I had severe doubts about Kelly from early in his first season (2010). That year, he had Dayne Crist as his starting QB, a junior with 3 years of eligibility. Crist was a 5 star recruit and people in the program very high on him. He was the leader in the locker room on what was still a pretty young team.
Behind Crist they had Tommy Rees, a lightly recruited weak armed true freshman QB and Nate Montana, a sophomore walk on who never figured to play Division I football. My analysis was that the team would be ok as long as Crist was healthy.
In the first quarter of the September game against Michigan, Crist was injured. I believe it was a head shot and he had to pass a concussion test to get back in the game.
First Kelly brought in Rees, who apparently audibled to a flea flicker pass on his first or second play and the pass was intercepted. Why that was even an option, I can’t imagine, but it was incredibly stupid.
Kelly yanked Rees and put in Montana. In the 45 years that I have been going to college football games, it was the worst quarter-backing I have seen (except for 1977 when Matt Cavanaugh was injured and the backup for Pitt fumbled 7 times against Notre Dame). Almost every pass he threw was up for grabs, a 50-50 ball. Incredibly Kelly let him throw 17 times in the first half, completing 8 for 107 yards. Miraculously, he only had 1 intercepted.
Any coach with half a brain, with an inexperienced walk on QB would have simplified the offense, run power running plays, mixed in a few play action passes. Not Kelly. He ran the same offense he would run with Rees, Golson, Crist, Kizer or Zaire.
At the end of the half, Montana threw a long pass up for grabs which Theo Riddick caught. ND had it on the Michigan 5 with 3 seconds left in the half. Instead of taking the field goal and regrouping at half, Kelly had Montana throw and didn’t come close to completing the pass, throwing away the 3 points, which would have come in handy in the 4th quarter when ND trailed by 6 instead of 3 and got into field goal range, but could not score the needed TD to win.
ND came back with Crist at QB in the second half, but it was too little too late.
Later in that year when Crist was injured again, Rees drove ND to the Tulsa 20 with 2 minutes left and ND trailing by 2 points. Instead of running the ball and setting up the game winning field goal, Kelly had the weak armed true freshman throw in the end zone and get it intercepted sealing the loss. When questioned why he had called, such a stupid play, he famously answered “Get used to it.”
Unfortunately, ND’s administration and many ND fans have “gotten used to" Kelly’s arrogance and stupidity. I am not one of them.
Kelly has had 4 runs where ND done well under his coaching. (1) the last 4 games of 2010 season; (2) the 2012 season; (3) the first 7 games of the 2014 season; and (4) the 2015 season.
The common denominator in the first 2 runs were that he had an inexperienced QB and went to a conservative run oriented offense, with an emphasis on defense. This is a perfect recipe for winning at ND and one Kelly only goes to when he is desperate.
In 2010, he had completely screwed up the team. Crist was out for the year. He went with Rees at OB and finally figured out, he couldn’t throw 35 times a game with Rees at QB. They won their last 4 games and looked like a good team.
In 2011, Crist had a bad game against South Florida and Kelly benched him. My opinion is that Kelly ruined Crist by blaming him for everything that went wrong with the team. Crist was the leader of the team, the most popular player, the one who had recruited other players to come to Notre Dame. By the second game of the 2011 season, he was a basket case.
Kelly made Rees the QB in 2011. He decided that now that Rees had experience, we could throw 35 times a game and we opened the offense back up. 39 passes against Michigan; 54 passes against MSU; 41 passes against Pitt; 41 passes against Purdue; 36 passes against Air Force; 43 passes against USC.
Rees was average, and ND was average also.
2012 was a magical year until the Alabama game. Kelly started Golson at QB, and concentrated on the running game. When we needed to throw to catch up in games, he brought in Rees who turned into a pretty good passer. The defense was terrific. The team played well and won all of its regular season games.
Inexplicably, Kelly came out throwing against Alabama. We had 2 three and outs and before some people sat down, ND was losing 14-0. It got worse.
Golson was suspended for 2013 and so he went to back to Rees. Rees was exposed as being average by having to throw too much. 2 early interceptions against Oklahoma sunk ND in the key game of 2013. In 2012, we beat Oklahoma with a tough defense and running game. We abandoned that strategy in 2013.
Golson was back in 2014. Kelly opened the offense up even more. ND got off to a good start winning the first 6 games and being screwed out of win at FSU. It looked like Kelly had turned the corner.
But the defense was falling apart and so was Golson (shades of Crist). They gave up 43 points to North Carolina and 39 to Navy in wins. Then they were destroyed by Arizona State 55-31, falling behind 34-3.
They lost to Northwestern because Kelly went for 2 when kicking the extra point would have sealed the win. They lost to Louisville because they could not execute the snap and hold on field goals. They were destroyed by USC.
Golson, his confidence shattered, turned into a turn-over machine, throwing interceptions and fumbling at will. He couldn’t spike a ball to stop the clock because he couldn’t handle a snap under center. Unbelievable. He fumbled trying to spike the ball.
Kelly benched Golson in the bowl game win against LSU and started Zaire at QB. Zaire did a nice job, becoming the next in a long line of promising QBs at ND who never reached their potential under Kelly.
Golson transferred to FSU for the 2015 season and was ordinary.
Zaire was great against Texas and then was injured against Virginia. Kizer came in and was great. He played great and carried himself well. He was a credit to ND. Kelly should get credit for having Kizer ready to play at a high level, but I suspect it was more of an accident as even Kelly and Kizer seemed surprised at his success.
2015 gave us hope that Kelly might have finally learned how to coach at ND. The defense was still a mess, but the offense looked good.
Kelly starts the season with a needless QB controversy. Kizer was a star. Kelly was going to rotate QBs. Presumably he wanted to keep Zaire from transferring, but that was unfair to both of the QBs and disingenuous.
Only Rees and Kizer have exceed expectations at QB under Kelly at ND. Rees because expectations were so low. Kizer has been terrific, but Kelly is throwing him under the bus this year. Hopefully, Kelly won’t ruin him like he did Crist and Golson.
The defense was much worse. The offense not good enough to compensate. Kelly throws Kizer under the bus after 1 game. The defensive coordinator is fired (too late). The team is playing terrible. The Duke game was an ND performance last seen under Faust.
Kelly has to go, but a transactional lawyer/AD is going to hire his replacement using a search firm. How corporate can you be? I have no confidence in the AD.
ND’s administration fiddles, the football program burns. They charge $150 a ticket to watch the team get smoked by an overrated Michigan State team. ND rallies after falling behind, but only because MSU went into a prevent defense.
Season ticket prices are doubling. Families who have had season tickets for 50 years are dumping them.
Stanford, Miami and Army (Army?) all have ticket prices well over $100. ND builds sky boxes for fat cats to watch terrible football in comfort. The product on the field is embarrassing.
ND wants more donations. They want me to increase my Sorin donation to $2,500. They haven’t bumped the Sorin Society minimum contribution level yet, but they give more perks for giving $5,000 and $10,000.
The building campaign goes full speed. The hideous Crossroads project is almost built (apparently no one in the Administration has a map, so they don’t know where the center of campus is).
They gouge fans and alums for ticket prices, seat licenses, contributions. Tuition skyrockets. The endowment grows to an obscene level.
ND has the appearance of being a greedy, selfish, soulless conglomerate.
Get used to it.