UPDATE: It has been reported by Chris Mortenson and other NFL media members that Brian Kelly met with the Philadelphia Eagles a day after Notre Dame’s BCS Championship loss to Alabama.
One of the very few downfalls of Notre Dame’s 12-0 regular season and all of the attention that it’s brought to the program is the inevitable Brian Kelly NFL speculation that has already begun after the NFL’s annual “Black Monday.”
For those unfamiliar with the pro game, “Black Monday” refers to the first Monday after the end of the NFL regular season when most coaches on the hot seat find out their fate from their respective owners. This year seven different NFL organizations decided to fire their head coaches – the Eagles, Bears, Cardinals, Chiefs, Browns, Bills, and Chargers. With all of those openings, it was/is inevitable that a coach who took a team from mediocrity to the BCS Championship game in just three seasons will draw the attention of owners with deep pockets in a win now league.
To this point, nothing Brian Kelly has said or done has indicated that he would leave Notre Dame for a pro job. While he has moved around quite a bit in his career since leaving his first head coaching post at Grand Valley State, he has never coached at the NFL level and hasn’t stated a desire to do so – at least no publicly.
Any time a coach does as good of a job as Kelly has done at Notre Dame, he is going to grab the attention of NFL executives – especially when that coach has had success wherever he has gone without having to use a specific system. Kelly has had prolific passing offenses at previous stops but when he got to Notre Dame his blueprint has been building a dominating defense and relying on a strong running game. That kid of versatility is going to be attractive to a lot of owners.
Now, while Kelly has the attention of NFL owners thanks to the turnaround job he has done at Notre Dame, there is no reason to believe at this time that that attention is being reciprocated by Kelly at all right now.
Notre Dame hasn’t lost a head coach to another job before for a reason. There aren’t many other coaching jobs that equal the prestige that comes with being the head football coach at the University of Notre Dame. I’m sure some NFL teams can offer Kelly a truckload of money, but I don’t think anyone can argue that being the head coach for say the Arizona Cardinals or San Diego Chargers is even close to as prestigious as being the head coach at Notre Dame. Hell, I am a diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan and I would never argue that position is as high profile as being the head coach at Notre Dame.
With the National Championship game still six days away, don’t expect to hear anything from Kelly regarding NFL teams’ interest in him. I would be shocked if we heard anything other than, “I’m only answering questions about the national championship game” or similar responses.
That won’t step reporters from asking him or listing him as a potential candidate for an open job or two though. A quick Google search for “Brian Kelly NFL” returns plenty of results of blogs, newspapers, and websites speculating about Kelly and the the NFL.
Here’s the key though. It’s all speculation right now and anyone who says anything otherwise according to “their sources” or a “source” does so knowing that it’s very easy to link the hot name in college football to a NFL opening even if there is no interest on either side.
Based on everything that Kelly has said so far since taking the job, I would be surprised if he seriously considered the idea of leaving for the NFL right now. Kelly has built a winning program at a place where people were still saying it was impossible to build a winner and has Notre Dame set up for a long run of success thanks to the foundation he’s built and the players he has coming in.
It would also surprise me if we didn’t see a headline announcing a contract extension between Kelly and Notre Dame shortly after the title game as well. Not only has Kelly far outperformed his original contract, but without a move like that from Notre Dame, opposing coaches will have a field day using NFL speculation against Kelly and Notre Dame on the recruiting trail.