Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly Faces Tough Questions

Brian Kelly - Notre Dame HC v. Northwestern
Notre Dame Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly leads the team onto the filed before the against the Northwestern Wildcats at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Brian, we need to have a sidebar.  The kind of sidebar I watched you attempt to have with starting quarterback Everett Golson after a turnover against Northwestern before he brushed past you on the sideline without a second glance, ignoring whatever coaching you attempted to impart.

Take a deep breath and settle down.  You’re amongst friends.  I’m not a part of the angry mob beginning to gather outside the football offices of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex after the worst loss suffered under your leadership.  Sure, some might claim the Tulsa or Navy losses in 2010 were the worst, and we can’t forget the blowout in the BCS National Championship game against Alabama, but they’d be wrong.  You were still building your program then, Brian.  When Notre Dame lost to Tulsa and Navy, it was, “Just wait until Kelly lands ‘his guy’ at quarterback,” and after Alabama it was, “Just wait until Golson is no longer a wide-eyed freshman and has some experience under his belt.”  Well, the entire 2014 roster has your thumbprint on it from top to bottom, and the days of “just wait until” have come to an end.

As a lifelong Michigan resident, I’m not an outsider you had to sell yourself to when you arrived in South Bend nearly five years ago.  I’ve watched your career trajectory first-hand, making the Grand Valley State University Lakers a household Michigan name after compiling 118 wins and two national championships.  Before you patrolled the sidelines of Notre Dame Stadium, I watched you pace the sidelines of Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo, MI, where you took a Central Michigan football team that had been the doormat of the MAC and beat Western Michigan, Central Michigan’s arch-rival and my alma mater.  I was in the stands that day, and through the falling snowflakes and cold I saw a man with a confident, borderline cocky smile.  It was one that knew he was a rising coaching star, and that programs such as Western Michigan were just pesky nuisances he had to sift through before finally being called to the big leagues.  I know what you’re capable of because I’ve watched the results for decades, long before anyone outside of Michigan knew your name.  And who would have thought all those years ago inside the small confines of Waldo Stadium that we’d be connected again, with you as Notre Dame’s head coach and me covering the team I grew up adoring?

Which is why I’m here to tell you the mob circling the football program is not composed of irrational fans angry about the fact that you haven’t won five national championships in a row, with margins of victory of fifty plus points per game.  I may not be among their number but I can hear them just the same, and this mob has valid points as sharp as the pitchforks they are starting to wield.

The goal of this season, if we’re being honest, was two-fold: to prove Notre Dame belonged with the elite and to put the college football world on notice that in 2016, the Fighting Irish are one of the favorites to win a national championship.  Those goals were still attainable even after the Arizona State disaster, which you described as the “debacle in the desert.”  But it would have involved winning out and beating a well-respected program in a bowl game.  After Saturday’s defeat at the hands of Northwestern, the only goal is to avoid the catastrophe of a five-loss season.  And if we’re still being frank with one another, the loss to Northwestern says far more about the current state of Notre Dame football than it does a Northwestern program on a down cycle that served as a glorified punching bag for Iowa and Nebraska just a few short weeks ago.

We could discuss the historically poor play of Notre Dame’s defense as of late, but that’s a topic for another day.  It was well known prior to this season that the defense was going through a transitional period, and Notre Dame’s offense was finally going to have to step up and share its portion of the burden.  And the time had come – in the fifth year of your leadership, the Kelly offense needed to finally emerge, and it needed Golson to become a star.  The offense has managed to put large quantities of points on the board – the problem is many of the points scored were on the opposing team’s behalf as well.  Golson now has 19 turnovers in a seven game stretch.

I know you’re in a bind.  Everett Golson gives you the best chance to win, and the mob is calling for backup quarterback Malik Zaire to get a chance when only you and your staff are truly qualified to know whether or not he’s ready.  You’re also no doubt aware of the disastrous result when Michigan pulled senior Devin Gardner in favor of inexperienced sophomore Shane Morris.  But what you have to understand is that there has to be some form of accountability.  The issue with Golson isn’t that he’s making mistakes – it’s that he’s repeating the same ones with no consequence.  No one player is above 19 turnovers in seven games, and what message does it send to the rest of the team when Golson can trot off the field and simply say, “We’ll get ‘em next time”?  If you refuse to impose accountability on those who continue to make the same mistakes, well, inevitably the accountability is shifted onto your shoulders.

What the solution is to these problems, I don’t know.  But I can tell you Notre Dame fans are tired of seeing walk-on players from other teams – such as Northwestern’s walk-on kicker going 4-of-5 on field goal attempts – outplaying Notre Dame’s heralded recruits, like Irish kicker Kyle Brindza going 0-of-2, including a missed attempt in overtime.  And with Golson likely returning next season now that the early NFL departure talk has been eliminated due to ball security concerns, the elephant in the room shows no sign of disappearing.  If the turnover issues fail to turn around, the mob outside the Guglielmino Complex will multiply several fold until the quarterback question spirals out of control.

What concerns me most is the confident smile of inevitability that I saw through the snowstorm in Kalamazoo years ago has been replaced by a man who looks exhausted, and one who appears to have allowed doubt to begin to enter his mind.  The next two weeks are the most critical of your five year tenure in South Bend and will largely determine whether or not Notre Dame is on its way up or down as a program.

As someone who has watched you since before the spotlight first glared in your direction, I know you have worked your entire career for a stage that a place like Notre Dame presents.  This is your moment to prove that smile on your face in Waldo Stadium years ago, one that you likely thought no one ever noticed, was justified.

So what’s it going to be, Brian?

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles, including an appearance on MSNBC as a sports contributor.  He talks football 24 hours a day, much to the chagrin of his wife and those around him.  Scott can be reached at

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  1. Brian kelly has always won with another coaches recruits.He lacks integrity.Ask UC s former players or the friends and family of the student taken practice films in gale winds

    1. I encourage you to read and learn more about the Sullivan’s. They show courage and class amid a tragedy. You sir are a disgrace to bring up their name and their son to try and prove your otherwise useless argument.

  2. I’ve been an ND football fan from the time I first heard the name back in the early 60s. The problem with ND on both sides of the ball is execution. As Lou Holtz one said, when one great team prevails over another great team, if you break the game down, if you really analyze it, the winner most often will be the team that was more fundamentally sound. Execution comes from good fundamentals. Fundamental soundness comes from great coaching, attention to detail. In the right type of football game, one 5 yard penalty can mean defeat.

    On the other hand, college and high school football offenses of today, even with the incredibly gifted athletes, is nothing more than glorified cow pasture football that we use to play as boys.

    Huddle (when there is one) ……”You run down the right side….you down the left side… run down the middle toward the goal post…….if you get open …..I’ll throw you the ball……if not…..I’ll just run it and all of you block”.

  3. Beyond me how anyone can think that TO’s did not affect win/losses this year. TO’s are one thing, but 19 by one player is not acceptable. Everette needs to sit and watch, rather it be for a quarter,a half or the whole game. I am a huge EG fan, but the kid isn’t getting it.

    A question was asked “what if Malik comes in an commits 5 TO’s”. That’s a pretty extreme hypothetical. What if Malik comes in and commits zero TO’s and throws 5 TD passes? Just sayin’.

    At any rate, Golson needs time to relflect.

  4. You guys who say our defense next year will be better than 2012 are wrong! I don’t see any Tuitt’s, Nix’s, Teo’s, Kaprons in the whole group. We need to get more 5 star defensive guys!

  5. It’s been twenty years since we have had athletes like nick eddy, tom schoen, tim brown, allen rossum or the rocket to produce points from the punt or kick off returns. How many all Americans have we had in the last twenty years. We need a much better recruitment effort.

    1. More importantly it’s been a few days since you last bitched and moaned. Or posted a useless YouTube clip.

      Are you constipated, suffer from ED? What is it that makes you so angry?

      1. Now THAT was a bith harsh Ron.
        Yep it’s Irisheye again and I’m talking to YOU.

        People like you make this fan forum the opposite of what it is supposed to be. Love of the Irish, exchange of ideas and bleeding Blue and Green and Gold.

        You asked Bruce Johnson above is he was constipated or suffered from ED and on and on. You do this in a pathetic way to put down others and to make yourself feel better.
        Fact is, others have asked if you are attempting to be sarcastic or witty after so many posts. You can’t seem to agree to disagree without a futile attempt to be clever and smirking. Trust me, they are futile attempts.

        With regards to my commentary saying that ” Irish Grad, Irish fan for life” –it is merely a way to say my place in the ND family and perhaps to qualify my take on the game. It is not bragging Sir.
        I worked very hard on every sentence, every paragraph and every class I was a part of–and ended up with a degree from a fine University. Nothing more and CERTAINLY nothing less.
        Others on this board are ND fans and grads too and I say Kudos to them–all of them–including you.
        This post to YOU is not an attempt at wit. You can have that and your put down remarks too.
        I will always love the Irish and am disappointed with the last part of this season but am not surprised.

        Ron–you say that you have been going to the games for 50 years. Good for you. I would hope that you would learn something more than your toxic words.

        To Michael the Archangel–I apologize to you. I did overstate things. I know you can’t stoop to Burgundy’s letter. Personally, I don’t think one should take such a screen name because of its sacred origin. I meant nothing personal to you.
        I’m sorry.

        I’m not sorry for talking with Mr. Burgundy.
        Steel Fan and Shaz and Irish Chan are right so much of the time and I’ve enjoyed them all. I will be at the games –after all I’m a grad–with
        seven relatives there!

        Best to all of you—and meanwhile I hope Mr. Burgundy you will think of how your cynical nature puts people off as it is neither clever and far less witty. I feel sorry for you.

        Go Irish!

      2. If you thought that was harsh get a load of this:

        irisheye62 replied on November 15th, 2014 at 3:56 pm
        you are no Archangel
        and YOU are disturbed.

        I hope that folks don’t respond to you.
        I feel sorry for your toxic tone.
        Name sounds more like fallen angel to me—and has for some time.
        Cynical, bitter, can’t agree to disagree and your insight on Irish football makes you sound like the biggest USC or SEC fan out there.
        I honestly feel sorry for you.
        It is folks like you that ruin the boards on the internet.

        Say hello to Lucifer and enjoy your eternal hot tea you sick twisted scum.

    2. A less snarky response but in agreement with the Burg man. Instead of looking at all Americans, look at the number of players active and making impact in the NFL. Notre Dame does not have a recruiting problem.

  6. It is probably safe to say that there wasn’t a real QB competition with much to be weighed in the decision. If Malik was anywhere remotely close to Golson he would have played by now. I have faith that Golson will be fine, but he definitely needed and probably would have benefited from a “time-out.”

  7. Watched for decades as ND has played up and down to the level of its opponent. Why? Who knows. Some truth to every team they play will play “over their heads” on game day. We have the athletes. The most skilled in a couple of decades. The turnovers did effect every game this year. Not just the losses. We rarely put games away and make it one dimensional for our defense. This has gone on for years also. Let teams hang around. Not getting playing time for our subs. Kelly is a great team builder and has built a very talented team. He just needs to simplify his game day. Gets to cute and fancy. Often times abandoning what is working. Causing turnovers and putting the defense in horrible situations. Great coach. Calls a crappy game. He needs to stay, adjust his game calling or give it to someone who will. Learn how to finish a game. Understanding that competition is high on our schedules year in and year out. Just the same, have noticed over the years the teams have been in positions to do so frequently, just don’t. For those with short memories. I recall having to let USC score, just get a shot on offense a few years back. Now that was demoralizing.

    1. I recall letting Stanford score in 2009, but it was the right move because stopping Gerhart certainly wasn’t going to happen. Just like stopping Northwestern’s ferocious rushing attack did not happen.

  8. Does anyone remember Shumate as a freshman? To not be playing, and Collinsworth starting is something that I never saw coming. Thought Shumate had star power as a frosh. Hope collinsworth isn’t chasing receivers up the seam like usual.

    1. Probably the same game Crist fumbled a snap on the goal line and the ball rolled between his legs as he was inexplicably incapable of falling on it. Either way, kick/punt returns should be the LEAST of your worries. Seriously. When was the last time ND ran a reverse flea flicker that resulted in a TD of 50 yards or more? Huh?

    2. Here’s some of the top teams in the country for kick return yardage:
      Western Mich
      La Tech
      North Texas
      I realize our special teams aren’t very special but Bama averages about 2 yards more per return than ND.

  9. chris j, this is anecdotal and I have no empirical data to back this up. But my nonscientific anecdotal recollection at the college level is that when you change scheme AND bring in a new coordinator the benefit really doesn’t take hold until the second year. Many players change positions and assignments and it takes until the second year.

    What’s unusual here is that
    our depth, especially on the DL will be no problem in 2015. Some will label this Pollyanish, but criticism of the offense was around for four years, and finally this year, there is the quarterback AND the supporting cast and the ppg difference is remarkable. Yeah, sure, we have wood to chop on the turnover crisis, but that will be the winter, spring summer theme.

    Will any team have two better defensive recruits than KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams? Players will know their roles and the four frosh who redshirted, Mokwuah, Hayes, Bonner and Williams, each of whom drew at least a smidgen of positive comment in the Summer will fill in the depth chart, even without the frosh. And Hill, Trumbetti, Cage, Morgan and Tranquill will know quite a bit more. Onwualu also. It is not inconceivable that the 2015 defense could take the quantum leap that the 2014 offense has taken. One thing is for sure, it will be a much much more athletic defense than the 2012 unit.

    And there will be enough depth at every level to provide a buffer against the usual spate of injuries that occur.

    We shall see.

    Then when the offense cleans up the turnover problem….

    1. Duranko, don’t forget that Davaris Daniels has come to his senses and may return as well. That would be a great addition to an already deep receiving group.

    2. Duranko,

      We knew the defense was going to be an issue. It was a pleasant surprise and the beginning of the year but has regressed. The offense is what bothers me. They should still be winning games even with a poor defense. They have to stop turning the ball over and even if the defense gets better, it this continues next year they will be in the same boat.

    3. duranko,

      It definitely has me excited. I’ve been waiting for the year an ND football team puts it ALL together on the field. It seems like we have always been awesome on one side of the ball, and then just ok or struggling on the other side of the ball. With the depth we are building from the awesome recruiting, we are getting there. It’s going to happen and I would expect next year to be a good starting point.

  10. Everett Golson, Will Fuller, and Jaylon Smith are the best players on this team. Imagine what people would be saying if Kelly sat Golson this week, played Zaire and he commits 5 turnovers and we get stomped 40 – 10. Zaire is an unknown at this point so how can you start a guy who hasn’t played a meaningful snap yet over a guy who is leading this team to 36 pts/game, even with all of the turnovers?? That would be a really stupid move.

    If our team was winning all of these games, scoring the same amount of points, even with all of the turnovers, none of you would be saying anything about the stupid turnovers, would ya? You would be praising Kelly and Golson both.

    This defense is setting historically bad records at ND right now. Wake up you idiots who think Golson is the problem.

    1. Chris J,

      After the Syracuse game I criticized the turnovers. Winning teams don’t turn the ball over 4 times a game. I have a homework assignment for you. Look at the box scores this weekend. Look at two stats turnovers and penalties. See how many teams playing power 5 conferences lose both stats and win the game. I bet most of them lose. Great QBs don’t turn the ball over.

      Does Golson give ND the best chance to win, yes, but with turnovers and a week Def he gives them a chance to lose. Clean up turnovers clean up kicking and they have a good chance of winning. Don’t and they lose. The problem is I don’t see Golson changing silo get ready for the roller coaster ride

      1. Just a guess but I don’t see anybody doing homework this weekend, with the holiday and all.

      2. Well you may have a point. However, we’ll need to know whether Jack is a professor or just an adjunct.

      3. Burgundy the holiday is next week. I do my homework because just lobbing statements with no research is just making a stupid argument. Stop turning the ball over and ND has a chance to win. Turn the ball over with a shitty defense and you lose. As far as a professor, I work for a living.

        Next weekend is the Holiday weekend and no homework, I have homemade eggnog to make for the Holidays. It’s a tradition, usually the Irish are on and I watch the game and make eggnog.

      4. Jack,
        You are barking up the wrong tree. Chris J has demonstrated quite forcefully that he does not believe 4 turnovers / game has any meaningful impact on the outcome of those games. The offense is scoring enough points and it’s the defenses job to stop the other team, PERIOD. The circumstances don’t matter in the least, such as how many of those turnovers take away points from ND (like how many times we’ve turned it over in the redzone when we were about to score) or turning it over in enemy territory (giving easy points to the other team).

  11. one lousy extra point is the difference between 8-2 and 7-3

    Next time, go for the extra point rather than the two point conversion. it is way easier to convert.

  12. If I had my way,BK would bench himself right next to EG. At least for a time. Golson has been given more slack than needed. He just keeps admitting it’s his fault only to turn around and do it again and again and again….you get the picture. His shortcomings with the ball far outweigh his accomplishments. Yeah, the defense has played lousy, but EG has singlehanded screwed up what could have been a hallmark year in turning the corner.

    Further more if any player blew past me on the sidelines when he’s getting admonished and coached, I’d be called for a face mask penalty because I sure as hell would be getting EV’s attention by latching on and not letting go until he looks me in the eye when I talk. He acts like a spoiled brat that doesn’t want to hear it. It is obvious he argues with the coach and that is not acceptable.

    Golson needs to be sent a message. Sit down until you get it.

    1. This team is 5-5 or worse right now without Golson. Golson is not the problem and he needs to be in there regardless. Golson has made some costly mistakes as have a lot of others on the team including BK decision to switch holders and go for two point conversion. It would be another costly mistake by BK to switch QBs right now. Not going to happen.

      1. The best thing that could happen is Golson should be made the back up QB, and if Kelly does not get better at coaching he should start looking for another job. If all these things don’t happen we can expect the same until it does happen.

  13. Only someone who doesn’t watch the Notre Dame games comes to an irrational conclusion and those who agree with this article are blind. Brian Kelly has been everything this program needs. He is a brilliant mind and developer of talent. If anyone who watches the ND games over the last few years does not recognize that his players have screwed him so many times over, they are blind. Ill timed interceptions over and over by Tommy Rees blew many winnable games. Now suddenly Golson is killing them. Unreal. Injuries like no one’s business. 5 players suspended. Playing freshmen all over the field on defense. Brian Kelly couldn’t do more with what he has had. Yes he is accountable as well but he has been everything this program needs.

  14. It is very obvious that in the five years of Kelly’s tenure as head coach there is only one acceptable season, 2012. The rest by ND standards were pretty much mediocre.
    Don’t tell me about his QB or not his QB. You play the hand you are dealt and he has not been able to win more than 9 games in the other four seasons. Not only hasn’t his teams performed on the field but they have also failed off the field. Something has got to change and fast. Kelly’s stay at ND would benefit greatly with wins over Louisville and USC. Of course, losses would only bring him closer to the “mob” and the end of his stay with the Irish. He has “his” recruits now and it does not appear that it is going to amount to 10 wins. Right now the best thing for ND would be to have Golson leave and go to the pros. Realistically not going to happen but we can only hope. Go Irish!!!

    1. Everett Golson helps lead the team to a 12-0 season in 2012.
      He currently owns a 17-3 record as a starter.

      In 2014 he encounters adversity, helps contribute to a few losses on the football field, and you believe the best thing for ND is to kick him to the curb, not have him finish his education or earn his degree?

      Realistically… you’re a pin head.

    1. Jerry, not sure if you’ve noticed but he’s lost the team. Do you see how players react to him when they come off the field?

  15. I thought this program was pass the losing to weak programs at home but I was wrong. I have never seen a team INVENT ways to lose football games. But the Irish have this season. It completely blows my mind how a team that was a penalty a way from beating the defending champion in their house led by their Heisman Trophy QB can lose to a team like NorthWestern at home. I was embarrassed to be a Notre Dame fan and that has never happened before. That garbage continues to happen for some reason and Irish fan continue to get pissed when we feel we don’t get the respect we think we deserve. This team is simply not as good as we thought we were. What Kelly was thinking going for two was just dumb, it made no sense at all and he should be smarter than that. I still don’t bench Golson but I just dont know where this program goes from here. We are going to a garbage bowl again this season.

    Heading into 2015 we have a bunch of starters returning but I am starting to think that maybe that isn’t a good thing and I can’t describe this defense without using curse words. We have no pass rush at all even when we blitz and we can’t stop the run at all. This team could easily finish this regular season at 7-5 and after the FSU game I would have thought that was impossible.

    I really like Brian Kelly I really do. In 2012 he made this program important again but the two years before that 12-0 season and the two years after we have been average at best. As a head coach for NOTRE DAME you simply can’t be average. I am not saying fire Kelly but at worse he needs to be on the hot seat. If this team doesn’t have a GREAT season next year Brian Kelly might need to go. You simply can’t have losses like last Saturday and continue to only manage 7-8 wins a season. That is not good enough at ND!

  16. Notre Dame will be Fine. The Irish always face a Lot of Reactions From Every one in the NCAA. If ND dont Turn the Ball Over, and Mr Golesen settles down, Life at ND will Return to Normal. Timothy Cline.

  17. no killer instinct. too many poor play calls at critical times. Very little creativity getting the ball to athletes in space (end arounds, mis-direction, etc.). very poor inside 10 yd line. never had a decent return game. other than that, he’s great!

  18. Notre Lame hasn’t beaten a ranked team since when? Sorry to be so blunt. They shouldn’t have even been in Championship Game w the Heisman candidate with fake dying girlfriend. Hope Kelly stays at ND. He’s not much better than Fat Charlie.

  19. I have been a true Notre Dame fan forever but I notice something different about this team and it starts with the quarterback. I have watched him run off the field while Kelly tries to instruct him or coach him and it’s like nothing to him and that needs to stop. Week after week, fumble after fumble it continues and hurts true Notre Dame fans.
    Truthfully it’s like watching last years quarterback.
    Put the back-up in and let Golson sit and see what is going on. Maybe then he will listen to Kelly

  20. Brian Kelly is not a Charlie Weis; but, neither is he a Nick Saban.

    Grand Valley State and Central Michigan are not Alabama, Oklahoma or USC. And they are certainly not Notre Dame.

    Injuries aside, a Northwestern loss is not the death of a program. However, it does represent a significant step in the wrong direction.

    Purple-faced sideline antics, consistent top-10 recruiting classes; a blow-out loss to Alabama in the 2012 NC game; and an inexplicable home loss to a inept opponent paint a picture a program not on an upward trajectory; but rather, it more clearly describes a program that is doomed to consistent (8 or 9-win per season) mediocrity.

    Reality check: Notre Dame is 1-3 in their last 4 games. This certainly is not the beginning of the season hype that we are spoon-fed where the only goal is the NC game. It may or may not be time time for those Pina Coladas Brian Kelly spoke fondly of only a few short weeks ago. One thing is for certain: the nay-sayers and dome-haters are in their glory while the once-mighty Fighting Irish spin their wheels on a snowy and icy South Bend road, as the driver attempts to right the course and avoid the ditch just up ahead.

  21. Being a subway alum for 42 years, I have witnessed the good and the bad. I believe we are in Charlie Weiss territory could see the players giving up during the Northwestern game, and I believe he has lost the team. As much as Golson has turned the ball over, he seems to be the only player and including coaches,who takes responsibility for the losses. Our Oline is not good, our defense has been playing uninspired play. We have the makings of a good team I think, but the players are not giving it all, and I’d rather see those players sit and play freshman who want to contribute than seniors who feel entitled and do nothing. Last two games will be telling on going forward.

  22. Scott,

    Great article and great way to put it. BK needs to rally his team and make them believe in him, the program and themselves. He needs to sit down with Everett and let him know that his current play is unacceptable and needs to change. If it doesn’t he will be forced to make a change.

    Now I am one of those people that question the direction of the program, however one game and one loss does not make a season. He has the ability to win these last two games end up 9-3 and go into the next season loaded. He also has the chance to go 0-2 finish the year 7-5 and limp into the offseason. This is on the players and the coach. Leaders on this team need to step up and those are the ones on the field not injured. Do I think BK has the ability, I’m not sure, but he better or he will be house shopping.

    Chris J,

    In response to your comment it’s not Kelly’s fault, I disagree. This is BK’s program, these are his recruits and this is his team. They are making mistakes over and over again that can be corrected but aren’t. This falls on the shoulders of the head coach and it’s the head coach’s responsibility to clean them up. Harry Truman had a famous saying on his desk “The buck stops here.” It’s time for BK to step up and take responsibility for the team and get it moving in the right direction.

  23. Kelly has this program going in the right direction, regardless of what our record represents this year.

    2010 – Not His QB – Record 8-4
    2011 – Not His QB – Record 8-5
    2012 – His QB (as a 1st year starting redshirt Freshmen) – Record 12-0 Regular Season and National Title Appearance Loss
    2013 – Not His QB – Record 9-4
    2014 – His QB – Record 7-3

    In 2012 we scoring 26 points a game. Our D was giving up 13 points a game. But I want to point out that this was under 3rd year D-Coordinator Bob Diaco.

    Now that it is 2014, we are scoring 10 more points a game with Golson in his 2ND year playing college football after sitting out an entire season. Our D is giving up 27 points a game. And I want to point out this is Van Gorder’s first year at ND.

    According to that Sports Reference website, we are averaging only 1 more turnover per game on average than in 2012. So while I know that many are pointing to the turnovers as the main source of problems, it’s not it.

    This season’s outcome is not on Brian Kelly. We are still moving in the right direction, especially on offense with a 2nd year QB. I’m glad Golson will be back because he is the real deal. Van Gorder just needs some time to develop the defense the way Diaco eventually did. When we put it all together, we are going to be a machine. Imagine the 2012 defense with this year’s offense…that could be scary for teams.

    Kelly has tried to make changes to better help the team. It hasn’t always worked out the way he thought it might but at least he tried. Two I can think of right away are changing the O-Line because the running game was suffering. And the other was 3 botched holds in critical situations by our placeholder so he tried Zaire there.

    It sucks we didn’t make the college playoff this year, but I still think this program is heading in the right direction. There are many other positive things I could point out here but at a high level, everyone should be able to see we are getting there…

    1. Someone recently posted ND’s rankings across a # of metrics. There are major issues across every single metric. ND is playing a MAC level right now, and outside of 2012, has been at the level for all of Kelly’s tenure.

      1. That’s an interesting analysis, west coast. Kelly is 3-1 against USC and 3-1 against Michigan State. He got to a National Championship game. I guess I missed the memo which detailed USC and MSU moving to the MAC, or the MaC team that played in the national championship game. If you want to see something MAC level, just walk over to a mirror.

    2. “I know that many are pointing to the turnovers as the main source of problems, it’s not it.”

      You’re insane. If we had one or two less turnovers in the last two games, we’d be 9-1.

      “This season’s outcome is not on Brian Kelly.”

      LOL. Then who is it on? These are all his recruits. This is HIS TEAM. Other teams bring in new defensive coordinators without suddenly hemorrhaging points and yards.

      1. Sean,

        My father has a great saying
        “If a bullfrog had wings it wouldn’t bump it’s rear” Bill Parcells used to say you are what your record says you are. ND is 7-3 not 9-1. They have turned the ball over 9 times in two games. There QB keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. It is the job of the head coach to correct these problems or he needs to make ad decision.

        Special teams have been horrible under Kelly. How many field goals and extra points have been missed this year. This to is the coach’s job to correct.

        Finally, the defense isn’t staying in their run lanes, hell on one play on Saturday there was 10 player in the field. Now this was the 10th game of the year and the person who was missing has been a starter since game one.

        Now I understand that players play and coaches coach, but when you are making as many mental errors as this team is making it is the coach’s responsibility to fix these issues. I don’t see that happening, yet. BK has two games to prove he can fix these problems for this year.

    3. Chris to be blunt and to the point, all you are doing is making up excuses. How many times, how many seasons do we have to keep hearing “Notre Dame is close, they are heading in the right direction”? Or next year is our year, just wait. Its BS and I am sick of it. Kelly has been here for 5 seasons, out of those five we had 1 great season and 4 average at best. That’s five seasons to recruit the “RKG” so there should be no excuses. These are Kelly’s guys. Minus the Florida State game we have not played well versus elite teams minus in 2012.

      I know its not easy to win at NOTRE DAME. Its the hardest place to win in all of college football. A lot of “elite” coaches pass at this job because of how difficult it is but Kelly has been here for 5 seasons and this team is playing no better than the teams he had in his first and second seasons. I like Golson, I don’t want him benched. He can be a heisman tropy winning QB or he can play worse than Tommy Rees.

      Turnovers have crippled any thoughts of a magical season like in 2012. How you figure turnovers are not the major reason for these back to back losses is beyond me with the two pick six’s at Arizona State, the fumbles inside your opponents freaking 10 yard line, the back breaking fumble from your captain RB which had he held onto that ball none of us are having this conversation.

      If we continue down this road we are looking at a 7-5 season with a schedule that was not very difficult because you can bet that Louisville is licking their chops and can’t wait to ride into South Bend after seeing our defense the past couple of games. Its time for Irish fans to stop making excuses because all we are right jow is a average football program.

      1. Did you really forget how bad things were before Kelly?

        2007 3-9
        2008 7-6
        2009 6-6

        Kelly arrives in December 2009, and keeps Weiss’s recruiting class from falling apart.

        Because of the 3 years struggling, we did not get top recruits. It was not until 2013, 14′, and 15′ classes we see top 10 ranks.

        We have been down the road of impatience, and it never worked. Kelly does not have losing seasons.

        You know who did?
        Weiss (3-9)
        Willingham (5-7)
        Davie (5-7 & 5-6)

        ..why go down that road again?

      2. Sean/Kenny,

        I’m only making excuses for our defense. In all of these games when we turned the ball over, how many points have we scored? A bunch. The two pick sixes were bad luck from tipped passes, especially Robinson’s drop. It is a first year d-coordinator and still a young defense. They suck this year.

        My point is that Kelly can’t coach players turning the ball over. That is ALL on the players. But with our offense scoring as much as we are, what do you all want!? Perfection with no turnovers and scoring 50+ a game to win a ball game? Kelly is an offensive minded guy. He calls the plays. Unfortunately, he has to put his trust in the D-Coordinator to get the job done on defense but this is not happening as our D is pathetic. Yet, all of you are calling for Kelly’s head and putting the blame on him. That is going overboard if you ask me considering his MAIN jobs are to recruit, make sure these kids are doing the right things in the classroom, and running the offense. He CANNOT do it all on the field. That is why you hire other coaches you trust. The offense is doing their job, scoring 10, yes 10, more points than in 2012 which everyone keeps going back to of Kelly’s best year. So Kelly is succeeding in those MAIN areas I pointed out. The defense is young, new coordinator, and they will get better, a lot better next year.

      3. Chris J,

        Timeout. How demoralizing is it when your offense has the chance to put games away and fumbles the ball inside the redzone. Your analysis of what Kelly should be doing is not correct. A head coach runs a program, just doesn’t recruit, make sure kids go to class and run an offense. ND had that coach, his name was Charlie Weis.

        This team has shown no discipline if completing their assignments and taking care of the football. That falls squarely on the coach.

        Lets look at some great coaching trees which have gone through pros and college.

        Parcells: Belechek and Saban

        Discipline task masters. Their teams don’t beat themselves. They execute their game plan.

        Bill Walsh: Green,

        West Coast offense. Simplistic. Walsh only had about 20 plays but ran them to perfection.

        This team is making mental mistakes. Poor tackling, missed blocks, missed blitz pick ups, wrong reads by the QB, poor ball security by the QB, wrong reads and blown coverages and special teams blow ups. These issues are not due to inexperience they are a lack of discipline by some of your more experienced players. Stop making excuses he is responsible for the entire program or we will be back to where we were with Weis and a new D-coordinator every year.

      4. ChrisJ, I remember some of your posts and recall that you are a bit of a student of the game.

        Riddle me this Chris:

        Have you ever heard of a college football team that returns 18 players who started in previous years to its next year’s defense?

        Here are the (perhaps) players who have started (or will on Saturday) for the Irish who are ANTICIPATED to be back in 2015.

        DL: Ishaq, Isaac, Sheldon, Jarron, Romeo, Andrew,

        LB:Smith, Onwualu, Schmidt, Morgan Grace

        CB Russell, Luke Butler

        S Farley, Shumate, Redfield, Tranquill

        And there is a lot more depth bringing up the rear. It was courageous to change the defense to equip it to be better off against spread teams in future playoffs. But retooling is not without tradeoffs.

      5. duranko,

        I completely agree. We have brought in speed, speed, and more speed. So what is lacking? Schemes? Trust in your defensive backfield? I can’t remember our starting secondary getting beat on a deep bomb this year where it was caught for a TD. I remember a couple drops and overthrows where receivers got behind our secondary. But I think you have to start trusting your young secondary and let them play free, just like Jaylon Smith said earlier this week. Press the receivers on the blitz instead of giving them 8 yards before contact. We have the athletes to do it and more coming in. You can see the potential already and with another off-season of growth, this could be the next 2012 defense we all remember…maybe better. I definitely cannot remember that many coming back to a team the next year. It’s pretty awesome to know all of those players will be back!

  24. Well-written and I mostly agree. The problems with this team are multi-faceted. The simple-minded always point to one factor, one person, one game etc. But in reality we can see that it is many problems that have to be addressed.

  25. A team seeks out its identity through the season. Ground and pound. Or Air Coryell. Or The Big Play. Notre Dame was looking good and then ASU and Northwestern, especially Northwestern, seemed to give the team the identity: Play Stupid. And this is the play of the coaches and so many players, though of course not all. Fuller has been tremendous, for example. Injuries make an impact. But overall the theme seems to have become Play Stupid. We don’t have to win the national championship to be a program that speaks well of the whole school’s great academic achievement. But, the effort has really become ridiculous, regardless of the strong academic standards ND sets: we seem to have come to the identity of Play Stupid. Whether we win the last games, I hope we finish by Playing Smart.

  26. Great article. Exactly how I’m feeling as a ND fan. There is no way Malik Zaire is soooooo bad that EG’s 19 turnovers in 7 games are overlooked. I don’t get it. Lou Holtz would STILL have him on the bench!! What the heck was that last week with Redfield and Tranquil? Redfield sat out a whole year to learn the position and you thought a true freshman was a better option after Redfield’s one bad game? Doesn’t make sense. All I want to see is highly competitive football week in and out. Too routinely I’m seeing a team this is not ready to compete in it’s biggest games..

  27. The worst part of this article is the reference to Golson coming back…back to back seasons with record numbers of turnovers is not something I want to even think about.

  28. The team has lost about 8 elite players this year to suspension and injuries. I don’t know of a single program in the country that could sustain those kinds of losses – especially on the defensive side of the ball. The defense has regressed because of these losses, so while we can pin some of this on Kelly, the vast majority of the problems have been out of his control.

    So cut the man some slack. This team is extremely close to being elite and that is all because of Brian Kelly.

    Also, let’s see what Van Gorder does next year with some time teaching these young kids. The man has assembled an elite defense at every stop of his career. Let’s just wait and watch.

    So, in short, even if this team ends up 8-5, hitting the panic button is not warranted.

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