Ranking The Last 15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Starting Quarterbacks From Worst To Best

The 2017 NFL Draft took place Thursday, April 27, through Saturday, April 29, in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia. Thanks to a heinous 1-15 showing in 2016, the Cleveland Browns made the draft’s first selection. Overall, excluding the quarterback position, scouts and analysts consider this draft to be a solid one that could change the long-term fortunes of many of the league’s 32 franchises. Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Davis Webb and former Notre Dame star DeShone Kizer were some of the biggest QB names going into draft week. Although many onlookers predicted Kizer could have been a first round pick, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Irishman fell to the Cleveland Browns at no.52. Some think that could be a steal while some fear Kizer will be another failed experiment in Cleveland. For his part, Kizer recently told Tom Pelissero of USA Today that he possesses a combination of Tom Brady’s smarts and Cam Newton’s physical abilities.

“I do have the ability to be the greatest quarterback to ever play. Imagine taking (Tom) Brady’s intellect and Brady’s preparation and putting it on a guy with Cam Newton’s body,” said Kizer, 21. “Why can’t I be the greatest? The only thing stopping me from it is me. That’s what’s driving me now.”

While Kizer’s self-belief is admirable, with the glaring exception of Joe Montana, Notre Dame passers have primarily flopped at the next level following their departures from South Bend. Therefore, this list will strictly rank the collegiate performances of every noteworthy Notre Dame quarterback over the past 30 years since 1987.



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Brandon Wimbush will serve as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback this autumn. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Wimbush played sparingly in his first two seasons in South Bend. Hence, it’s hard to forecast how Wimbush will perform as an Irishman. Still, coaches, teammates, analysts and onlookers rave about Wimbush. Rich Hansen coached Wimbush at Saint Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, N.J. Wimbush was the centerpiece of Hansen’s squad that captured a state championship and concluded 2014 as the country’s fifth-ranked team.

“Notre Dame couldn’t be in better hands,” Hansen told the Indy Star. “(Wimbush) is a leader, a fierce competitor. He’s been a dual-threat his entire life, but he’s a pass-first guy who can escape and create plays. He’s got a cannon for an arm. I’ve seen him throw the ball 70 yards. He has all the tools and skills, but he has the personality traits and the mental makeup, too.”


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Rivals.com ranked Dayne Crist the nation’s third best quarterback for his play at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Crist, a five-star recruit and 2008 Parade All-American, was plagued by ineffectiveness and injuries throughout his stay in South Bend. Crist threw 16 touchdowns, against nine interceptions, for 2,327 yards in 17 games as an Irishman. Following a particularly dreadful outing in the 2011 season opener versus South Florida, head coach Brian Kelly indefinitely benched Crist in favor of Tommy Rees. Shortly thereafter, Crist transferred to Kansas to play for former Irish coach Charlie Weis. Crist was a clipped Jayhawk in Lawrence and Weis shelved him to get redshirt freshman Michael Cummings on the gridiron. The Baltimore Ravens released the undrafted, 27-year-old Californian in August 2013 and he remains a free agent.



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Carlyle Holiday was a middling Irishman under center. The 6-foot-3, 217-pound Holiday, who the Cincinnati Reds took in the 44th round of the 2002 MLB Draft, completed an abysmal 50.1 percent of his 477 passing attempts for Notre Dame. More troublesome than his inaccuracy, the athletic Texan only threw 14 touchdowns, against 16 interceptions, for a meager 2,876 yards as a three-year starter in South Bend. To somewhat compensate for his substandard arm, Holiday managed to rush for 898 yards and five scores and he caught seven pigskins for five touchdowns in 46 games. Although unselected in the 2005 NFL Draft, Holiday played professionally as a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals from 2005 to 2006 and the Green Bay Packers from 2006 to 2008.


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A dual-threat southpaw, Malik Zaire was considered an ideal fit in Brian Kelly’s power-spread attack with spread-I formations. The 6-foot, 220-pound Zaire, who was named the 2014 Music City Bowl MVP, seized the starting job in 2015. Zaire immediately emerged as a force on the gridiron and completed 19 of 22 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns in the Irish’s 38-3 rout of the Texas Longhorns at Notre Dame Stadium. Regrettably, Zaire suffered a gruesome broken ankle the following week at Virginia and was sidelined for the remainder of the season. Now healthy, Zaire failed to reclaim his role and DeShone Kizer was named the team’s starter for the 2016 campaign. No longer an Irishman, Zaire is presently mulling what academic institution he wants to transfer to.



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After Arnaz Battle sustained a serious wrist injury versus Nebraska on September 9, 2000, head coach Bob Davie named freshman Matt LoVecchio the team’s starting quarterback. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound LoVecchio, a standout at famed Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, New Jersey, performed admirably and led Notre Dame to a 9-3 record and an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. LoVecchio’s stock plummeted the following season and he was benched by Davie when the Irish lost its first two games. Unable to regain his position, LoVecchio abandoned South Bend in the spring of 2002 and relocated to Bloomington to become a Hoosier. LoVecchio, who worked with the New York Giants’ practice squad in 2005, tossed 12 scores, against five picks, for 1,267 yards in 10 games as an Irishman.


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For whatever reason, Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans never fully embraced Tommy Rees. Granted, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Rees wasn’t blessed with a powerful arm or deft mobility in the pocket. However, Rees was mainly a winner and he finished his four-year career as an Irishman with a solid record of 23-8. The son of a respected football coach, Rees signed with the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent in 2014. After the Redskins clipped Everett Golson’s Band-Aid a mere week later, Rees decided to focus on coaching. Rees worked as an offensive assistant for Northwestern University in 2015 and then for the San Diego Chargers in 2016. Rees relocated from America's Finest City back to South Bend in January to secure employment on Brian Kelly’s staff as a quarterbacks coach.



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Everett Golson is one of the most polarizing players in the annals of Notre Dame football. Backed by an imposing defense, the 6-foot, 200-pound Golson helped the Irish go undefeated and gain an invitation to face Alabama in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game. Although Notre Dame got lambasted 42-14 by the Crimson Tide, the future looked golden for the Irish and Golson. Approximately five months following the Alabama fiasco, Golson was pinched cheating on a test and then expelled from school in May 2013. Golson weaseled his way back to South Bend and the Irish flourished in his first few games under center in September 2014. Unfortunately for Golson and Notre Dame, everything soured after that brilliant start. Golson eventually lost his job to Malik Zaire and he decided to transfer to Florida State in May 2015 for his final season of eligibility.


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The 6-foot-4, 230-pound DeShone Kizer has the necessary mental makeup and physical tools to blossom into a NFL star. The 21-year-old Kizer, who chose to forego his final two seasons of eligibility to enter this year's draft, threw 45 touchdowns, against only 18 interceptions, for 5,589 yards in 25 contests as an Irishman. Despite the four-star recruit’s glittering numbers, Kizer only went 12-11 as a starter at Notre Dame. Furthermore, head coach Brian Kelly publicly stated that he doesn’t believe Kizer is presently prepared to become a professional. While Kizer could have used another season in South Bend, it’s difficult to refuse boatloads of money and the Ohioan will soon be a millionaire. Possibly more important than finances, Kizer will also soon be an outstanding NFL signal-caller.



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Jarious Jackson was a steady quarterback for the Irish over 36 contests from 1996 through 1999. The 6-foot-1, 232-pound Jackson completed 57.1 percent of his 536 attempts for 34 touchdowns, against 21 interceptions, and 4,820 yards. A formidable track runner at Tupelo High School in Tupelo, Mississippi, Jackson also rushed the ball 272 times for 957 yards and 13 scores. The Denver Broncos took Jackson in the seventh round of the 2000 NFL Draft. The popular Irishman never made an impression on the Broncos’ coaching staff and he was cut. Despite limping as a Bronco in the Mile High City, Jackson created a rewarding career north of the border in the CFL. Jackson played seven professional seasons in Canada with the BC Lions and Toronto Argonauts where he captured Grey Cup titles in 2006, 2011 and 2012.


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Ron Powlus, a spectacular talent while playing for Berwick High School in Berwick, Pennsylvania, was named the 1992 USA Today Offensive High School Player of the Year. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Powlus was considered such a surefire star that ESPN analyst Beano Cook infamously proclaimed that the Pennsylvanian would capture two Heisman Trophies before departing South Bend to prosper in the NFL. Powlus mainly produced at Notre Dame and he set 20 school passing records over 44 games as a starter. Unfortunately for Cook and the ballyhooed 1992 USA Today High School All-American, Notre Dame endured somewhat disappointing seasons from 1994 to 1997 and Powlus never matured into a treasured Irishman. Powlus had brief, forgettable stints with the Tennessee Oilers, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe.



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In remarkably obnoxious fashion, Jimmy Clausen orally committed to play for Notre Dame in April 2006 after arriving at the College Football Hall of Fame in a stretch Hummer limousine. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Clausen, an extraordinary talent who was named the 2006 USA Today Offensive Player of the Year for his efforts at Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, California, became the Irish’s starter in the second game of his freshman season on September 8, 2007. From a statistical standpoint, Clausen excelled as a three-year Irishman and completed 62.6 percent of his 1,110 attempts for 60 touchdowns and 8,148 yards. However, with Clausen directing its offense, Notre Dame went a subpar 16-18. Clausen decided to forego his senior year and the Carolina Panthers chose him with the 48th pick in the 2010 draft. The polarizing Californian, who was also employed by the Bears and Ravens, is currently a free agent.


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Brady Quinn would have been a better professional bodybuilder than NFL player. Nevertheless, at the collegiate level, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Brady was a stellar quarterback. Quinn, a resident of Dublin, Ohio, who benched 225 pounds an astounding 24 times at the 2007 NFL Scouting Combine, earned the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and Maxwell Award as an Irishman in 2006. The Lou Ferrigno wannabe established countless Irish passing marks and finished his four-year career in South Bend as the school’s most accomplished signal-caller. The Cleveland Browns chose Quinn with the 22nd overall pick in the 2007 draft. Unfortunately for the muscleman, Quinn failed as a member of seven different franchises before agreeing to become a Fox Sports college and NFL analyst at the age of 29 in July 2014.



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Kevin McDougal wasn’t supposed to lead the University of Notre Dame football team in 1993. However, due to incoming freshman Ron Powlus’ broken collarbone, Irish head coach Lou Holtz was forced to hand the pigskin to the 6-foot-2, 194-pound McDougal. McDougal shocked many observers and immediately shined under center. Establishing Irish records for career completion percentage (.622) and passing efficiency (154.4), the Floridian helped Notre Dame ascend to college football’s top ranking after a memorable 31-24 win versus Florida State on November 13. The Irish and McDougal finished the 1993 season 11-1 and ranked second in the nation. After going undrafted in 1994, McDougal inked a free agent deal with the Los Angeles Rams. The surprising Irishman wasn’t long for Tinseltown and he ultimately earned paychecks competing in the World League of American Football, Canadian Football League, Arena Football League and the notorious XFL.


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Rick Mirer, a native of Goshen, Indiana, was an Irishman from 1989 to 1992. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Mirer succeeded Tony Rice in 1990 as a starter and he led the Irish to a 9-3 record and an appearance in the Orange Bowl. Mirer continued to develop as an Irishman and he guided the team to a 39-28 win over Florida in the 1992 Sugar Bowl and then a 28-3 triumph over Texas A&M in the 1993 Cotton Bowl Classic. A dual-threat, Mirer accounted for a total of 6,691 yards and 58 touchdowns in the air and on the ground before entering the 1993 draft. Billed as “The Next Joe Montana,” Mirer was chosen by the Seattle Seahawks with that year’s second pick. While initially soaring as a Seahawk and earning 1993 AFC Rookie of the Year honors, Mirer descended into an unproductive journeyman.



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Tony Rice is the most beloved Notre Dame quarterback since Joe Montana. With Rice at the helm in 1988, Notre Dame went undefeated and captured its first championship in 11 seasons. Although an erratic passer, Rice used his legs to compensate for his unreliable arm and he compiled a total of 5,322 yards and 36 scores in the air and on the ground. Of greater significance, Rice guided the Irish to an astounding 28-3 mark during his time as a starter. Rice, a member of the 1989 All-American Team and that year’s winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, predictably went undrafted in April 1990. However, Rice did play professionally for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL, Barcelona Dragons of the World League and the Munich Thunder of the Football League of Europe in Munich, Germany.


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