Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

Tim Prister’s Point After

After declaring he “absolutely” wants to continue running the ND football program, speculation continued until a late-night Kelly statement reiterated his commitment.


LOS ANGELES – Brian Kelly looked right into the eyes of the reporter and said it with conviction.

“Oh, yeah, absolutely, I’ll be back.”

With those six little words, Kelly broke the hearts of crestfallen Notre Dame fans everywhere who were hoping that after a 4-8 season – following the season-ending 45-27 loss to USC Saturday afternoon – that the Irish head coach would call it quits after seven seasons.

Kelly’s words were still echoing through the tunnel in the L.A. Coliseum before national reports indicated that he had put out feelers through his handlers that he would be interested in taking a peek at a few other opportunities.

There aren’t many out there, unless the view of West Lafayette, Ind., is a lot more appealing than it was when Kelly used to take his teams to rural Indiana to take on the Boilermakers every other year.

The Oregon job, which certainly could open up if the Ducks believe the Mark Helfrich experience has run its course, would be a good fit structurally, but that’s a whole different world in the Pacific Northwest. Besides, would Oregon want to turn to a 4-8 coach?

“I don’t believe I’m coming back early because I’m getting fired,” said Kelly, a comment that drew a quiet chuckle from his boss, Jack Swarbrick, who was one of a small group piled into a makeshift tent just off the back end of the Coliseum tunnel.

“Jack and I always meet at the end of the year. Obviously, we don’t have bowl practice, so I’m going to use next Wednesday-Thursday-Friday to do exit interviews so I can get some feedback from our players in terms of some of the things we need to adjust within our program.”

Pressed one more time as to whether he wanted to be the head coach at Notre Dame next year, Kelly responded: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

And the cock crowed for the second time…

Late Saturday night, Kelly released another statement, likely putting an end to the rampant speculation.

“I felt that I was clear with the media following yesterday’s game at USC when I was asked about my desire to be back as the head football coach at Notre Dame, but in light of media reports that surfaced afterward, let me restate my position. I have not been, am not, and will not be interested in options outside of Notre Dame. I’m fully committed to leading this program in the future.”

THE MAKEOVER

Notre Dame football, much like one of our country’s major political parties, has the look of a system in re-boot mode, a need for a makeover, a reinvention of itself and its leadership, a shakeup within.

Not a change for the sake of change, but change for the sake of progress. Notre Dame made none in 2016.

It’s been a star-crossed seven years for Brian Kelly, from the tragedy on the practice field in his first year through last week’s news of probation.

On the field, the Irish have lost half of their last 30 games. They’ve lost close games to great teams, close games to good teams, and close games to average teams. They’ve lost 11 of their last 15 true road games. They play like an undisciplined football program.

If Kelly stays – the late-night statement certainly appears to make that a virtual reality – that makeover starts with him and then trickles down to his coaching staff.

How about picking a defensive coordinator and letting him choose his entire staff? That would require some significant movement on the defensive side of the ball, but it might be the breath of fresh air the defense needs.

Yes, the interim staff did a great job, but the time for a stop-gap measure is over. Mike Elston, who has done well as the recruiting coordinator and certainly gave the defense a fighting chance as Brian VanGorder’s de facto replacement, needs to remain on the staff in some capacity.

Breathe completely new life onto the defensive side of the ball where it suffocated for 30 games.

The defense needs to be a 3-4 base. Notre Dame can’t recruit enough quality four-down defensive ends. Next year’s team will have answers at most positions, but not in a four-man front, at least not enough.

Wake Forest’s Mike Elko is a great choice. Let him surround himself with the people who have helped make the Demon Deacons’ defense one of the most achieving groups in college football. If not Elko, pick someone else and let him bring his people with him.

But it won’t matter what the Irish do on one side of the ball if the makeover doesn’t encompass the other. If Kelly can’t embrace the basic concept of tough, hard-nosed, physical football, he’s never going to win big. He just isn’t. Nobody does.

Hand the reins of the offense over to Mike Sanford. It’s now or never, otherwise he may get out of Dodge, which would be a terrible waste without ever really tapping into his talent.

Sanford believes in the running game. The Irish have an offensive line coach who, if given the chance, could develop a rough, physical unit. Adapt the strength and conditioning approach accordingly. Paul Longo doesn’t need to be fired, but his approach – dictated by Kelly – does. How can Kelly afford not to make a greater commitment to physical football?

Don’t abandon the spread, but modify it. Quarterbacks need to take snaps under center as well as from the shotgun. Develop some powerful run blockers at the tight end position if you don’t want to recruit true fullbacks. Develop physical tendencies, and then let Sanford create his own identity as a play-caller.

Special teams obviously have to be a priority, and if you want to keep Elston as recruiting coordinator, move him to tight ends coach. Either someone on the staff has to take over special teams, or someone has to go from the offense to make room. Maybe that becomes the priority of Swiss Army knife Mike Denbrock.

Will this solve the issues? Not if Kelly doesn’t become a better game-day decision maker, although many of those issues would be rectified via different points of emphasis with the offense.

FACE OF THE PROGRAM

Notre Dame hung Kelly out to dry. Whatever the reason Rev. John Jenkins was not there Tuesday as Jack Swarbrick was occupied in Dallas, it was bad form when Kelly was left to feebly explain Notre Dame’s position on the NCAA’s findings.

The Tuesday press conference should have been postponed. Kelly needed Swarbrick to get back to Notre Dame and provide a united front. Kelly had to be the face of the football program/athletic department. Instead, it was a skittish, rattled Kelly and it was bad form.

There were flames with that smoke of Kelly’s lean toward exploring other opportunities because when a 10-victory program falls to 4-8, neither side is very happy.

We have every reason to believe that Kelly had his representatives looking for alternatives to returning to Notre Dame for the 2017 season. It’s rare that such a switch takes place in college football, but this was a rare situation.

Kelly has proven he’s not a great coach, but he’s capable of creating a periodic great season. Given the right set of circumstances, the 2017 season could be just such a year, provided the Irish can come up with some real solutions along the defensive line.

It makes little sense for Kelly to leave of his own volition now. To leave Notre Dame with so much time and effort put into the formation of the 2016 team would be a waste of “sweat equity.”

You just went through every growing pain imaginable with this team. Now it’s coming back virtually intact. You have the exciting prospect of a new and dynamic quarterback. You could evolve offensively with a young, bright, exciting coordinator. You get a clean slate on the defensive side of the football. You wipe the slate clean as well on special teams and start a “new tradition.”

Notre Dame could fire Kelly, but would the program really be better off next year with a new coach? There’s certainly an argument to be made there, particularly long-term. If a new coach inspired a more disciplined football team than the one that was all over the board in 2016, a move now would accelerate the healing process.

But who is that coach to turn things around? Would change be better, or simply change for the sake of change? If Kelly is the wrong man, he can be the wrong man for one more year as opposed to hiring someone now that turns into a three-to-five year mistake. Maybe a successor is more clear after 2017 than it is right now.

Mike MacIntyre likely would still be available in Colorado next year. Matt Rhule at Temple might not, but where will he land between now and then?

David Cutcliffe (great coach, time probably has passed), Dan Mullen (Notre Dame ties), Pat Narduzzi (defensive oriented, crazy sideline demeanor), P.J. Fleck (star on the rise or flavor of the month?), Pat Fitzgerald (does he really hate Notre Dame?) and others likely will be there next year if Kelly falters again. Other names will materialize as they do every year.

Maybe a successor will be clearer next year; maybe one won’t be needed.

That arm that Swarbrick had around Kelly after the game may be indicative of a long-lasting relationship, or one that has reached a point where the next misstep is the end. It’s probably more the latter than the former, but pulling together and closing ranks appears to be the choice for now.

These are indeed uncertain times with Notre Dame football, particularly on the field where the players currently have no idea how to win. Kelly certainly didn’t look like the man to teach them this year. But he’ll have a much more veteran team in 2017, one that’s better prepared to play like the 2015 team than the 2016 team.

It’s time to let the actors play it out. The behind the scenes drama has, for the most part, run its course. Both sides seem to have settled into a continuation of the process.

The stage is set for the final act, and for better or for worse, Kelly’s name sits atop the program, at least for one more year.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories

\n

LOS ANGELES – Brian Kelly looked right into the eyes of the reporter and said it with conviction.

\n

“Oh, yeah, absolutely, I’ll be back.”

\n

With those six little words, Kelly broke the hearts of crestfallen Notre Dame fans everywhere who were hoping that after a 4-8 season – following the season-ending 45-27 loss to USC Saturday afternoon – that the Irish head coach would call it quits after seven seasons.

\n

Kelly’s words were still echoing through the tunnel in the L.A. Coliseum before national reports indicated that he had put out feelers through his handlers that he would be interested in taking a peek at a few other opportunities.

\n

There aren’t many out there, unless the view of West Lafayette, Ind., is a lot more appealing than it was when Kelly used to take his teams to rural Indiana to take on the Boilermakers every other year.

\n

The Oregon job, which certainly could open up if the Ducks believe the Mark Helfrich experience has run its course, would be a good fit structurally, but that’s a whole different world in the Pacific Northwest. Besides, would Oregon want to turn to a 4-8 coach?

\n

“I don’t believe I’m coming back early because I’m getting fired,” said Kelly, a comment that drew a quiet chuckle from his boss, Jack Swarbrick, who was one of a small group piled into a makeshift tent just off the back end of the Coliseum tunnel.

\n

“Jack and I always meet at the end of the year. Obviously, we don’t have bowl practice, so I’m going to use next Wednesday-Thursday-Friday to do exit interviews so I can get some feedback from our players in terms of some of the things we need to adjust within our program.”

\n

Pressed one more time as to whether he wanted to be the head coach at Notre Dame next year, Kelly responded: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

\n

And the cock crowed for the second time…

\n

Late Saturday night, Kelly released another statement, likely putting an end to the rampant speculation.

\n

“I felt that I was clear with the media following yesterday’s game at USC when I was asked about my desire to be back as the head football coach at Notre Dame, but in light of media reports that surfaced afterward, let me restate my position. I have not been, am not, and will not be interested in options outside of Notre Dame. I’m fully committed to leading this program in the future.”

\n

THE MAKEOVER

\n

Notre Dame football, much like one of our country’s major political parties, has the look of a system in re-boot mode, a need for a makeover, a reinvention of itself and its leadership, a shakeup within.

\n

Not a change for the sake of change, but change for the sake of progress. Notre Dame made none in 2016.

\n

It’s been a star-crossed seven years for Brian Kelly, from the tragedy on the practice field in his first year through last week’s news of probation.

\n

On the field, the Irish have lost half of their last 30 games. They’ve lost close games to great teams, close games to good teams, and close games to average teams. They’ve lost 11 of their last 15 true road games. They play like an undisciplined football program.

\n

If Kelly stays – the late-night statement certainly appears to make that a virtual reality – that makeover starts with him and then trickles down to his coaching staff.

\n

How about picking a defensive coordinator and letting him choose his entire staff? That would require some significant movement on the defensive side of the ball, but it might be the breath of fresh air the defense needs.

\n

Yes, the interim staff did a great job, but the time for a stop-gap measure is over. Mike Elston, who has done well as the recruiting coordinator and certainly gave the defense a fighting chance as Brian VanGorder’s de facto replacement, needs to remain on the staff in some capacity.

\n

Breathe completely new life onto the defensive side of the ball where it suffocated for 30 games.

\n

The defense needs to be a 3-4 base. Notre Dame can’t recruit enough quality four-down defensive ends. Next year’s team will have answers at most positions, but not in a four-man front, at least not enough.

\n

Wake Forest’s Mike Elko is a great choice. Let him surround himself with the people who have helped make the Demon Deacons’ defense one of the most achieving groups in college football. If not Elko, pick someone else and let him bring his people with him.

\n

But it won’t matter what the Irish do on one side of the ball if the makeover doesn’t encompass the other. If Kelly can’t embrace the basic concept of tough, hard-nosed, physical football, he’s never going to win big. He just isn’t. Nobody does.

\n

Hand the reins of the offense over to Mike Sanford. It’s now or never, otherwise he may get out of Dodge, which would be a terrible waste without ever really tapping into his talent.

\n

Sanford believes in the running game. The Irish have an offensive line coach who, if given the chance, could develop a rough, physical unit. Adapt the strength and conditioning approach accordingly. Paul Longo doesn’t need to be fired, but his approach – dictated by Kelly – does. How can Kelly afford not to make a greater commitment to physical football?

\n

Don’t abandon the spread, but modify it. Quarterbacks need to take snaps under center as well as from the shotgun. Develop some powerful run blockers at the tight end position if you don’t want to recruit true fullbacks. Develop physical tendencies, and then let Sanford create his own identity as a play-caller.

\n

Special teams obviously have to be a priority, and if you want to keep Elston as recruiting coordinator, move him to tight ends coach. Either someone on the staff has to take over special teams, or someone has to go from the offense to make room. Maybe that becomes the priority of Swiss Army knife Mike Denbrock.

\n

Will this solve the issues? Not if Kelly doesn’t become a better game-day decision maker, although many of those issues would be rectified via different points of emphasis with the offense.

\n

FACE OF THE PROGRAM

\n

Notre Dame hung Kelly out to dry. Whatever the reason Rev. John Jenkins was not there Tuesday as Jack Swarbrick was occupied in Dallas, it was bad form when Kelly was left to feebly explain Notre Dame’s position on the NCAA’s findings.

\n

The Tuesday press conference should have been postponed. Kelly needed Swarbrick to get back to Notre Dame and provide a united front. Kelly had to be the face of the football program/athletic department. Instead, it was a skittish, rattled Kelly and it was bad form.

\n

There were flames with that smoke of Kelly’s lean toward exploring other opportunities because when a 10-victory program falls to 4-8, neither side is very happy.

\n

We have every reason to believe that Kelly had his representatives looking for alternatives to returning to Notre Dame for the 2017 season. It’s rare that such a switch takes place in college football, but this was a rare situation.

\n

Kelly has proven he’s not a great coach, but he’s capable of creating a periodic great season. Given the right set of circumstances, the 2017 season could be just such a year, provided the Irish can come up with some real solutions along the defensive line.

\n

It makes little sense for Kelly to leave of his own volition now. To leave Notre Dame with so much time and effort put into the formation of the 2016 team would be a waste of “sweat equity.”

\n

You just went through every growing pain imaginable with this team. Now it’s coming back virtually intact. You have the exciting prospect of a new and dynamic quarterback. You could evolve offensively with a young, bright, exciting coordinator. You get a clean slate on the defensive side of the football. You wipe the slate clean as well on special teams and start a “new tradition.”

\n

Notre Dame could fire Kelly, but would the program really be better off next year with a new coach? There’s certainly an argument to be made there, particularly long-term. If a new coach inspired a more disciplined football team than the one that was all over the board in 2016, a move now would accelerate the healing process.

\n

But who is that coach to turn things around? Would change be better, or simply change for the sake of change? If Kelly is the wrong man, he can be the wrong man for one more year as opposed to hiring someone now that turns into a three-to-five year mistake. Maybe a successor is more clear after 2017 than it is right now.

\n

Mike MacIntyre likely would still be available in Colorado next year. Matt Rhule at Temple might not, but where will he land between now and then?

\n

David Cutcliffe (great coach, time probably has passed), Dan Mullen (Notre Dame ties), Pat Narduzzi (defensive oriented, crazy sideline demeanor), P.J. Fleck (star on the rise or flavor of the month?), Pat Fitzgerald (does he really hate Notre Dame?) and others likely will be there next year if Kelly falters again. Other names will materialize as they do every year.

\n

Maybe a successor will be clearer next year; maybe one won’t be needed.

\n

That arm that Swarbrick had around Kelly after the game may be indicative of a long-lasting relationship, or one that has reached a point where the next misstep is the end. It’s probably more the latter than the former, but pulling together and closing ranks appears to be the choice for now.

\n

These are indeed uncertain times with Notre Dame football, particularly on the field where the players currently have no idea how to win. Kelly certainly didn’t look like the man to teach them this year. But he’ll have a much more veteran team in 2017, one that’s better prepared to play like the 2015 team than the 2016 team.

\n

It’s time to let the actors play it out. The behind the scenes drama has, for the most part, run its course. Both sides seem to have settled into a continuation of the process.

\n

The stage is set for the final act, and for better or for worse, Kelly’s name sits atop the program, at least for one more year.

","mobileBody":"

LOS ANGELES – Brian Kelly looked right into the eyes of the reporter and said it with conviction.

“Oh, yeah, absolutely, I’ll be back.”

With those six little words, Kelly broke the hearts of crestfallen Notre Dame fans everywhere who were hoping that after a 4-8 season – following the season-ending 45-27 loss to USC Saturday afternoon – that the Irish head coach would call it quits after seven seasons.

Kelly’s words were still echoing through the tunnel in the L.A. Coliseum before national reports indicated that he had put out feelers through his handlers that he would be interested in taking a peek at a few other opportunities.

There aren’t many out there, unless the view of West Lafayette, Ind., is a lot more appealing than it was when Kelly used to take his teams to rural Indiana to take on the Boilermakers every other year.

The Oregon job, which certainly could open up if the Ducks believe the Mark Helfrich experience has run its course, would be a good fit structurally, but that’s a whole different world in the Pacific Northwest. Besides, would Oregon want to turn to a 4-8 coach?

“I don’t believe I’m coming back early because I’m getting fired,” said Kelly, a comment that drew a quiet chuckle from his boss, Jack Swarbrick, who was one of a small group piled into a makeshift tent just off the back end of the Coliseum tunnel.

“Jack and I always meet at the end of the year. Obviously, we don’t have bowl practice, so I’m going to use next Wednesday-Thursday-Friday to do exit interviews so I can get some feedback from our players in terms of some of the things we need to adjust within our program.”

Pressed one more time as to whether he wanted to be the head coach at Notre Dame next year, Kelly responded: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

And the cock crowed for the second time…

Late Saturday night, Kelly released another statement, likely putting an end to the rampant speculation.

“I felt that I was clear with the media following yesterday’s game at USC when I was asked about my desire to be back as the head football coach at Notre Dame, but in light of media reports that surfaced afterward, let me restate my position. I have not been, am not, and will not be interested in options outside of Notre Dame. I’m fully committed to leading this program in the future.”

THE MAKEOVER

Notre Dame football, much like one of our country’s major political parties, has the look of a system in re-boot mode, a need for a makeover, a reinvention of itself and its leadership, a shakeup within.

Not a change for the sake of change, but change for the sake of progress. Notre Dame made none in 2016.

It’s been a star-crossed seven years for Brian Kelly, from the tragedy on the practice field in his first year through last week’s news of probation.

On the field, the Irish have lost half of their last 30 games. They’ve lost close games to great teams, close games to good teams, and close games to average teams. They’ve lost 11 of their last 15 true road games. They play like an undisciplined football program.

If Kelly stays – the late-night statement certainly appears to make that a virtual reality – that makeover starts with him and then trickles down to his coaching staff.

How about picking a defensive coordinator and letting him choose his entire staff? That would require some significant movement on the defensive side of the ball, but it might be the breath of fresh air the defense needs.

Yes, the interim staff did a great job, but the time for a stop-gap measure is over. Mike Elston, who has done well as the recruiting coordinator and certainly gave the defense a fighting chance as Brian VanGorder’s de facto replacement, needs to remain on the staff in some capacity.

Breathe completely new life onto the defensive side of the ball where it suffocated for 30 games.

The defense needs to be a 3-4 base. Notre Dame can’t recruit enough quality four-down defensive ends. Next year’s team will have answers at most positions, but not in a four-man front, at least not enough.

Wake Forest’s Mike Elko is a great choice. Let him surround himself with the people who have helped make the Demon Deacons’ defense one of the most achieving groups in college football. If not Elko, pick someone else and let him bring his people with him.

But it won’t matter what the Irish do on one side of the ball if the makeover doesn’t encompass the other. If Kelly can’t embrace the basic concept of tough, hard-nosed, physical football, he’s never going to win big. He just isn’t. Nobody does.

Hand the reins of the offense over to Mike Sanford. It’s now or never, otherwise he may get out of Dodge, which would be a terrible waste without ever really tapping into his talent.

Sanford believes in the running game. The Irish have an offensive line coach who, if given the chance, could develop a rough, physical unit. Adapt the strength and conditioning approach accordingly. Paul Longo doesn’t need to be fired, but his approach – dictated by Kelly – does. How can Kelly afford not to make a greater commitment to physical football?

Don’t abandon the spread, but modify it. Quarterbacks need to take snaps under center as well as from the shotgun. Develop some powerful run blockers at the tight end position if you don’t want to recruit true fullbacks. Develop physical tendencies, and then let Sanford create his own identity as a play-caller.

Special teams obviously have to be a priority, and if you want to keep Elston as recruiting coordinator, move him to tight ends coach. Either someone on the staff has to take over special teams, or someone has to go from the offense to make room. Maybe that becomes the priority of Swiss Army knife Mike Denbrock.

Will this solve the issues? Not if Kelly doesn’t become a better game-day decision maker, although many of those issues would be rectified via different points of emphasis with the offense.

FACE OF THE PROGRAM

Notre Dame hung Kelly out to dry. Whatever the reason Rev. John Jenkins was not there Tuesday as Jack Swarbrick was occupied in Dallas, it was bad form when Kelly was left to feebly explain Notre Dame’s position on the NCAA’s findings.

The Tuesday press conference should have been postponed. Kelly needed Swarbrick to get back to Notre Dame and provide a united front. Kelly had to be the face of the football program/athletic department. Instead, it was a skittish, rattled Kelly and it was bad form.

There were flames with that smoke of Kelly’s lean toward exploring other opportunities because when a 10-victory program falls to 4-8, neither side is very happy.

We have every reason to believe that Kelly had his representatives looking for alternatives to returning to Notre Dame for the 2017 season. It’s rare that such a switch takes place in college football, but this was a rare situation.

Kelly has proven he’s not a great coach, but he’s capable of creating a periodic great season. Given the right set of circumstances, the 2017 season could be just such a year, provided the Irish can come up with some real solutions along the defensive line.

It makes little sense for Kelly to leave of his own volition now. To leave Notre Dame with so much time and effort put into the formation of the 2016 team would be a waste of “sweat equity.”

You just went through every growing pain imaginable with this team. Now it’s coming back virtually intact. You have the exciting prospect of a new and dynamic quarterback. You could evolve offensively with a young, bright, exciting coordinator. You get a clean slate on the defensive side of the football. You wipe the slate clean as well on special teams and start a “new tradition.”

Notre Dame could fire Kelly, but would the program really be better off next year with a new coach? There’s certainly an argument to be made there, particularly long-term. If a new coach inspired a more disciplined football team than the one that was all over the board in 2016, a move now would accelerate the healing process.

But who is that coach to turn things around? Would change be better, or simply change for the sake of change? If Kelly is the wrong man, he can be the wrong man for one more year as opposed to hiring someone now that turns into a three-to-five year mistake. Maybe a successor is more clear after 2017 than it is right now.

Mike MacIntyre likely would still be available in Colorado next year. Matt Rhule at Temple might not, but where will he land between now and then?

David Cutcliffe (great coach, time probably has passed), Dan Mullen (Notre Dame ties), Pat Narduzzi (defensive oriented, crazy sideline demeanor), P.J. Fleck (star on the rise or flavor of the month?), Pat Fitzgerald (does he really hate Notre Dame?) and others likely will be there next year if Kelly falters again. Other names will materialize as they do every year.

Maybe a successor will be clearer next year; maybe one won’t be needed.

That arm that Swarbrick had around Kelly after the game may be indicative of a long-lasting relationship, or one that has reached a point where the next misstep is the end. It’s probably more the latter than the former, but pulling together and closing ranks appears to be the choice for now.

These are indeed uncertain times with Notre Dame football, particularly on the field where the players currently have no idea how to win. Kelly certainly didn’t look like the man to teach them this year. But he’ll have a much more veteran team in 2017, one that’s better prepared to play like the 2015 team than the 2016 team.

It’s time to let the actors play it out. The behind the scenes drama has, for the most part, run its course. Both sides seem to have settled into a continuation of the process.

The stage is set for the final act, and for better or for worse, Kelly’s name sits atop the program, at least for one more year.

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