The reaction to comments made by Brian Kelly earlier this week about DeShone Kizer on Sirius XM NFL Radio is both understandable and misguided.
Kelly -- who allowed 4-8 to happen by failing to be vigilant over the strength and conditioning program, keeping a defensive coordinator who had lost the respect of his troops, and by creating a quarterback competition that wasn’t close – unknowingly launched a backlash within Notre Dame fandom.
Well, that’s not completely accurate. Kelly spoke and his detractors reacted.
His poor clock management, failures in road venues, a lack of statement victories and a propensity for five-loss seasons – on top of last year’s debacle -- make anything Kelly says a potential firestorm.
What Kelly said about Kizer isn’t controversial; it’s the truth, a truth that everybody in professional football knows. It wasn’t even bordering on harsh.
He said he should still be in college; the NFL agrees, which is why Kizer’s stock has dropped significantly and he’s the apparent third choice among quarterbacks.
Kelly said there’s still a lot of growth to take place in Kizer. Obviously.
He said he needs to keep working and he’s not a finished product. Obviously.
He said he needs a strong supporting cast if an organization wants to hand him the football from Day One. No doubt about it.
He said he needs time to grow in areas on and off the field.
Kelly probably could have left the “off the field” comment out of it because of the gray area it creates. But he was talking about a junior in college who ate himself to 250 pounds by the end of the 2016 season. A professional athlete, an NFL quarterback, can’t do that.
Kelly also used the following words/phrases to describe Kizer: traits of excellence…attention to detail…focus…smart…the ability to grind…a great attitude…the best skillset of quarterbacks coming out…a great young man…character…
Kelly’s comments about Kizer were overwhelmingly positive. The negative comments were far from overwhelmingly negative. They were reality.
Kelly said he tried to convince Kizer he needed more time on the collegiate level, which he is well within his rights to do. But once Kizer made up his mind to turn pro, he supported his “business decision that he felt was in his best interest, and I’m going to support him in his decisions.”
To summarize all that Kelly said as negative or controversial is selective hearing. To react to what Kelly said based upon a Sirius XM NFL Radio tweet is an abridged version of the truth.
To say that Kelly cost Kizer millions of dollars through his public statements is false. Kizer performed poorly at the Indianapolis Combine after failing to capitalize on opportunities in game-winning situations in ’16 with a young receiving corps (and perhaps some ill-fated play-calling in the red zone).
The honest, even-handed comments painted a realistic and accurate picture of Kizer. The reaction to those comments proves that a) Kelly has lost a significant part of the Notre Dame fans and b) truth in our society is dying an ugly death.
Is it better for Dabo Swinney to compare DeShaun Watson to Michael Jordan? Well, when you win a national title, you can say just about anything, even if the odds of the player living up to such praise are infinitesimal.
As it pertains to Kelly talking about Kizer, it is more impactful to make a bold statement in 140 characters or less than it is to accurately portray what was said/intended.
We glorify those who beat their chests and scream to the heavens (often times anonymously), even in the face of contradictory evidence. We give credence to outrageous behavior/reactions instead of even-handed analysis and discourse.
And why not? Sports personalities are often paid now by the decibel level. To agree is bad TV.
Some claim Kelly “shouldn’t have said anything” about Kizer. Why? He didn’t say anything that anybody didn’t know, and what he said was far from harsh and accurate.
If anything, the entire interview was more of a promotion of Kizer with a couple of obvious and necessary caveats.
He didn’t negatively shade Kizer’s potential any more than Kizer did when the pressure was on to impress the NFL brass.
If you want to hate Kelly for 4-8, the disaster that he helped create, his clock management, his lack of vigilance, his dalliance with the NFL and anything else that is legitimately arguable, it’s understood.
If you still insist Kelly should have been fired after last season – even without a clear-cut/logical replacement – it’s understood.
This is a program that is spinning its wheels, even during the most successful seasons when the offense (2012) and the defense (2015) were not championship caliber.
Also true is the fact that since the 4-8 season, Kelly has made some sound moves with his coaching staff, salvaged a recruiting campaign with a late rush, and launched what is looking like a quality recruiting Class of 2018.
The howling as a result of this interview is about a controversy that isn’t real, about statements that weren’t made, about perceptions that aren’t accurate. The howling reflects the feelings about Kelly, not what actually happened in an interview on Sirius XM NFL Radio.
This is a manufactured controversy, one that doesn’t really exist, except for an overall perception that makes anything Kelly says wrong in the eyes of some. That won’t change until a) Kelly wins a national title or b) Kelly leaves Notre Dame.
Welcome to Year No. 8 of the Kelly regime.