Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is far too hard to root for
Even if you are a die-hard Notre Dame Fighting Irish fan, it has to be hard actively rooting for the program to succeed right now. Not because you might be a weird sadist, but due to the fact that someone with no redeemable qualities like Brian Kelly would benefit with each victory.
This isn’t new. Hell, it is no longer a hot-take. Casual college football fans have long grown tired of Kelly running away from accountability while hurling his players under conveniently positioned buses. Now some — even if only a few at the moment — Fighting Irish fans prefer if the echoes remain dormant for at least one more season.
That’s all it will take, too. We can go on and on about Kelly’s iffy character (and we will in a moment), but his track record while at Notre Dame doesn’t exactly scream greatness. Coaches with far worse records than Kelly’s would never last this long with the program.
First thing is first, let’s start with the bad. The sometimes inherently, down to its foundation, just awfulness that is “The Beast Incarnate” Brian Kelly.
There was the death of student manager Declan Sullivan in 2010, Kelly’s first season, for which the university was cited for violations. There have been high-profile instances of academic fraud, the most notable involving 2012 starting quarterback Everett Golson. Kelly’s also been criticized for his sideline demeanor, which he defended last falling by saying, “I’m just being Brian Kelly.”
How about the time he almost beat up a co-worker during a nationally televised game?
Brian is a well-documented yeller and regular flipper-outer.
This all coming from a man who is coaching at what is meant to be a prestigious school that values nearly everything opposite of what Kelly has presented since arriving on campus in 2010.
But wait … there’s more, because of course there’s more.
This past offseason, after youthful gunslinger DeShone Kizer declared for the NFL Draft, Kelly said some iffy things about his former quarterback. To be fair, some of his quotes were taken out of context, but they were still the same sort of words that shouldn’t be said when “one of yours” is attempting to monetize his talent.
“He should still be in college. … He needs more time to grow in so many areas, not just on the field but off the field,” Kelly told SiriusXM NFL Radio back in April.”
Honestly, there is a decent chance Kelly was just being truthful. At the same time, he needs to be aware as to how people already think of him, then not put one of his players in the weird position of scouts thinking his own college coach doesn’t believe in him.
Alas, because the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he never existed, Kelly has recently changed his tune as to how he views Kizer’s NFL venture.
“One of the things that I said was he’s got outstanding character and he’s got great traits,” Kelly said on a Sunday conference call. “You’re not going to have to worry about any of those things. I think he’s got what it takes to persevere and fight through adversity.”
Eh, that doesn’t exactly line up with what he previously said, but that’s not the quote that should make people feel all weird inside their tummies.
“What I said was that he was the best quarterback in the draft and he has the biggest upside but would benefit from staying at Notre Dame,” Kelly said. “Once that decision was made, we were all for DeShone seeking out what his dream was, to play in the NFL. And that’s what he’s done. In a very short period of time he has gotten himself into a great position to be the starting quarterback.”
That doesn’t seem so bad, right? Because it isn’t … until you think about this entire thing logically.
Remove Kelly’s comments about whether or not Kizer was NFL-ready from the table. It is relatively unimportant to characterizing Kelly, as there are FAR WORSE instances in his past to point to as examples of him being bluh. Plus, if you go through all the context, it appears he actually meant well.
What is concerning about this, however, is that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish went 4-8 with a quarterback who will be starting in the NFL at 21-years-old. Let that sink in for a minute. Allow it to wash over you like a cold shower after a night drinking so much booze you asked your Playstation on a date.
In a league, college football, where more than 98 percent of the quarterbacks in it will be donning anything but an NFL uniform when they graduate, Brian Kelly only managed to win four of them with a guy who is going to start in the NFL while barely being old enough to buy an adult-beverage.
Good enough to start in the NFL, but not good enough to win more than four games in college? Call me old fashioned, but the blame for that does not fall on the wickedly talented player. It rests on the shoulder of the guy being paid to put that talent in a position to succeed.
All of this is even more laughable when we rewind to last season. A place in space and time when Kelly regularly hurled Kizer under the bus for Notre Dame’s issues. If you were to ask him last season, a lot of Notre Dame’s issues were because of the same quarterback Kelly clearly had no idea how to optimize.
Let’s travel back in time all the way to September of last year. Did you pack a backpack and some sandwiches? Good.
Kelly, who defended his now-former defensive coordinator, Brian VanGorder, after a loss to Duke and then fired him 12 hours after that anyway, called Kizer’s play in that game”below standard” and “not acceptable.” There’s some of the context. Here is more: That below standard and unacceptable play by Kizer? Eh, he set a then career-high with 381 passing yards. He also led the team with 60 rushing yards.
Our good old pal has a history of placing blame elsewhere. In fact, just recently after an interview with Bleacher Report, we found out the real reason the Fighting Irish were unable to win more than four games with an NFL-level quarterback.
“I was the absent professor,” Kelly told Bleacher Report. “I wasn’t paying attention to the details that we needed. There were internal issues that—if a guy is on it, and he’s doing his job as the head coach, he would’ve seen those things early. My flawed philosophy was, We’re going to score points early while we’re figuring it out on the other side with a young defense. Well, that didn’t happen. We gave up way too many points early, we lost three games, and now we’re in trouble.”
Uh, basically, it is both the fundraising’s fault as well as assistant coaches for not picking up the slack?
The thing is, none of Kelly’s shenanigans would matter if he were a good enough coach. People claim college sports as some sort of morality play, though it is certainly not that.
Examples of iffy character in college sports rest everywhere, yet go unchecked because of success.
Rick Pitino has a plethora of scandal left in his wake. He also happens to be one of the best college basketball has ever seen, so he trots about college basketball unscathed; There’s Bobby Petrino, who isn’t exactly the next Pope Francis, yet he is swell enough at his profession that all those missteps — pursuing an Auburn job that wasn’t open, leaving the Atlanta Falcons in a questionable way, hiring his mistress to a position in the Arkansas athletic department — are swept under a rug; Oh, and who can forget Dave Bliss, whose star dimmed in one of college sports’ most heinous episodes, yet landed another coaching gig?
So on and so forth.
Unfortunately for Brian Kelly, save for the season in which his best player had a fictional dead girlfriend, he just hasn’t been a good enough coach while at Notre Dame.
If you don’t want Notre Dame to fail because Kelly appears to be subjectively bad at being a decent person, you might as well root for him to fail now, if only to get this entire charade of him deserving the job over with.