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  • Myopic Arrogance and Brian Kelly

    by SEE

    It’s hard not like some of the off-season moves by Brian Kelly, but hell, any moves look good next to a 4-8 debacle and three years of terrible defense.

    What’s apparent from all sources is that Longo and Booker have been a problem for years.  Brian Van Gorder, from the FSU game on, has been a disaster as a defensive coordinator. One can make a very good case for  the hires of Mike Elko and Brian Polian.  The latter coached special teams under Harbaugh at Stanford and was recruiting coordinator for their best recruiting class in history.  But now, with the news of Mike Denbrock leaving*, it’s clear Kelly hasn’t evaluated himself on offense as he’s evaluated the rest of the team.

    While he was known for his offense at Cincinnati, his defenses were actually better than his offenses in two of three years.  Kelly’s early offenses were at Notre Dame were middling to terrible.  He consistently asks his quarterbacks to shoulder too much of the load which leads to inevitable breakdowns.  Even his best offense in 2015 couldn’t push around a depleted Ohio State defense at the line of scrimmage.  It was embarrassing.

    Kelly has proven himself to be a constant meddler and tinkerer, pushing Notre Dame into a precision passing game (which is an oxymoron in college football with 20 hours a week to practice.)  Last year’s three ring coaching circus starting with two quarterbacks starting the year was hideous to watch.  Sanford was the OC, Denbrock called the plays (or whatever th F&$%’was going on)  and Kelly was in the middle of the mess making it messier.

    Kelly hasn’t shown the CEO ability to hire the right guy and then coach him to establish an offense with a power identity. Instead he tricks himself into thinking his plays could work… if only … much like Weis and Van Gorder did as noted a previous columns:

     his players don’t have enough practice time to be able to execute what is schematically possible, however enticing, without a high risk of error. Charlie Weis always bemoaned what was possible and that his players just weren’t able to execute the plays that were possible; seemingly forgetting that there are more moving parts on pass plays and thus more risk.

    When the highly predictable breakdowns occur,  Kelly screams at players rather than  his own inability to see his scheme and play calling  as the real problem.

    Kelly’s only “Notre Dame worthy season” came when Martin became OC and established the run and protected the defense.  And even though that offense was putrid from an output perspective, it held the ball, wore down opponents and helped toughened up the defense which was among the top in the country. When your defense is constantly practicing against  such a passing efficiency based offense, it’s hard if not impossible to develop the rock hard mentality needed to trudge through a season undefeated. So Kelly’s offensive choices are affecting the defense’s ability to perform.

    Despite that success while running the ball, Kelly, ever the tinkerer, seems determined to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.  You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created the problem.  Perseverance is one thing, myopic arrogance is another.  Einstein, Kelly is not.  He can be a tough-nosed bulldog and he certainly has good enough players to win if has the self-awareness to see his offensive passing fancy as the problem.

    Does Brian want to be known as a head coach or an offensive tinkerer?

    If it’s the latter, his epitaph is already written.

    *This is not an endorsement of Denbrock as his track record as an OC,  outside of the LSU bowl game(a thing of beauty), is very unclear.

    38 Responses to “Myopic Arrogance and Brian Kelly”

    1. Why is he still the coach. Hoping some NFL team with an opening comes in and gets him.

      • notre dames problem is not running the ball. I saw a stat that when kelly runs more than 60% of the time hes undefeated and as the percentage drops so does winning percent. even when we had montana we ran the ball a lot.all are national champs ran a lot. why does kelly do well with first time QBs he runs more end of story.

    2. Excellent article and I believe you are spot on!

      • Kelly is removing one rattle at a time from the rattle snake. Bottom line is the head of the snake should be removed and the rest of it dies on its own.

        ND’s football program has become a circus with Kelly as the incompetent ring master.

        Please, please, NFL take this snake oil salesman out of South Bend.

    3. The problem starts with President Jenkins, who has to be smart enough to realize that with $150 tickets and $400/night hotel rooms, that FB is important to Notre Dame. Then start with the “AD” – I date back to COACH Leahy, not only a winner dedicated to Our Lady but sent well prepared “LADS” into society to represent Father Sorin’s vision. I visit ND at least 2 times per year and communicate with everyone (except Jenkins – tho I would stop by the 13th floor to “give Fr Ted advice) and all ex Gladiators are upset that they do not have access to the AD. Hard to believe that BK has not realized that amidst all the current changes, that he should have been #1 to withdraw.

      • Joe Schaefer Universal City TX '59 says:

        Notre Dame has never had a consistent approach to selecting football coaches since Leahy; witness the differences between Brennan and Kuharich, Faust and Holtz, Willingham and Weis. In each case a mistake was followed by a pro coach, which worked only once. (yes, Holtz was not successful in the pro’s; however, he contributed significantly to ND’s 1977 national championship) Beginning with the one ideological selection (Willingham) there has been nothing but a corporate vision: “branding”, an athletic director who doesn’t know why there are laces on a football, and the grand distraction, the Crossroads. Other schools have had down cycles, Michigan, SC (thanx to Holtz), Alabama, Texas, etc; however, their problems were caused by bad guesses on thought to be successful or promising replacements. What about Parseghian? Our then athletic director knew something about football and saw the potential in addition to Ara’s desire for the job. (Ara called Moose and inquired about Hughie Devore’s “acting” status) At the time Fr. Joyce literally did not know what to do so he convened a committee to assess the future of ND football. I should know since my father was a member!) So, the savior of Notre Dame Football was Ara Parseghian. Is there another one out there somewhere?

    4. All of the coaching changes are the last efforts of a sinking regime. Losing to Miami of Ohio (Chuck Martin) next year would be a fitting last nail in the coffin.

    5. When a 3rd season ND coach and his agent are arranging an NFL interview, in the week before he was presumed to be 100% focused on preparing for a championship game against an Alabama machine, “myopic and arrogant” is an awfully polite characterization of the man.

    6. Kelly is not the coach the Irish need moving forward. The honorable thing for him to do is step down and take the athletic director with him.If Kelly loves Notre Dame he should step down ASAP.

    7. It’s hard to believe a team that came within 4 points of an undefeated season and a CFP spot, could be THIS bad the next season. There always seems to be off the field problems to start the season. That’s worrisome. In a season where they needed to open up 3-1, they went the opposite direction. The major cause was defense. Kelly should’ve gone with Kizer from the start. The game that sealed the deal tho was the lost to NCSU. That Kelly stuck with that gameplan in driving hurricane weather was an embarassment to smart coaching. Too much dependence on the pass. You have to focus more on fundamentals and attitude with a college defense. Brian VanGorder was a train wreck. He didn’t adjust to the college game. Anytime a coach starts harping on scheme in college, I just think that’s a recipe for disaster.

    8. Speaking of myopic… this article fits the bill. “I like Brian Kelly’s recent decision making recently” but let’s complain again and endlessly about the 4 and 8 season again (and beat the dead pony while we’re at it). These comments are just taking the easy way out. Instead of playing back seat driver the ENTIRE time it would be nice to see some prospective comments on whether you think the new hires will work out or not and why. You’re right, the 4 and 8 season didn’t work out. Can we move on yet and comment on something else?

      • The new hires may work better than the last staff, and we may have a better record than 4-8 next season. However, under Kelly, we will never win a national championship. There have been many reasons listed as to why that is, but the paramount one is that he simply has no idea how to instill killer instinct in his players. Saban, Meyer, and Harbaugh all know how to do it. While Kelly can recruit and develop players, he’s missing that key third ingredient. Under him, we’ll always end up somewhere between just missing a playoff spot and the wheels coming off with a 4-8 sort of season. The reason we’ll top out at just missing a playoff spot is that we’ll always lose the one or two big regular season games that would otherwise qualify us for a playoff spot because Kelly will “fire up” his players by telling them to hope they can “hang around in a tough environment against a tough team long enough to have a chance in the 4th quarter” instead of convincing them the other team doesn’t belong on the field with ND and telling them “leave Jimmy Johnson’s a** for me.” Sorry, Rick, I’m not up for a 24th consecutive season (or whatever it is) of trying to figure out whether things will work out next season. They won’t, measured against the proper standard.

    9. Kevin McNamara says:

      Recruits and coaches are bailing. Players are not being developed. Kelly is not a charismatic leader and
      the players have lost confidence in his leadership.4-8 in the 7th or 8th year of a contract vs a weak
      schedule. All ND –Jenkins/Swarbrick–cares about is money.

      It’s a long way back. So much for talks of a program.

    10. what do you mean recruits and coaches are bailing? they lost a couple of recruits, and coaches accepted better jobs elsewhere, but ND just brought in a top defensive coordinator (opposite of bailing) and there is 5 weeks to signing day so we can see who else they recruit.

      • Mike Coffey says:

        losing a couple of recruits out of a class that already isn’t full constitutes bailing.

        And I’m not sure the OC job at Cincinnati is a better job than being the OC at ND.

    11. KELLY is a average coach. He can make all the coaching changes he wants, but the bottom line is that he likes to spread the blame around to everyone else!! He has nobody to blame but himself! Does anyone notice how every QB he has gets worse every year(golson,rees,kizer)! YEAH RICK lets talk about how SANFORD who URBAN MEYER tried to hire as OC just left! He didn’t get a chance to run the offense. I guess another 8 n 4 finish is good enough!!


    13. Give me a coach who likes to run the ball for 200-250 yards per game and throw the ball 20-25 times a game max. Play tough defense with the ability to shut down the opponents running attack, play smart on special teams and don’t let up on the gas pedal when you build a lead, finish’em! IF there is a coach like that out there, find him and hire him now.

      Go Irish!

    14. Usually assistant coaches don’t leave for lateral positions at other schools unless they don’t see eye to eye with the head coach or he’s no longer welcome. So it’s one of those two cases if the reports about Denbrock are true. I felt the offense was sloppy and undisciplined at times under his leadership.

      I hope these changes lead to at least 10 wins in 2017, but I’m not hopeful. Kelly’s offenses can put up gaudy stats on most teams but tend to fail when it counts. Unless he incorporates some power running into his spread this won’t change.

      I think we’ve lost three recruits and nobody has committed since the season ended.

    15. NDCOLORADO says:

      One can analyze the situation forward and backwards. If you start (backwards) with ‘why can’t Kelly win big games’ or even act like he’s prepared the team a for big game, you quickly realize that he’s not a big game coach. He can’t even make reasonable half-time adjustments in ‘ordinary’ games. He’s stuck with game plan that he won’t deviate from under most circumstances. Occasionally, you’ll see a glimpse of ‘brilliance’ with a play (or series) that showcases a particular player’s talents only to have the play calling fall back into ‘two runs and a pass’ or ‘one run and two bad passes’. It may just be the pressure of ‘not wanting to make a mistake’ when the ND microscope is a super-powerful electron microscope…it’s too late for that excuse. To be ‘well coached’, simply means that coaches and players are always on the same page when adversity hits, because they’ve prepared for it well ahead of time. ND is far from a well-coached team. Swarbrick’s love of Kelly will be tested to the breaking point next year.

    16. Yeah, sad days. On the bright side, got an OSU type schedule next year. Plus, astro turf, wifi, some music, and jumbotron on the way. It’s all about the experience. Kinda like Disney land, but for college football.

    17. Carlos Bauza says:

      It is no good cherry picking the sundry Kelly maladies! He is unfit for the job! Too much for him!
      As soon as you fix one malady, another comes up. The solution is replacing Kelly.

    18. denbrook was demoted and was not going to be calling plays in 2017, so yes a OC job was a promotion. he will be missed as a recruiter though.

    19. irishhawk50 says:

      I have been an Irish fan since birth it seems. The first game I remember seeing on TV as a kid was the 1957 Oklahoma game and I was already a fan by then. I suffered the Kuharich years as a kid who followed games those days on radio as ND games were rarely on TV in those days as the NCAA controlled how many times a team could appear on TV. I remember the Hugh Devore year when the assassination of JFK and the cancellation of the Iowa game kept ND from going 2-8. When Ara turned the program around in one year it was almost surreal but eventually we came to expect ND to win and they continued to win with Dan Devine. The Faust years were a joke and then Lou came along a made ND great again. The older you get the quicker time seems to pass and though it seems like the Holtz days were only yesterday they were a long time ago.

      I was originally a mild supporter of Kelly (hope springs eternal for ND fans), but have come to realize he is not going to lead ND to a national championship. As I have said in other posts, he is a 8-4 type coach, some years slightly better, some a little worse. I think this year was an exception (bad exception).

      I have enjoyed reading, over the years, so many of the observations of ND Nation posters. Many are right on the money as shown by many of the astute and valid comments on this article. Some are absurd, but they are the exception. I know there are unrealistic expectations by some of ND going undefeated year in and year out, but 9 & 10 wins a year should be the rule with all the advantages ND still has in college football, not the exception.

      My doctor whom I have known since we were kids together asked me at a recent visit if I was depressed to which I answered “What do you mean by depressed? We are in the fourth quarter and we are out of time outs. How are you supposed to feel? I’d liked to see Notre Dame win at least one more national championship before my final whistle and I don’t think Brian Kelly is going to do that.

    20. JOSEPH LIBBY says:


    21. just pointing out to uninformed posters that he was no longer the OC, so ITS A PROMOTION going to Cincinnati you are welcome

      Mike Coffey says:
      December 29, 2016 at 8:36 am
      losing a couple of recruits out of a class that already isn’t full constitutes bailing.
      And I’m not sure the OC job at Cincinnati is a better job than being the OC at ND.

    22. I’m a BK apologist. (yes, I’m from Boston-area) All this piling-on by the fair-weather-fairy fans is really disturbing on a NotAdame (spelled as we Bostonians say it) site. I went to NotAdame, I witnessed in person (experienced) the 1988 Championship season. All you whiners need better analytical skills. 1) As a disclaimer, I have never coached a college football program. 2) NEITHER HAVE YOU WHINERS! 3) BK has coached National Championship programs. Div.1? Not yet. (; Div.1AA? Yes. Blah-blah-blah. My point is that CHAMPIONS HAVE IT IN THEIR BLOOD. (“under their skin”) That is hopefully part of the initial thinking when hiring BK 7/8-years ago. CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE WON BY CHAMPIONS. No, that is not precise analysis. But it is analysis I’ve not read on these boards. So stop the whining, y’all, and contribute to the winning. GoIRISH!

    23. I am not sure I see any whining. I am reading valid comments about an inept coach.
      For example; is it whining to state that special teams haven’t improved over seven years and in fact this year cost us two to three games. With the talent we have, should ND consistently have some of the worst special teams in D 1 football. Special teams consistently have hurt ND in close and big games. Is that whining or fact?
      Is it whining or fact to state that we have a pathetic record against Power five teams with winning records since 2013. I believer other than the Miami game we have lost to every power five team we have played with a winning record for three years now. I think that is a fact not a complaint.
      Is it whining to note that we have a ton of talent at running back and no running game and in fact no real offensive identity? that I think again is a simple factual observation and not whining.
      What about defense- simple facts and not observations–tells you that seven years in we are way behind where any program should be.
      I could give the guy a chance if we were three years in a he was building–but seven years into this?
      Kelly simple is a bad coach. Some personal opinions but again not whining is that he is horrible at game decisions and adjustments and he seems like a real jerk to his QBS—-again not whining but merely observations. Its ok to have a down year but against a very weak schedule, a down year with the talent we had should have been a los to USC and maybe VaTech. Who else was really a good team?
      not whining –just stating facts
      Here is a prediction: ND will never get to a playoff again with Kelly and when he does leave the program will be worse off than when he came.

    24. Excellent article. And a lot of very good comments and observations.
      The changes being made by Kelly with the coaching staff are meaningless, in my view. When it is all said and done, Kelly will have entirely new coaching staff. Next year will be like Kelly’s first season, with the usual growing pains. The problem is that we still have the same head coach, who is the problem. Nick Saban keeps winning championships with different assistant coaches because he makes them coach within his overall philosophy. He is the key to Alabama’s success, not Lane Kiffin or his replacement. Similarly, ND’s success is tied to Kelly, not his assistant coaches. Remember, BVG has been terrible for years. It took the pressure from the mounting losses for Kelly to make a change. He either could not see how bad his defense was being coached or blindly loyal to a friend not up to the task. Either way, he is not ND head coaching material. Seven years and the program continues its downward slide. I’ll be at the games next year but have no real expectations for the team being successful. Jenkins, Jack and Kelly are focused on creating and marketing the ND brand. Ironic that they have done the most to destroy the brand by forgetting its origination – beating the odds and winning national championships. Which was done on natural grass, in bad weather at a once all-male school with limited social life – all knocks on recruiting. Maybe the jumbotron is the missing piece of the Kelly puzzle.

    25. lol yes splitting hairs, so denbrook went from a wr coach and left for an OC job, that isn’t splitting hairs, that is a big promotion hope that helps

      • Mike Coffey says:

        Denbrock was an OC for two years, was demoted to WR coach (for poor performance) for about five minutes before leaving for another OC position, and that’s a “big promotion”. If that’s a “big promotion”, it’s also having an inept OC on your staff for two years and not doing anything about it, just like he had an inept DC on his staff for over two years and didn’t do anything about it. So which is it?

    26. I have had the pleasure and good fortune of living through two truly great coaches and molders of men, Ara and lou. Truly good coaches make good fathers, substitute or otherwise. Years ago I became good friends with a fine priest who confided in me that when in college he couldn’t decide whether he wanted to be a priest or go into finance. He was a good priest but did not have the passion and fire to be a great priest. As I recall, Kelly comes from a political family. He couldn’t decide whether to be a politician or a coach. He is a good coach, but he does not have to fire or passion to be a great one. That fire and passion holds true in all walks of life.

    27. The students got BVG fired by their chanting. Same thing must happen before Kelly or Swarbrick get fired.