Breaking: Tommy Rees accepts offensive coordinator job at Alabama
Andrew McGuinness | Friday, February 3, 2023
For the second straight winter, the coaching carousel disrupted the coaching staff in South Bend.
Few moments in recent Notre Dame football memory caused as much mayhem as Brian Kelly’s sudden departure to LSU last November. The departure of offensive coordinator Tommy Rees isn’t as program-altering — or as sudden — as Kelly’s exit. But, it is undoubtedly significant. Reports came earlier this week that Rees was the top candidate for Alabama’s vacant offensive coordinator job. And on Friday afternoon, the South Bend Tribune’s Mike Berardino tweeted that Rees was indeed leaving.
Rees was nearly on the move alongside Kelly but chose to return to South Bend for his third year as offensive coordinator. Rees quarterbacked the Irish from 2010-2013, starting 24 out of a possible 25 games in 2011 and 2013. He also started two games and played in 12 contests in Notre Dame’s national finalist 2012 team. Rees finished 23-8 as the Irish QB and ranks top-five in 21 different game, season and career Notre Dame passing statistics, including being one of three people to throw for over 3,000 yards in a Notre Dame uniform.
After graduating in 2013, Rees began his coaching career. After a year as a graduate assistant at Northwestern and another as an offensive assistant for the NFL’s Chargers, Rees returned to the Irish in 2017 as quarterbacks coach. Following three years in that role, Rees became the team’s offensive coordinator before their 2019 bowl game against Iowa State, replacing Chip Long. The Irish offense has had its up and downs under Rees. They scored over 35 points against Clemson, twice, and made the Playoffs themselves in 2020. Rees was also there for the 0-2 start this season and the disappointing performances against lackluster programs Marshall and Stanford.
However, attracting the eye of Nick Saban almost always means you are doing more good than bad. Rees will replace Bill O’Brien, who served in the role for two years before returning to the New England Patriots to be their offensive coordinator. Freeman and the Irish had to replace a large chunk of their coaching staff last season, so they have been in this situation before.
There was an expectation the Irish would hire someone experienced to be their defensive coordinator last year to help the first-time head coach Freeman. Now that he has a year under his belt, the Irish may cast a wider net than they would have if Rees left a year ago. Either way, replacing the 30-year-old Rees will be no small task for Freeman and the Irish program.