast, Brees cuts himself a bit more slack, giving some credit to those myths and legends Irish fans enjoy propagating.
“We should have won and somehow, someway Touchdown Jesus got us in the end,” Brees said Wednesday. “… There’s no question that is really one of the epicenters of college football. The history and nostalgia that exists there, and I think just what that place represents to so many people, it is a special place.”
Notre Dame fans might wince at the idea of a former opposing quarterback calling Irish games, but Brees is 20 years removed from his Purdue days, and the two in-state programs have only the 2021 contest scheduled in the next three years before playing annually from 2024 to 2028.
Note: That read “in-state programs,” not “in-state rivals.” Notre Dame has won seven in a row against the Boilermakers and nine of the last 10. Calling it a rivalry is like suggesting mice have a rivalry with cats because Jerry tricks Tom into running into a few walls. Thus, even Brees’ tone was dripping with unnecessary sarcasm as he insisted he will only usually be impartial in the booth at Notre Dame Stadium.
“I will be impartial for every game with the exception of the Purdue game because my bloodlines run deep with the black and gold and the Boilermakers,” Brees said, also acknowledging he had long been well-aware his second game in this role will feature this matchup. “On a serious note, I’m excited to be a part of that and really continue the legacy of what Notre Dame football has meant to so many and obviously extremely excited to be in the booth with Mike Tirico.
It should be pointed out here that Tirico’s play-by-play has not been skewed by a much more competitive series between the Irish and Syracuse, his alma mater. (Notre Dame leads that series 7-3, with wins in the last four and five of the last six, 2008’s snowballs being the exception.)
Despite trying to put together one last deep postseason run with the New Orleans Saints, Brees said he saw some Irish games in 2020, noting the split with Clemson, but that exposure will pale in comparison to his need to study film and coaching tendencies. The game is the game, though, more and more so in 2020. College coaches jump to the NFL (Urban Meyer) and vice versa (Herm Edwards comes to mind), too many assistants move between the two each offseason to keep track of (Notre Dame assistant coaches Tommy Rees, Lance Taylor and John McNulty all spent time in the NFL in the last few years), and the best young quarterbacks need less NFL acclimation time because the playbooks more and more reflect what they were doing in college.
“More so now than ever, you see this crossover of NFL and college,” Brees said. “You’ve got coaches that are jumping back and forth, and I think you have the styles of play that are beginning to mimic each other because you have quarterbacks going from college football into the pros and they’re so versatile, they’re so athletic, they can do so many things that you see these offenses in the NFL skew more toward really catering toward the skill set of those players coming from college.
“I’m really intrigued to dive into it and understand it further, study it further.”
It’s that intrigue that brings Brees to this endeavor fresh off his 20-year NFL career rather than take some time off, let his body fully heal up, etc.
“I get to talk about the game of football, I get to eat, sleep and breathe the game of football still. I get to show my love and passion for the game still, but just in a different way.”
In all seriousness, it would have been really interesting to hear Brees call Ian Book games last season and I’m curious how he reacts to what Rees is doing.
— Greg Flammang (@greg2126) March 17, 2021
That’s the news story.
Now for the quick dose of opinion.
The Twitter takes from Irish fans largely dislike this hire because Brees played for Purdue. If granting this space the deference that it does not inherently carry the proverbial water for NBC given all that was 2020 … It’s Purdue. If Notre Dame fans are going to rule out a Hall of Fame quarterback because he played for Joe Tiller two decades ago, they might as well write off any ACC products, Michigan, Michigan State and Northwestern alums, anyone who went to USC, Stanford or Navy, and let’s include Alabama just for good measure.
Without even blinking, anyone who played for a third of the Power Five programs should not be considered for the ND on NBC booth.
Maybe Brees does not pan out. Maybe it takes him a season to adjust to the cadence of a broadcast. Maybe he is better than everyone’s favorite analyst, Tony Romo.
Personally, the idea of a Super Bowl-winning quarterback who did not have an entirely smooth playing career understandably describing the game is something to hope for, something that might be plausible now.
“Once I have a chance to really study Notre Dame, I think that you’ll begin to anticipate, have a really great understanding both offensively and defensively what’s happening,” Brees said. “Be able to anticipate what’s coming, the things that are happening.
“You watch players grow and develop and mature and you’re able to talk about that. I just think there’s so many positive themes and so many great things that we’re going to be able to talk about, and also just allow fans to see the game from a quarterback’s perspective and a guy who’s fresh out of the NFL game and certainly sees and processes a game differently than probably what they’ve heard before.”
If that comes to be a reality, it will make Saturdays in the fall more enjoyable. At the very least, Sept. 18 now has the rare excuse to feature some Gary Godsey highlights (and Tony Driver and Shane Walton and Nick Setta).
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) March 7, 2020