Thoughts on Brian Kelly as Notre Dame’s next coach

briankellyPeople somewhat rightly criticize Notre Dame and its fans for what they perceive as an outsized view of the team’s importance: In the cable TV/internet age, the NBC contract isn’t anything that special; the so-called “echoes” have slumbered in an ancient sleep for decades; and the Notre Dame head coaching job — now taken on by Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly — is so fraught with pratfalls and these oversized expectations that it’s foolish to even take the job.

But, if the job comes for you, there’s really no way you can turn it down unless you have something pretty special lined up, i.e. Urban Meyer at Florida. Indeed, even if success there, under present circumstances, is elusive, the reward remains among the highest that football can offer: immortality. Even Notre Dame’s failed coaches remain part of the public psyche; I don’t remember many of the names who coached Oklahoma during the lean years, but nearly every football fan can recall Gerry Faust. But, rightly or wrongly, winning a national title at Notre Dame ensures your legend.

So I think Kelly was right to accept the job. The more interesting question is whether Kelly was the right ma

n for it. Given the choices this year, I’d say yes. I liked the “fit” of a Gary Patterson more than Brian Kelly in South Bend, but I think he’ll succeed. A few unconnected thoughts:

  • In terms of recruiting, Kelly has done an excellent job getting talent into Cincy, and will continue to recruit many of the same areas.
  • This might be heresy, but schematically I don’t find Kelly that interesting. Now he’s a spread guy (which plays to my preferences), and he’s been doing it a long time (so he has a pedigree), but I think much of the talk about Kelly as an “offensive genius” is misplaced. He runs a very simple, and even at times simplistic, spread offense. That’s the bad news.
  • The good news is that really doesn’t matter. The Irish just got done with a guy who was pretty convinced of his schematic brilliance, and likely the sooner ND can get beyond just winning the scheme battle and win some actual ones on the field, the better. And with this is the fact that Kelly is an excellent teacher, which is what really matters.
  • And don’t get me wrong here, his scheme isn’t bad. His staff gameplans very well and they put their kids in position to succeed, which is really all that matters. You’ll see some fun stuff from quads — or with four receivers to the same side — but otherwise everything is pretty basic. Yet I liken it to when Holtz arrived at Notre Dame. No one perceived him as an offensive guru, but for what they did at the time, relative to everyone else in college football (and with some very good players), it was sophisticated enough. I think it will be similar for Kelly: If he gets good players in he’ll do a great job of teaching them, and as a result the offense will succeed.
  • Which brings us to probably the scariest similarity with Weis: Kelly needs to find a good defensive coordinator, and I’m not sure who that will be. This need to find an offensive guy to whom that entire side of the ball can be dumped on sort of the Sword of Damocles that hangs over all the offensive obsessed gurus. Charlie Weis never figured it out; Steve Spurrier never won a national title until he got Bob Stoops in as defensive coordinator; Urban Meyer’s first championship at Florida, the championship game last year, and much of his success this year was driven by the great defenses of Charlie Strong (who is now at Louisville); and in the NFL the New Orleans Saints have gone from bubble playoff team to undefeated with the introduction of some new faces on defense and a new defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams.

    So more than any single recruit, I’d want to know who Kelly is going to hire as his DC. Had Weis’s defense been better this year it’s likely that he’d still be in South Bend. (And once you go to the revolving door, it becomes hard to get settled, as it takes awhile to get the program up to speed. It’s hard to transform a defense with a few weeks of spring and fall practice.)

  • All this, however, obscures the bottom line: Brian Kelly has won everywhere he has been. He turned Grand Valley State into a title winning team; he resurrected Central Michigan, where Butch Jones has continued much of that success; and in Cincinnati he has led the team to three of the best seasons in school history — maybe the best — in back-to-back-to-back years. I agree with the commentary that Notre Dame is best off hiring a guy who has succeeded at the college level. With Weis I think the goal was to sort of emulate Pete Carroll’s success at USC, but it didn’t work. And the Notre Dame job is fraught with all the issues that plague all college head coaches, but, often enough, on steroids. A little time in the meat grinder can only help.

Hopefully no one takes my criticisms too harshly. As I said, the bottom line is that Kelly is a winner, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be able to do that at Notre Dame. I’ll definitely watch more Irish games next fall.

  • TMD

    I’ve got to say that this is pretty dead on about Kelly. This year, there were not many other candidates ready to jump out and take over the Irish. He’s been a success everywhere he’s been and for the first time, he’s going into a “football school”. If he doesn’t succeed here, then I think that there is something fundamentally wrong with the Notre Dame program.

  • NJBammer

    There now, was that so hard? I’ve got a great idea, Notre Dame! Hire someone with a track record of being a successful college head coach! What a concept! After Holtz:
    Bob Davie no college HC experience
    Ty Willingham – Good record at Stanford, not great, but still only a total of 7 years HC, with a record only 8 games above .500 – not a great coach.
    Weis – no college HC experience
    Now, Kelly – a winner everywhere he’s been, total of 20 years HC experience, 113 games over .500

    There’s every reason to think Kelly will be a winner again at ND, and will likely be contending for a NC within 2 or 3 years. As a Bama fan, I’m depressed, as a football fan, I’m glad.

  • Chase

    If I’m a Notre Dame fan, I’m very happy. Seems like a very good hire to me. What more can you ask for than a guy who consistently beats other teams despite not having a large talent advantage? He gets the best results out of the least heralded bunch of athletes. Give him access to the recruits ND usually pulls, and you’d think he’d do even better.

    I think it might take awhile, but I expect Kelly to do well there.

  • Kyle

    I think Dan LeFevour has had as much to do with Central Michigan and its success as Brian Kelly. Watch for a drop off next year unless there’s another LeFevour on the sidelines now.

    It’d also be unfair to give the entire credit at Cincinnati to Kelly when Dantonio helped grease the wheels there too.

  • Dave

    I guess I’ll just re-enter most of my own words from the comment I posted less than an hour ago on the earlier blog post.

    I understand the questions here about Kelly and his offense. He can’t make a silk purse out of sow’s ear. Kelly didn’t turn Kent Smith into an air ace. The QB that followed Curt Anes at GVSU was no great shakes either. If there is offensive talent in South Bend behind Clausen and Tate he’ll use it. But I can flat out guarantee you’ll see a better ND defense in 2010. Especially the linebackers.

    And if he decides to give Chuck Martin another chance to join him as a DC the stop unit transformation will happen all the faster.

    For a preview of the 2010 ND defense go back and look at the improvement in run D at CMU under Kelly.

    As a GVSU fan I kinda hope Martin stays. He and Kelly have put together a helluva legacy there. If Akron were smart they’d be calling Martin. If Butch Jones decides to jump Mt Pleasant should go back to the Lakers.

    I’ve never liked ND – I’m a Michigan slappy. But I’ve been following Kelly’s work for about 8 years now. East Lansing and Ann Arbor are going to pay for their arrogance.

  • Drewdone

    If you look at the rankings from the three primary services, Weis didn’t do a bad job recruiting–despite a few gaps in certain classes along the lines. Still, overall the quality of the talent at ND right now is vastly better than anything Kelly has worked with hereto.

    It will be interesting and exciting to watch a team that already has a lot of raw talent coached so that scheme follows fundamentals.

    ND has been woefully coached on the defensive side of the ball, but the athletes are largely there–especially in the secondary and the LB core.

    I think this bodes well for ND.

  • Steve

    While they caught lightning in a bottle with LeFevour, CMU was already well on the way to being straightened out when he came in as a freshman injury replacement.

    As an NIU guy, I really don’t really don’t want to see Chuck Martin to be the next guy at CMU assuming Jones jumps.

  • Chicago

    Let me start off by saying that I am not an ND fan in the normal sense; I agree with NJBammer that as a college football fan, college football is more interesting on the bias when ND is relevant.

    I don’t think anyone criticizes Kelly for taking the job, per se. As someone who witnessed Gary Barnett’s annual flirtations (including Texas, ND, Georgia, Colorado, and UCLA, the latter while Northwestern was in LA preparing for the Rose Bowl) in the mid-90s first-hand, I submit this column that includes comments from Barnett as a summary of the coach’s viewpoint:,0,879702.column

    My thoughts:

    1) The criticism leveled at Kelly comes from not being upfront and honest with your players about your interest in a particular opportunity and intentions (which are different things that appear to be the crux of the issues that the Cincy players have with Kelly), and with the administration at Cincy about meetings with ND or their representatives (which based on the admissions of several parties that Kelly met with representatives of ND during the week of the Pitt game, perhaps the most important week in Cincy football history, without the knowledge of the cincy administration). (Also note that Cincy basically sleepwalked through the first half of the Pitt game; makes you wonder if they were properly motivated and prepared.)

    You can draw whatever parallels you like to the real world, where people change jobs without telling their bosses or their co-workers or reports, but the fact remains that players do not have the same rights of free movement as coaches — witness the objections that many coaches have to players being able to graduate from undergrad and move to another school for graduate school and still play without sitting out a la Greg Paulus. Contrary to what the NCAA believes, players choose where they play ball based on the coach as much or more than they do on the “school.” If, as an undergrad, my major program is cut or dropped, i can transfer with no penalty; if my favorite professor changes schools, I can follow. Players cannot do that; I am not saying that is wrong because the alternative is more damning.

    What i am saying is that football coaches preach to their teams about family, sacrifice, togetherness, “buying in,” putting the success of the team before yourself, and not quitting; part of the criticism of Weis and attractiveness of Kelly is supposedly motivational skills. When you are 18-23 years old and someone comes into your home and sells you on them and their vision for success and how you as a player and young man can help make that happen for mutual benefit, and then the program achieves what you collectively set out to do and the coach (and most of the staff) bolts for the door, the psychological impact and feeling of abandonment is tremendous.

    The column suggests that coaches are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. I disagree. Holtz — who I can take or leave — had the foresight to include the stipulation of taking the ND job in his Minnesota contract. It was out there for anyone to see; that is the type of “honesty” that i think players can handle. To the best of my knowledge, Barnett did not do that with the Colorado job while at NU. Instead, he espoused that he was “doing what is best for his family,”

    2) Schemes are only as good as the players who play in them, and part of what Kelly has done everywhere he has been is fit his schemes to the personnel on hand and that he can recruit. Just because he may be on a bigger stage than Cincy does not mean that the same schemes will work; sometimes, being able to recruit “higher caliber” players means it is harder to mold them to your scheme or to adjust your scheme to them. The temptation to abandon “dancing with who brung you” is great, and a potential pitfall …

    3) When Weis arrived at ND and won right away his first two years, little if any credit went to Willingham for bringing in Brady Quinn, et al. for Weis to work with, even though the ability to recruit was one of the criticisms of Willingham. 2 points:

    – I think it bears mentioning that Mark Dantonio (now at Michigan State) had something to do with building a foundation at Cincy for Kelly, who has only been at Cincy for three seasons. Do i think Kelly has been instrumental in the last 2 years of success, yes; but it also bears pointing out that the upperclassmen at Cincy — including Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard, to name two — are not players he brought in.

    – Cincy’s defense was 31st in total defense in 2006, Dantonio’s last year. Since Kelly arrived to replace him, Cincy has been outside the top 50 defenses in FBS in 2007 and 2009, and was 31st in 2008. When you consider that in back-to-back weeks UCONN played both Cincy and ND on the road, losing to Cincy by 2 and beating ND in OT by 3, while scoring more points (45 to 33) and racking up more yards (462 to 372) against Cincy. Am I suggesting that Cincy’s defense has gotten worse? I guess I am saying it hasn’t gotten any better and Kelly has had a chance to recruit players on that side of the ball, which will be his charge at ND.

    Like I wrote earlier, college football is more interesting when ND is relevant, but I am taking a wait and see attitude. Let’s hope for all of our sake that we are not having this discussion in another five years about who is replacing Kelly.

  • Dave

    Oh, I just noticed the bit about LeFevour. Yeah, Kelly was a bit lucky there. Everybody forgets that Brian Brunner started that national TV game against Boston College back in 2006. Brunner went down with an injury on CMU’s first series and LeFevour came in. By the third quarter he had the job permanently. Brunner was more a “conventional” spread QB and a year older than Danny. If Brunner doesn’t get hurt we wouldn’t be here today. But Kelly would still be a winner and would have moved on from Mt Pleasant by this point.

    But “Dantonio greased the wheels”? That is a bit much. You really think Cinci would be in the same place today if Dantonio had stayed? One of Kelly’s underappreciated skills is talent evaluation. A short time after arriving in Cinci he knew more about Dantonio’s kids than Dantonio ever did. That was the first step in making those kids a lot better than they were ever going to be under Dantonio.

    I’m not saying Dantonio’s work with the Bearcats was like DeBord’s with the Chips(Fire Up!). But Kelly did the same thing in Cincy he did at CMU. He quickly came to a superior understanding of what he could keep and what needed replacement as soon as possible. And everyone developed closer to their fullest potential. Go ask guys like Bazuin, Mormino, Staley and others from CMU what Kelly did for their NFL prospects.

  • Dave

    As you can gather from my previous posts, I’m a Kelly slappy. But “Chicago” makes some good points. Kelly did not cover himself in glory leaving either CMU or Cinci. In his defense though he languished with the Lakers for a looooong time. He really began to wonder whether he would ever get a shot at a Div I program. Since CMU hired him he has been pretty aggressive about wanting to move up the ranks. He feels he is making up for lost time.

    And “Chicago” is right about Kelly vis-a-vis the offensive “system”. Kelly is first and foremost a practical guy. The attack in Mt Pleasant under Kent Smith didn’t look at all the way it did under LeFevour.

  • Socrates

    Thanks for the thoughtful analysis as I, and presumably many others, have been looking forward to your thoughts on the matter.

  • DT42

    Chris, i think your observation about who will be the next DC is right on target. Who do you think are the front runners. And if you were putting a team together what style of Defense do you think compliments a spread offense best.


    All these positives about Kelly are almost verbatim about what was said about Rich Rod when Michigan hired him. Proven winner, fits players to system, etc. As a Michigan fan I still think Rich Rod will succeed in Ann Arbor, but so much depends on not just how much talent is stocked but how well developed it has been. It seems that Weis was doing a poor job of developing the talent and now there is no QB with any experience to boot. It will be at least few years until Kelly can get his program running the way he and the ND fans want it to run. I just wonder if the ND community can wait that long.

  • Chicago

    @Dave: In no way am I suggesting Dantonio is responsible for what Kelly has accomplished the last 3 years, nor that Cincy would be in the same spot it is now if he had stayed. Successful college football programs build upon the past; in Dantonio’s case, I surmise that some of his work in righting the ship behind the scenes didn’t bear fruit until after he left. Again, that should not be interpreted that Kelly was merely in the right place at the right time, but that overhauling history and building something sustainable takes more than 3 years. If nothing else, Dantonio’s on-field struggles with consistency and discipline at MSU are merely repetitive of the last 40 years in East Lansing, so understand that i am not canonizing him just yet.

    Lastly, I agree that talent evaluation is the single most underappreciated skill in college football, since “star ratings” have as much to do with who is recruiting the player as the player’s skills themselves. Kelly’s track record of success at GVSU, CMU and at Cincy make that undeniable, and it is the single most important skill when taking over a program from another coach. What will be the most interesting sideshow of his new assignment is the perception that Kelly is an “offensive genius” parachuting into a program where the perceived deficiency is on the other side of the ball; the progress of the defense in SB — which many believe is a year or so away talent-wise — will be the immediate litmus test of his administration.

  • NJBammer

    “All these positives about Kelly are almost verbatim about what was said about Rich Rod when Michigan hired him” – KBLOW

    That’s certainly true. I’m as shocked as anyone RichRod hasn’t succceded yet. I still think he can, but I’m shocked he hasn’t yet. In college it is easier to turn things around in a hurry than the pros, because everyone turns their entire roster over every 2-3 years. If RichRod doesn’t do it next year, it may be time to move on.

  • Mike

    Agree with KBLOW – I suppose if I were a ND fan a couple of years back, I would have been concerned about the RichRod hire. . . ok, maybe ND fans should have been concerned given that they’ve gone 1-1 against a couple of the most inept teams the Wolverines have fielded in decades.

    BUT if I were a OSU fan, let’s say, I would have been worried about the new RrichRod Wolverines rolling over the Buckeyes. Today, I hear OSU fans worry that UM can’t put together a decent team again and that the rivalry will lose its potency.

    My point here is this: there are lots of reasons to think that Kelly’s a good hire; there are some reasons to think that he might not work out (whether those are reflective of Kelly’s ability or of the constraints at ND). Time will tell.

    One thing you can say about Kelly is that he knows how to parlay his jobs effectively. Win or lose at ND, he won’t have to work again in his life after this stint.

  • Chicago

    I’ll fall on the hand grenade and ask the following question: when people talk about “constraints” at ND, do we think that they are only referring to the quote-unquote academic side of the university and its impact on elite african-american players? I think that is the popular if unspoken opinion, but relaxing acceptance standards isn’t the most important issue, imo.

    Ignoring the fact that acceptance standards can be whatever you want them to be because once you are in, you are graded against other students, I think the real recruiting constraints at ND in attracting top african-american talent — if that is what the euphemistic language is referring to — is two-fold, one external and one internal, and I question whether either can be handled in the short or intermediate term.

    First, the migration of U.S. population and industry away from the Midwest in the last 25 years is astounding to say the least. I also don’t think ND boosters, Kelly and the administration can change that factor. Kids develop an affinity for the schools they grow up on and generally desire to play where parents can see them play; if you live in the Southeast, Texas, and California, ND (and the Big Ten, for that matter) is not top of mind like SEC schools, Texas and USC are … like many others, I view the NBC contract as ND’s ante to compete with the SEC and Big Ten for exposure.

    Second — and here is where i tread cautiously — I wonder what the social infrastructure for african-american athletes is at ND. As an example, most schools with traditional Greek systems also have traditional “black” fraternities, like Alpha Phi Alpha and Omega Psi Phi to name two. Based on conversations with numerous ND alums present and past, including athletes, to the best of their knowledge these organizations do not exist at ND (neither does a traditional Greek system for that matter). Where i went to school, this was an important social outlet for many african-american athletes (I lived with several african-american football players.) I am not suggesting that a Greek system is the answer to ND’s talent issues, more that the psychosocial development of young men and women in the 17-24 year old age range is often about finding people “like you,” and if a recruit is on campus and doesn’t see the path to socialize with others “like him,” that must be overcome in other ways.

    Knowing many ND alums, black and white, it is the shared experiences and culture at ND — living on-campus all four years in many cases, the quad and dorm social infrastructure, to name two — that are the generally the same whether you went to ND in the 60s or 00s and that helps bind the alumni together and to the school as fervently as they are. But is that experience a hindrance more than a help these days?

    I will stop rambling here. My own assessment is that winning will cure everything.

  • Dave

    What gets me as a Michigander is why, why didn’t Kelly ever get even a sniff from East Lansing or Ann Arbor? I understand if you give the guy a once over and go elsewhere. Everything I’ve read suggests that not only was Kelly never considered, but that Kelly was disliked in both places. Strongly.

  • Mike

    Chicago, I’ll try to answer that as best I can. First, in regards to the talent levels, I’m very surprised that this contention is still coming up. Charlie Weis wasn’t a very good college HC, but one think he did prove was that good recruits will come to Notre Dame. Since his arrival, Notre Dame has consistently ranked in the top 10 in recruiting rankings. I know some people don’t put much stock in recruiting rankings, but I would point them here:,137146. Unfortunately, I can’t find Doc’s old link where he showed that the odds of success as defined by being drafted into the NFL improved dramatically as star rankings went up. In addition, the other frequent contention is that star rankings are inflated just because Notre Dame is chasing them – I find this rather ridiculous. Look at the offer sheets for these guys. They are getting scholarship offers from a number of other big name schools.

    Anyways, Weis proved that top flight talent will come to Notre Dame. Yeah, he swung and missed on a few top defensive recruits, but that doesn’t change the facts that he brought in a lot of talent. Second, in regards to the question of support for black players on the team, I can’t speak from personal experience, but given the success and continuing attachment to the school that is demonstrated by numerous former black players and the high graduation rate for black football players, which I believe is somewhere in the mid-80s, percentage wise, I think that the concern is somewhat overblown.

    And I’m sorry, but I can’t let the Brady Quinn/Willingham thing go. Look up the facts on Quinn’s recruitment. He was a lifelong ND fan, highly ranked, and living practically next door to the school. Even with all that, he didn’t get offered by Willingham. He didn’t get an offer until Chinedum Ndukwe’s father dragged Quinn along on a recruiting visit and sold Willingham on him. (Nedu was Quinn’s best friend and #1 WR in HS, and had been offered by ND.) And the rest of the talent around him was pitiful. Willingham averaged recruiting rankings in the 30s.

  • Chicago

    @Mike, I will point out to you that the latter years of Holtz’s regime were also marked with top-ranked classes, yet Holtz himself ascribes the decline in the 90s to a decline in the talent level (look up his post-game comments after losing in 1995 to a Northwestern team that turned out to be pretty good, finishing 10-2 and BigTen champs with nary a top-ranked recruit on its roster). Rankings mean squat if they do not translate to results on the field; that is the premise of your point that Weis wasn’t a good college HC. Kelly seems to be successful without having highly ranked classes, so I guess your transitive argument is that better ranked classes he is sure to attract at ND ensures he will have great results? The very data that you point to is indicative of the opposite for ND.

    As for the # of stars being predictive of NFL success, I have seen the data and judge it to be correlative, not predictive. The NFL also has legions of scouts whose job it is to seek out and evaluate talent, which they find at all levels of football. (Was Jerry Rice a 5-star recruit to Miss Valley State?) There are plenty of guys who are off the radar out of high school that the NFL finds out of college … moreover, there are also countless stories of NFL scouts coveting a guy who couldn’t play at the next level (Vernon Gholston, anyone?) whose combine scores and physical attributes do not predict the ability to play pro football.

    Also, I am not questioning support for the black athletes who are at or come to ND; as I said, i have great admiration for the love and devotion that ND alums have for their school. Moreover, graduation rates for athletes is not a marker of anything; when scholarships are tied to graduation rates, schools do more to ensure graduation of athletes than the student body at large; statistics will bear out that most students who do not graduate from college in 4-5 years do so because of financial reasons, not academic reasons. For an athlete on scholarship, this is obviously not a concern. (Before you jump on that, I am not suggesting ND does anything untoward or unscrupulous. Only that the support system for athletes at ND is strong, as my friends who played sports — including football and basketball — there can attest.)

    What I am suggesting that the ND culture is not for everyone, as great as it is for those who go there and embrace it. The school I went to does not have an identity like there is at ND, much to its displeasure. Some people want to go to school in the big city, some want small schools in Iowa. Some black players from the South, Texas or West Coast, if that is the description that describes the kind of player that ND is supposedly missing, may not want to go to a school in the middle of Indiana where they see few other students like them, just the same as some non-Mormons may not find going to school in Provo, UT and signing the code of conduct at BYU attractive either. The point is that the culture is different at ND than it is other places; for better or worse, that is not something that will change and it *may* have some impact on recruiting.

    Last, I grew up in Ohio, where Quinn is from (Dublin Coffman HS, Dublin, OH), which by looking at the map is not practically next door to ND but to OSU. One of my closest friends played football with Brady and Ndukwe at Coffman (and played in D1 himself), and tells the story that everyone knew that Quinn wanted ND and that Willingham wasn’t sold and needed to be convinced. Fact is, Willingham was persuaded and Quinn eventually went to ND. That happens all the time in recruiting; how many stories do you hear about assistant coaches pounding the table for a guy the head coach doesn’t want? How many guys have been all-americans at Nebraska who started out as walk-ons? Is Tressel less of a coach and recruiter because Troy Smith was the last guy offered in his class, that people questioned whether or not he could play QB, that there was a more highly ranked QB in the class, that Smith was only offered to secure Ted Ginn Jr.? The guy won the Heisman. And as for the “pathetic” talent around Quinn, they made 2 BCS games in Weis’ first couple years at ND — which you don’t do with a bunch of walk-ons — and many said the difference in results was based on his ability to develop what little talent Willingham left behind; now, Weis is fired because he can recruit but cannot develop talent?

    For 5 years, Willingham’s recruiting was the scapegoat for anything that was wrong at ND, until that could no longer be relied upon. Now, Weis will get the same treatment for his inability to develop talent or have a defense.

    I think you are missing my overall point that Kelly seems a good fit for ND, and his track record seems to indicate success. But there may be other institutional factors and the element of luck that IS involved in recruiting that are out of his control, and that given the expectations, these should also be considered if Kelly and ND don’t stack up to the “miracle” expectations in 2010.

  • James

    Charlie Weis’s biggest issue is that he had no skill for talent evaluation. He would literally follow schools like Ohio State, Alabama, and Florida and offer whoever they were offering. So he never targeted kids that fit his system or the culture at Notre Dame. Brian Kelly is not a follower in recruiting. If he does not like a player that the other big schools have offered, he will not chase them because of pride. He will do his thing, whether that works will be seen in time.

  • OldSouth

    Has Kelly ever beaten a team that finished in the top 20? I thought I heard something to that effect on TV prior to the Pitt game but I’m not sure of what I heard.

    As far as the the things being said about Kelly matching those that were said about Rich Rod…aren’t those said any time a college head coach is hired at another college job? I don’t see those words as reflecting anything, good or bad. You might also mention that people said the same things about Urban Meyer on the one hand. And Dan Hawkins on the other. Or, you could switch over and find a successful coach plucked from the 1-AA Pioneer League in Jim Harbaugh.

    Point is, I think we make much to big a deal about the backgrounds of coaches in attempting to predict how they’ll fare. Some NFL guys succeed. Some don’t. Some promoted coordinators succeed. Some don’t. Some coaches at smaller succeed. Some don’t. And so on down the line.

  • John


    I think a major difference between Rodriguez and what we have seen of Kelly so far is that Kelly molds his system to fit his talent better than Rodriguez.

    Rodriguez came into Michigan and from all reports didn’t exactly go the extra mile to try to keep Ryan Mallett. From Mallet’s perspective its a pretty easy decision when choosing between Bobby Petrino’s offense and Rodriguez’s offense when you have his NFL potential, but in letting Mallett walk, Rodriguez gave himself some pretty terrible options in an inexperienced ill-equiped Steven Threet and a walk on.

    Rodriguez also seemed to really struggle whenever Pat White was injured. That’s a major challenge for any team when they lose their best player, but Rodriguez in many cases still had superior athletes to the teams he would lose to. Kelly has been just the opposite. It’s well documented that he has been able to win with a one-time 4th string QB and this year going 4-0 with Zach Collaros at the helm. Collaros is especially interesting given the differences between him and Pike, Kelly was able to take advantage of Collaros’ specific strengths in his offense.

    I think this will serve Kelly well at Notre Dame and I’m really excited as an ND alum to see how he will build his offense around some really talented skill position players like Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph, and Armando Allen.

  • David Knox

    Of course, all that overlooks that Kelly is an asshole. It will catch up to him.

  • Jared

    James, Sorry but have to respond to that… maybe your comment was sarcastic? I’d find it hard to believe that someone would literally be that far off from any discernible fact. There are plenty of cases in this past class alone of Weis going after someone who didn’t even show up on any recruiting radar (Prince Shembo, Cody Riggs – off the top of my head ). Not to mention there are literally no facts to bear out your point that he followed other programs around. How many recruits did ND offer that ‘Bama had also offered? I don’t think that because he went after recruits in some of the more ‘talent-rich’ states, it makes him a follower. Not to mention in all of this, he couldn’t even feasibly follow your theory since those other programs don’t have the… academic restrictions that he had to work with. Maybe you should look into what you are saying next time you add something to the discussion.

    As for Weis v Kelly in terms of recruiting, I have to believe that Kelly will pick up where Weis left off, if not better. People seem to forget that gathering football talent at Notre Dame has only recently seemed to be such a struggle (ie, Willingham). There are plenty of kids who want to go there for football, but not for a struggling program. If Kelly can do well with Weis’ recruits the first year or two, then he will be set.

  • AERose

    “- Cincy’s defense was 31st in total defense in 2006, Dantonio’s last year. Since Kelly arrived to replace him, Cincy has been outside the top 50 defenses in FBS in 2007 and 2009, and was 31st in 2008.”

    Cincy’s defense was outside the top 50 in a year where they were replacing 10 starters and breaking in a new 3-4 scheme. Quelle surprise.

  • James

    Jared, Cody Riggs and Shembo were very well known in recruiting circles.

    And Riggs especially, since he plays at STA. Just because internet recruiting fans don’t believe someone is “well-known,” doesn’t mean they aren’t.

    Weis was a follower in recruiting and that is known to anyone familiar with his practices. He did not invest time in learning about the people he was recruiting; he merely gave them his pitch on playing time and such.

    Kelly is much better at recruiting than Weis. He understands that recruiting is about relationships, not who has the shiniest rings.

    I can still remember that silly Weis comment about his Super Bowl ring being worth more than anything ever won on a college football field.

  • Topher


    Do you have any research on whether any other Heisman winners:

    -failed to break 100 yards in five games
    -scored 40% fewer touchdowns than the national leader
    -were benched in a rivalry game
    -were outrushed by a backup in three games
    -played a I-AA opponent in late November
    -or had fifty FEWER yards per game than the combined stats of the last 17 (!) running backs to win the award?

  • OldSouth


    Making a long rhetorical point when you could just type it out declaratively makes you look like a douche.

  • Topher

    OldSouth – Sorry to ruffle your feathers, but Chris is one of the best football researchers I’ve read, so I wanted to ask him pointedly if he had looked at things through those particular angles.

    It’s not a rhetorical point – it’s a question. Ingram’s Heisman award appears to be statistically anomalous.

  • OldSouth

    My apologies then, Topher. I thought you were trying to trying to make a thinly-veiled gripe. Most people who post in that manner are trying to make such a point. But I can see that I was wrong in reading your reasoning for it. Sorry.

  • Blitz Package

    •In terms of recruiting, Kelly has done an excellent job getting talent into Cincy, and will continue to recruit many of the same areas.

    The Cincy kids he had with the braids and the shades will never get into Notre Dame. And Cincy has always been a good recruiting hub for Notre Dame even before Kelly.

    This guy has the schemes what he needs to bring is an attitude of being mean and tough.

  • 4.0 Point Stance

    Sacre Bleu! Les Francais sont arrives!

  • InterestedObserver

    I’m not sure if the “Dave” whose posts appear is one guy or two, but here’s a clarification of a couple of whopper misconceptions he/they have put forth:

    The quarterback at Grand Valley after Curt Anes was Cullen Finnerty, whom you describe as “no great shakes.”

    Are you kidding? Finnerty led Grand Valley to THREE national championships (including one as a freshman) and four playoff appearances. As a senior he narrowly missed out on winning the D-II equivalent of the Heisman in an epic upset. Additionally, he won more games as a starting quarterback than anyone in college football history…by a mile. By any and ALL accounts he was one great player, who played briefly in the NFL.

    As for Kelly and Michigan and Michigan State, why hold something against him for what THEY didn’t do? And while Michigan might not have considered Kelly seriously, Michigan State certainly did. Kelly was the choice of university president Lou Anna Simon, who got talked out of it by an athletic department faction led by Tom Izzo. The in-house people wanted D’Antonio because he had been on the football staff during Nick Saban’s days. Nothing wrong with that, but in the years since then D’Antonio’s team have made it into zero BCS games, while Kelly’s team have gotten into two.

  • footballlb51

    I don’t think Brian Kelly will do much better than Charlie Weis at Notre Dame. I also don’t like that he is supposedly pro-choice (if that is true). People keep saying it’s ridiculous that that would even be an issue when hiring a coach and that’s it’s innapropriate to ask that but I disagree. It is very important since Notre Dame is a CATHOLIC school. From ND’s official website: “We have a much more challenging mission than most universities. Most universities strive simply to be excellent educational institutions by the accepted standards of the profession. We do this at Notre Dame, and we have had great success. But we also foster and celebrate a distinctive mission to be a Catholic university, inspired and guided by a great spiritual tradition.” -Reverend John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., President
    It is clearly very important that the candidate is pro-life, because as a Catholic myself, the school should represent Catholic values, if that is in fact their mission at a SCHOOL. Athletics should complement the institution’s mission statement.

  • Jno

    4.0 Point Stance says:
    December 15, 2009 at 2:17 pm
    Sacre Bleu! Les Francais sont arrives!

    don’t forget
    Notre Dame a étè fondée par des moines français!!!
    Let’s go notre dame

  • CoachK15

    For the most part I agree that Kelly had to take the job & Notre Dame had to offer him the job because nobody else wanted it. But the real question here is the BCS. All indicators are that Kelly would’ve stayed if a National Title was in offing, but because of the BCS format a Big East school as no shot in trumping Big 12, 10, SEC, or Pac-10 schools for the title game. I often wonder if the Big East even deserves BCS status…I really believe that the Mountain West is a tougher conference (see 2009 bowl season) and more deserving. Until the BCS system accounts for the inequity of tradition/perception then it will be fundamentally flawed in naming a legit national champion.

  • Thank you for that smart critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do some analysis about this. We received a grab a book from our regional library but I believe I learned more from this post. I’m very glad to see this kind of wonderful details being shared freely available.