Sons of Saturday Logo

Quarterback Backtrack

By Jamison Cook | October 05
Quarterback Backtrack
Notre Dame QB Drew Pyne celebrates after beating Wisconsin - Photo Credit: Michael Caterina, South Bend Tribune

I was very wrong about Jack Coan, this team needs Drew Pyne

Sometimes you just have to eat your words, and for the last few days, I have been preparing myself to do just that. A lot can change in two weeks, and in the case of Notre Dame’s quarterback situation, everything has changed. I will defend myself slightly in that my previous article was primarily an argument between Jack Coan and Tyler Buchner with little thought given to Drew Pyne. That being said, I was very wrong about Coan, and I am not afraid to admit that.

I wish I didn’t have to write this article. I wish our offensive line was good. I wish Coan had the time he needs in the pocket. I wish our offense could be two-dimensional. I wish we had beaten Cincinnati. But alas, this is not the case, and here I am.

Before I really get into the quarterback controversy Notre Dame is currently facing, let me make one thing clear. I do not completely blame Coan for the offensives struggles. I think Coan could have been extremely successful with last year’s offensive line giving him all the time in the world to pick apart opposing defenses. However, the fact of the matter is that our line is not anywhere near as good as last year’s and Coan cannot move. He consistently gets sacked on plays where there is opportunity for him to escape the pocket, and his lack of mobility completely eliminates any chance to extend plays or pick up small chunks of yardage when needed. He is the antithesis of Ian Book, and as much as I might not have been willing to say this last year, that is a very bad thing.

Now that I’ve got all of that out on the table, I can officially walk back my earlier take. It is time to move on from Coan. He should not take another snap as quarterback of the Fighting Irish. The loss against Cincinnati cemented that. We are five games into the season and Notre Dame has yet to play a good, complete football game, especially offensively. The line has not improved, and it is not going to. We need a mobile quarterback that can escape a collapsing pocket and buy himself some time by extending plays.

And no, I’m not talking about Tyler Buchner. Right now, we need Drew Pyne. Pyne has now played all or the majority of the second half in the past two games, both times looking like the injection of confidence and energy that the offense needs. Pyne plays with a swagger that the stoic Coan simply doesn’t have in him. Pyne is accurate and athletic, the combination of Coan and Buchner that this crippled offensive line needs to hide their many shortcomings.

Pyne throws the ball with a certain zip that seems to say he expects it to find its target and be complete. He can extend plays with his legs and pick up first downs on the ground when he needs to. That being said, I don’t think he needs to rely on his athleticism and running ability to win games the way Book did. Given the right number of reps and time on the field, I believe Pyne is the guy who can turn this season around and lead us to a big bowl game. Coan cannot do that given our line and I don’t think Buchner is quite ready for the spotlight.

This does present an interesting conundrum for the coaching staff, however. As evidenced by the fact that Buchner was getting playing time before Pyne earlier in the season, it is quite evident that Pyne was originally number three on the depth chart. I think the expectation was that Coan was the best man to lead the Irish in a transition year before Buchner took over next season as the heir apparent to the stating quarterback position. Pyne’s emergence throws a wrench in all of that. If he performs well down the stretch, runs the table, and wins us a bowl game, how can he not be considered for the starting job next year? He is the most senior member of our QB room, after all.

All things considered, a little quarterback competition is not a bad thing. If Pyne and Buchner can push each other to be better, that is best-case scenario for the Irish. But there is a whole spring and summer to determine who the starter should be next year. BK has come out and said that they need to pick one quarterback going forward. Our season is not over after one loss, and Notre Dame needs to still focus on winning this year. The football program has not won a major bowl game since 1993. We can end that streak this year. And as of right now, Drew Pyne is the best option to get us there. I hope that BK and the coaching staff can swallow their pride and admit they were wrong about Coan. I hope they are also aware that this season is not over and turning the keys completely over to Buchner to prepare for next year would send a horrible message.

It might not look like it right now, but this team can turn this season into a success. 12-1 with a bowl win is an attainable goal, but I only think it is attainable with Pyne at the helm. If I’m being completely honest, I would much prefer that outcome than getting blown out by Alabama or Georgia in the CFP semifinal.

Forget the Coan zone. It’s Pyne time.