Notes from the Geetar: Best Years of our Lives

el kabong with geetar

At the risk of putting the Baha Men in your head, it’s the topic du jour on the Interwebs. And never let it be said I shied away from a topic.

Notre Dame’s 30-27 win over Southern Cal in the latest edition of the greatest inter-sectional rivaly in all of college football has put the Fighting Irish on pace for another double-digit win season, potentially their third in a row. If Notre Dame gets past the Skunkbears two Saturdays from now, they’ll likely be favored in all of their remaining games and would be a virtual lock for an Orange or Cotton Bowl bid … games in which they probably also would be favored, which would get the lack-of-a-major-bowl-win monkey off their backs.

This puts Notre Dame at an atmospheric level they’ve not seen in a while. Per a tweet from an Athletic writer, the Irish are 26-4 in their last 30 games, which they haven’t done since the 1992-93 season. This prompted Nick Shepkowski over at the Fighting Irish Wire to point out this was the best stretch of ND football he’s ever seen in his life.

And it got me to thinking about a couple things (in case you were wondering what that smell was).

First off, the record citation is objectively correct. Whatever way you slice it, 26-4 in the wake of the 4-8 debacle of 2016 is a hell of a turnaround, and certainly represents a post-Holtz high water mark. Granted, a couple of those four losses were quite catastrophic, and Holtz’s 1992-94 squads that went 26-3-1 played seven of those games against top 10 teams and won five of them. But having said that, this qualifies as the best since then.

Second, Nick’s perception also is correct in that this is all he’s seen. For someone born as he was in 1986 who entered their ND formative years as Holtz was being shown the door, this is awesome, and I certainly can’t blame them for thinking so. I’ve certainly been enjoying the hell out of it, because it certainly makes running the boards here a lot easier.

I’m not exactly known for my patience with people who I feel have been premature in designating a new high water mark for ND football. But different perspectives inform different opinions, and maybe I need to do a better job of remembering not everyone in the Notre Dame electronic world has been fortunate enough to see some of the things I’ve seen. Regardless of opinions about Brian Kelly the coach, the last three seasons are setting the bar a lot closer to the appropriate level than it’s been set in a while, and that’s something we all can appreciate while still expecting continued improvement on that front.

Oh what the hell.

Tell Mike what you think (or get pissed at him for the earworm) in the comments below.

25 thoughts on “Notes from the Geetar: Best Years of our Lives

  1. I think its fair to say many Irish fans spent the post Holtz era complaining that its an utter embarrassment that we lost to so many mediocre teams and couldn’t protect home field more consistently. For the most part, Kelly has delivered in both these areas. So now it’s only natural, we spend the Kelly Era discussing how we can’t win the “big” game and that he’s reached his ceiling in terms of performance. I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. We can win a title with Kelly coaching but he needs to land and/or develop the QB position much better. Look around at this new era and show me a team that wins a title without an NFL prospect at QB? Maybe some of those Bama teams but they are littered with so much top NFL talent. I’ve been on record saying it might be time to make a coaching change but my fear is there are very few appealing options that would actually want to take this job and all that goes with it.

  2. I wasn’t around for Rockne and Leahy, but the best years of sustained excellence I recall were from 1964 through 1977. Notre Dame won three titles during that span (’66, ’73, and ’77), but also had the best team in the country in two other years (’64, ’70). The coaching was a lot better then as well.

    Lou Holtz nearly matched this level of success it from 1988 through 1993. Besides the title in ’88, the team was good enough to have won again in ’89, ’92, and ’93, but didn’t get the job done.

    Brian Kelly is not breathing the same air as his predecessors.

    • Vannie, would you concede that he was at least in sight of the summit where Holtz and Parseghian live on a couple of occasions? I agree he’s not there yet, but I think he’s got what it takes to get there.

      • Well, Kelly is ten years into his tenure and we’re still waiting for him to figure it out. It just won’t happen with his silly offensive scheme. The great ones don’t need a decade or more to prove themselves, and the close calls to which you refer were not close at all. I was at the 2012 championship game and also last year’s playoff. We never had a chance in either game.

        • Kevin Chapman says:

          John- serious dude give it a rest. “We’re still waiting for him to figure it out”? Sage advice from you?

          If all you look for is what you see- you end up with a bias viewpoint. 29-5. Deal with it.

          • It sure is fun to beat Bowling Green and New Mexico while fattening up the stats. I deal with it just fine. It’s not my fault that I’m old enough to have seen and appreciated real greatness with ND football and the university leadership. I’m not sure why you insist that I lower my standards to accommodate what Jack and Brian are selling today.

        • John, Kelly went 10-3 in 2017 and 12-1 last year. I think we’re on pace for another 12-1 season this year. That would be a mark of 34-5 over the last three seasons. If we all agree that the first three seasons are the proper period of evaluation for a ND coach, then I think we also should all agree that any pre-2017 conceptions of Kelly should be revisited.

          • Why would that follow? I would say it’s more evidence that Kelly wasn’t ready for the job when he got here and it was only after seven years of sub-par showings and having two seasons’ worth of wins taken away from us that he may have now hopefully figured things out.

  3. A few people might know me as someone who isn’t shy about pushing back against people who call for Coach Kelly to be replaced. I will admit that I like Coach Kelly and think he’s doing a good job, and I bristle at some of the snark directed his way on this forum and in others. Let me go on the record: I fully support holding ND’s football program to the highest standards, and Mike, I don’t think you need to apologize to anyone for that. ND ought to be the standard-bearer for college football, in every regard – success on the field, success in the classroom, success after graduation, and a shining beacon of compliance, beyond all reproach.

    I don’t have any problem with anyone giving Coach Kelly a hard time if he’s not meeting those standards, so long as they also give him credit for what he has been able to do. 2016 was a disaster, and I don’t blame anyone for wanting to can him after that. I thought at the time that would have been a mistake, given his track record, but if he hadn’t made the improvements he did, I would have been wrong. I was very pleased that he seemed to really take ownership personally of his failures after that season and make some real, substantive changes to the way he coaches after that.

    Mike, I might disagree with you from time to time about Coach Kelly (and other things), but I wouldn’t ever want you to hold ND to anything other than the highest standards. Just remember every now and then to step back and look at where we are and how far we’ve come.

    • I’m willing to look at where we are and how far we’ve come as long as those on the other side are willing to admin we’ve still got a ways to go and there’s no reason not to demand we get there.

      • Mike, that’s a perfectly reasonable stance. What concerns me, however, is when I read things on the board such as “Kelly is the worst coach ND has ever had” and “Weis was a better coach than Kelly” (both of which I’ve read on this board, in sum and substance if not verbatim). Anyone who views Notre Dame’s football program with even a semblance of objectivity, and is not blinded by a rabid hatred of Kelly, would scoff at those opinions. If, as Weis once said, “you are what your record says you are” (a sentiment widely hailed on this board at the time it was first voiced), then Kelly is hands-down a better coach than Weis. Moreover, as you acknowledged, Kelly was able to turn around the program relatively quickly from the 4-8 debacle of 2016. Weis had a fair opportunity to turn the program around following a similar debacle (3-9 in 2007), and he failed miserably.

        • “…in sum and substance if not verbatim”

          This is where I have issues with positions like yours. That’s complete bullshit. No one on the site believes Charlie Weis is a better coach than Brian Kelly. Even if someone did posit something that ridiculous on the board, they would be shouted down by everyone else because the statement is ludicrous. And it’s easy to say “sum and substance”, which means that’s what you’re reading into it so I can’t gainsay it. But it’s also complete bullshit.

          People have very good reasons for disliking Brian Kelly. His attitude towards alums is prickly at best. He arrived on campus with one foot out the door and tried to leave the nanosecond the opportunity presented itself. Notre Dame had wins taken away by the NCAA on his watch for the first time in its history, meaning the program probably never again will be in contention for the all-time wins or win percentage lead, a direct result of a lack of discipline both on and off the field in his program. And a staff member died at one of his practices, with a number of people believing his maniacal adherence to “his way” caused it to happen.

          If that’s the price that had to be paid for Brian Kelly to pull his head out of his ass, hire effective assistant coaches who could coach their side of the ball and recruit rather than his cronies, and actually focus on being at Notre Dame rather than looking for the next best thing … well, that price was way too high. I’m glad the team is winning right now, for the players especially, and there’s no doubt Brian Kelly has, in the last couple years, improved the program greatly for the next guy. But I won’t apologize for wanting that next guy to arrive ASAP.

  4. For anyone to think the college football landscape during the Ara reign or even in Lou’s was the same as it is today goes to just how old one is and how closely one watched in those days as compared to today. Back then Notre Dame, arguably, was the only “national” team in college football, having TV and print coverage as great as all the others combined. That translated to being a magnet for many of the top kids coming out of high school. And you know where I’m going with this. The competition is so much more fierce today for the kid having zero interest in academia that to think Notre Dame should be that same draw as it was long ago is just plainly naive. I’d much rather be attractive to the kid who wants to make it academically, who also happens to be a great player, than to succumb to being an Alabama or Clemson where an actual university curriculum is the least of concerns to their starting lineups. Would I love to win a National Championship? Silly….of course I would. But never at the expense of becoming “them,” and not remaining Notre Dame. Oh, I’m nearing 74, was an All-State high school QB in New Jersey and, like my dad, have worshipped The Irish from the time I knew what football was. We attended four games last year, have been to the UGA game (we had their number, dammit), will be in the big house next weekend with our obnoxious Michigan Law School Alum daughter, and will finish off our ND travel year at Duke.

    • Yes, I know exactly where you’re going … everyone but us cheats, Notre Dame can’t win anymore, blah blah defeatist blah. I must have imagined the story the other day that Notre Dame currently has the #1 recruiting class for 2021. So much for that “fierce competition”. We must be “becoming ‘them'”, whatever that means. Amazing what you can do when you replace under-performing assistants with those who are much more effective on the recruiting trail.

  5. We should be favored in every remaining game, Michigan included. What worries me most about Michigan is that we get them immediately after they play Penn State. A loss to Penn State will leave them with a chip on their shoulder, so that’s a game that needs our strongest possible attention.

    The college football world is currently Alabama and Clemson, then everybody else. But ND has more than proven that it belongs in the discussion as to the next tier. As for Kelly, we can argue until the cows come home as to whether he ever should have lasted this long at ND, but that doesn’t change the current state of facts. He has, for whatever reason. What is undeniable is that Kelly 2.0 has engineered a significant turnaround in the program, a turnaround that three coaches prior to him could not execute.

    As for the earworm inspired by the title, the one I got is for the Billy Squier song from the Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack. To each his own, I guess.

  6. Terry MCMANUS says:

    Kelly has had 2 12-1 seasons – true.

    In the 10 years of his tenure Notre Dame has not won a National Championship – true.

    For Notre Dame fans like me and for the alumni scattered around the world – that is not enough. True.

    Kelly KNEW that when he signed on the dotted line.

    True

  7. Should ND finish the season with 10 wins then 2017-2019 will become the best and most consistent three year stretch in ND regular season football since the glory years of Lou Holtz. And Kelly (and his new assistant coaches) deserve credit for that achievement. Things have been looking up ever since Kelly finally found the courage to dispense with his GVS buddy system for assistant coaches and hire some real assistant coaches.

    Despite his faults, Kelly has greatly improved the program from the doldrums of Davie, Willingham and Weis. But greatness has been elusive despite the improvements Kelly has made and it looks to me like Jackanapes and the administration are satisfied with pretty goodness and close,competitive losses to top 10 foes. Not ideal but it still keeps the brand intact!

    After ten years Kelly hasn’t delivered greatness and probably never will otherwise we would have seen it by now. And it seems like the administration is fine with that, so ND will just keep playing Washington Generals to the elite Globetrotter teams in college football for the foreseeable future.

  8. Possibly these winning ways are the result of the new attitude and demeanor of Coach Kelly. It bodes well for the team and for recruiting. Who wants somebody screaming at you for any mistake? Hopefully he can keep it up.

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