Sharpley: Thick skin, short memory needed for Everett Golson and Notre Dame

Evan Sharpley
NDI Correspondent

Another win for the Irish. Another 30-point performance. Another 200-plus yard passing attack. Another multi-touchdown game for Everett Golson.

It would seem that all is right in Notre Dame land.

The offensive game plan was brilliant against the Orange. Syracuse brought pressures on over half of the Irish pass plays, yet Golson was rarely under duress. The pass game became an extension of the run game. If the Orange loaded up the box with an extra defenders, Golson had the option to throw a pass on a run play

This decision, to run or pass, is entirely on the quarterback’s shoulders. Syracuse is known for supplying teams with a variety of defensive looks in hopes to confuse the offensive line and pressure opposing teams’ quarterbacks. Nothing is more disheartening to a defense than trying to bring a multitude of pressures and to have the quarterback release the ball before they are a few yards up field. Advantage Irish.

However, not everything is sunshine and roses in the land of the Golden Dome. For a moment, let’s forget about the win. Put to the back of your mind the fact that Notre Dame has scored at least 30 points in each game this season and is averaging its most points per game (36.3) through three games of a season since 1992 (37.0). Move beyond the 362 yards passing by Everett Golson on 32 completions, 25 of which were consecutive.

What I see, what Brian Kelly sees, what quarterback Coach Matt LaFleur sees, and what Everett Golson sees are the two interceptions and the two lost fumbles. This negative play, surprisingly, bodes well for the rest of the Irish season.

After every game, players get a grade based on their physical and mental performance. Coaches go play-by-play and give plus or minuses, as well as divvy out mental errors. For example, it is possible to get a plus on the play for physical performance, but a minus for the wrong decision.

• Exhibit A: Interception No. 1 — Based on my knowledge, Everett missed an open first read and proceeded to overthrow his second read. In this case it was both a mental error and minus on the physical.

• Exhibit B: Interception No. 2 — Everett decided pre-snap that he had a great matchup. However, with the near tight end not going out for a route, the safety had no route to hold his attention. At the snap of the ball, the safety read Golson’s eyes and undercut the route for a “pick 6.” In this scenario, Golson made the right read (mental), but gets a minus for throwing an interception.

Amidst the mistakes, Notre Dame still won, meaning Golson and the coaching staff can be much more critical of certain mistakes, learn from them, and move forward.

Mistakes are sure to happen, In order to play the quarterback position it is necessary to have a thick skin. Quarterbacks make it a point to have a short memory and turn the page. They realize they are not the first person to make a mistake and they certainly will not be the last.

Many times, quarterbacks rally around the defense to encourage and support them. In doing so, the team gains confidence. Turnovers are part of the game, and they provide opportunities to learn and eliminate mistakes in the future. Confidence is the key to playing the quarterback position and is a quality that must always be possessed.

Fortunately, the ball is always in the hands of the quarterback, meaning there are ample opportunities to make up for mistakes. Quarterbacks must have swagger, knowing they will bounce back. I saw a fire and desire from Everett after each error. He wanted to rectify the situation. His confidence never seemed to waiver and Kelly stood by his quarterback.

Quarterbacks want a coach that will support them through mistakes. Players respond to coaches that sit down next to them, ask them what they are thinking, and why they made the decision they made. Oftentimes, coaches forget that players do not purposely try to make mistakes. Yelling and screaming can add more fuel to the already burning fire.

I agree there are times and instances in which a fire should be lit to inspire a player, as long as the fire is controllable. What impressed me the most about Coach Kelly was the confidence he displayed in Everett by sticking to the game plan and continuing to toss the pigskin around the field.

Quarterbacks are a rare breed. Everyone wants to play the position. Many have the natural ability and talent, but not all possess the mental fortitude to be successful. Not many people are able to manage adversity with an entire team and an entire fan base looking on.

Since playing the position in college, I have had the opportunity to train some of the best middle school, high school, and collegiate quarterbacks, and my message to each one of them is this: “Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes (Alexandre Dumas).”

How quarterbacks respond in the midst of mistakes tells me much more about them than when everything is smooth sailing.

Inside info, I liked what I saw from Everett Golson amid his mental and physical mistakes. Expect him, and the rest of the Irish football team, to be basking in sunlight post-game versus Stanford. Go Irish!

In addition to his weekly column, former Notre Dame quarterback Evan Sharpley previews upcoming games each Friday at 7:50 a.m. on WSBT’s JT in the Morning Show (960 AM and 96.1 FM). On Mondays, Sharpley co-hosts WSBT’s Notre Dame Football Final, which airs from 9-10 a.m. He’ll also be an occasional contributor to WSBT’s Weekday SportsBeat and Gameday SportsBeat radio programs. Sharpley owns and operates Sharpley Training in Mishawaka.

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson fumbles the ball as he is brought down by Syracuse's Dyshawn Davis during the Notre Dame-Syracuse game on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)