Tommy Rees has been deployed twice as Everett Golson's safety net twice this year, and both times, he's guided Notre Dame to a victory. But make no mistake: Rees isn't taking the No. 1 job from Golson any time soon.
Golson, however, has a short leash.
"We're 40, so I'd say that having Tommy in there the two times that he did play, if you measure it from that standpoint, it's worked out okay," coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. "You know, I've made this pretty clear every time that this has been brought up: You want to go with one quarterback, but we have a freshman quarterback who's experiencing being a young quarterback. (If) I can prop him up with a veteran to win a football game because we're in this to win it, then we'll do that.
"Characterize it any way you want, that it's two quarterbacks. I look at it as supporting Everett with Tommy, and if we need to do that, we'll continue to go that way because it's been pretty successful."
There are plenty of two-quarterback systems scattering the college football landscape, but few -- if any -- have the dynamic seen at Notre Dame. It's clear Kelly and his coaching staff are not only looking to win in 2012, but they're looking to develop a guy who can lead them to wins in 2013 and beyond.
But as Notre Dame's success continues to grow -- the Irish are ranked No. 10 in the AP top 25 poll heading into its bye week -- can Kelly keep the same strategy and continue to win?
Right now, the answer is yes. But Notre Dame was able to overcome two bad decisions made by Golson during Saturday's 13-6 win over Michigan. A lot of that fell on the shoulders of the defense, which backed Michigan up after the first pick and forced a missed field goal.
The second interception was far more egregious, though, as came in Notre Dame's end zone.
"It was a careless mistake, one that was uncharacteristic of how he had practiced and how he performed," Kelly said. "I felt like I needed to make a decision for the best interest of our team in winning that game, and it was at that fifth series."
But what if Golson makes a careless or jittery mistake in a situation that proves to be more costly? What if the defense or Rees can't bail the team out after a mistake made by a freshman quarterback?
That's a risk, sure. But it's a risk every team takes. Denard Robinson threw four interceptions yesterday, and Michigan never recovered. And in the world of future Notre Dame opponents, a Landry Jones interception halted Oklahoma's momentum in a 24-19 loss to Kansas State in Norman on Saturday.
Both those guys are seasoned quarterbacks with a ton of snaps under their belt. And it's worth noting Golson only turned the ball over twice in three games heading into the Michigan game.
Kelly won't use Rees if Golson is making right decisions and confident throws. Rees is a luxury plenty of teams don't have -- an experienced backup who can enter whenever an inexperienced starter looks overwhelmed.
So far, that mix has worked. Notre Dame is 4-0, and as long as they avoid a major upset, a 1-2 record against the trio of Stanford, Oklahoma and USC could lead the team to a BCS bid.
All indications are that Golson will be the starter if Notre Dame can make that run. But Kelly has made it just as clear that Rees will be a big part of whatever the Irish end up doing in 2012 as well.