As Brian Kelly prepares to enter his 5th season as the head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish there are still some Irish fans who are not convinced that Notre Dame might actually have an elite head coach roaming the sidelines for the first time since Lou Holtz.
Count the writers at Sporting News as those who do not subscribe to that school of though. In their recently released rankings of all 128 college football head coaches, Sporting News ranked Kelly as the 5th best head coach in all of college football. A ranking that places Kelly higher than the likes of Jimbo Fisher and David Shaw.
Here’s what they had to say about Notre Dame’s head coach:
Has won big everywhere he has coached, from the NCAA lower divisions to non-BCS and BCS levels. Had ND on pace for another run in 2013 before starting QB Everett Golson was dismissed from school for cheating on an exam. He’s back this fall – but so is Malik Zaire, a talented redshirt freshman who will push Golson and put Kelly in his comfort zone: playing and thriving with multiple quarterbacks.
There is no doubt that Kelly is the best head coach Notre Dame has had since Holtz. That much can’t be argued by even the harshest of Brian Kelly critics. By their 5th seasons at Notre Dame, both Bob Davie and Charlie Weis had at least one season with a losing record where they missed a bowl game and were entering do or die seasons. Tyrone Willingham never made it to a 5th year after suffering two losing seasons in three years before being shown the door.
Does all of that add up to Kelly being a top 5 head coach in all of college football though? To recap his accomplishments at Notre Dame, he has had a winning season all four years, taken Notre Dame to four bowl games where the Irish have a 2-2 record, and has had one top 5 finish. On the other hand, two of those bowl seasons that ended with winning records still landed Notre Dame outside of the top 25 meaning that Notre Dame has finished outside of the top 25 in half of the seasons Kelly has been in command of the Fighting Irish.
There is no doubt that Brian Kelly has returned some stability to the Notre Dame program, upgraded the talent level throughout the entire roster, and has Notre Dame in a position to be a consistently winning program again for the first time since the days of Holtz, but I think the jury might still be out if he is one of the top 5 coaches in all of college football.
The 2014 season will actually go a long way in determining just where Kelly fits in amongst the nation’s elite coaches. It could be argue that in his four years at Notre Dame Kelly has only had the kind of quarterback needed to run the kind of offense he wants in one season and in that one season the Irish played for the national title.
In 2014 Kelly will have not one, but two hand-picked quarterbacks tailor made for his offense. If that results in another run at a title this season, it will be hard for anyone to argue with The Sporting News’ rankings. If 2014 brings about another 9-4 or similar campaign ending in a subpar bowl game though, it will be hard for anyone to argue that Kelly is a top 5 head coach.
What are your thoughts on where Kelly should be ranked amongst the other 127 division 1 head coaches? Let us know in the comments.