Ian Book Continues To Be Polarizing From A National Standpoint

Bryan Driskell

It would appear that quarterback Ian Book is just as polarizing to the national media as he is within the Notre Dame media and Notre Dame fan base.

Sporting News recently ranked Book as the fifth best quarterback in the country heading into the 2020 season. ESPN staff writer David M. Hale just came out with his breakdown of the nation’s quarterbacks, and he had the Irish signal caller ranked as a tier six quarterback.

Hale broke his quarterback analysis into tiers, and he had Book labeled as “game managers.”

My initial response about Book is that he’s not a game manager, he can be a playmaker, but when you read Hale’s description of a game manager it makes more sense.

“The ‘game manager’ term is often deployed as a pejorative, but it's not all bad,” wrote Hale. “It's essentially saying these guys won't lose you any games you have a good shot to win. It's just tough to count on them to win you a ton of games when you're probably not the better team.”

Based on Book’s career up to this point that analysis makes sense, although I speak more on that below. Here’s what Hale wrote about Book:

“Book has certainly had his moments of greatness, but against top-50 defenses last season, his numbers were pretty pedestrian (56% completions, six yards per pass, 10 TDs, 6 INTs).”

Hard to argue with that, and that has been my biggest criticism of Book, the numbers look great on the whole, but when you dig deeper and break down his performance against top teams it’s not pretty. 

Those numbers are even less impressive when you consider his production against Power 5 defenses. Remember, one of the “Top 50” defenses that Hale used for his analysis was Navy, an opponent that does not have a single starter on defense that would play for Notre Dame.

My issue with Hale’s analysis isn’t as much his ranking of Book specifically, but the inconsistency of his analysis.

Miami quarterback D’Eriq King, a transfer from Houston, was listed in the elite category and was the sixth-best quarterback in this analysis, ahead of Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger. The hype surrounding King is puzzling.

The same is true for Jamie Newman, who transferred to Georgia after a quality season at Wake Forest. Newman started the season off well, but he completed just 47.4% of his passes in the final five games. During that stretch Newman threw as many interceptions (six) as he did touchdowns.

Seeing former Stanford quarterback KJ Costello in the third tier and that far ahead of Book was also a bit of a head scratcher. Don’t get me wrong, Costello is a fine quarterback, but what exactly has he done that is so much more impressive than Book that he ranks this high?

In 2019, Costello threw one touchdown and two picks while completing just 50% of his passes in losses to Oregon and UCF. He wasn’t much better in a loss to Colorado either.

When Book and Costello squared off in 2018, the Irish quarterback went 24-33 for 278 yards and four touchdowns in the 38-17 Notre Dame victory while the Stanford quarterback went just 15-27 for 174 yards, one touchdown and a pick.

Costello is 6-7 in his last 13 starts.

When you look at Book thus far, the game manager term (as Hale described it) makes a lot of sense. If Book wants to be more respected he needs to play well against good teams and not just thrive on dominant performances against inferior opponents. My only issue with this analysis is that critique seems to be inconsistently applied.

If you’re going to critique Book for his performance against top teams, which is a very fair criticism, then why not then apply it to players like Newman, King and Costello, among others?

I’ve been highly critical of Book, and will continue to be so until he starts playing well against good teams, but that same criteria should be applied to all quarterbacks, not just the quarterback at Notre Dame.

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Comments (6)
No. 1-6

I agree with you on the inconsistency of the analysis, but when have writers for ESPN ever been balanced and/or consistent? And I agree with you on your concerns about Book, although I’ve learned that there are a lot of ND fans who think that Book is the bee’s-knees, the cat’s meow. They point to Book’s final drive against VaTech and hold that up as an example of his grit and determination. Fine. But had Book done better than a 55% pass completion rate and 2 TDs/2 INTs against a team that finished outside the Top 50 for passing yards allowed per game, he probably wouldn’t have needed the benefit of those last minute heroics.

But I’m being petty here. I do wish that Book’s last 5 wins of the season, dominant ones all, came against teams that were better than marginal at best. I’d feel better about the guy if that were the case. But barring an 11-win season where Book beats a couple of solid preseason contenders, I would have to agree with Hale that Book is a good and productive game manager, but that would be it. I’d love Book to prove me wrong.

Slap of Reality
Slap of Reality

Interesting points. Book is a solid college qb. He will never have elite arm talent but he knows how to use what he has. Last year he seemed to abandon good pockets way too early and to blatently ignore reads on the left side of the field when he had time. Those traits are puzzling and should be coachable. He also shows a large bias in his throws with the vast majority being to the outside even with big mismatches at te inside. Not sure if that was play design or an unwillingness to press the ball into tight spots inside. Hes truely an enigma of a qb as he can do lots of things, but somehow hamstrings himself


The unique thing CFB is that drop off from tier 1 to tier 2 rn, tier 2 really is up in the air


I can't speak to what he says about other QBs, but based on his definition of "game manager", that is a fair evaluation of Book's career this far. I think he's a solid QB who has shown flashes from time to time that he can be more than that... And I sure hope that he can make it happen.


I dont know which tier I would put Book in but I do know it wouldn't be tier 6. That's to low for him. I have never been the biggest Ian Book fan but he is going to surprise people with how well he is going to play this year. I truly believe that. He is going to have a O line in front of him that has the potential to be one of the the best if not the best in the country. You add in the plethora of outstanding TE and WR he will be throwing to and that's a recipe for a ton of success for Ian Book. If Notre Dame can get their run game going watch out for Ian Book.


When comparing Book and Costello I genuinely believe that the writer took into account the team around him. Yes Costello failed in big games as Brian pointed out, and Ian book failed in big games as well. But the one difference is Ian book was clearly the weakest link on his team while Costello was trying to win games in spite of the Talent on his team.

Love the article Brian... Thank you...