Is This Brian Kelly’s Best Coaching Job to Date?

Brian Kelly - Notre Dame Head Coach
Photo: Matt Cashore // USA TODAY Sports

The topic is obviously a very subjective one, and in some corners, a very polarizing one. Brian Kelly has now been with the Notre Dame since 2010 and under his tenure has compiled a record of 51-21, with a national title game appearance. Depending on who you talk to, some consider Kelly as one of the most successful coaches to ever man the helm of the Fighting Irish Football program, while others will whisper that he has actually underachieved during his tenure.

Neither side in the debate lacks a list of ‘facts’ to support their narrative. Regardless of which category you fall under though, the fact remains that the Irish program has been dealt some severe blows this year, and have still found a way to stay extremely relevant in the eyes of the national media.

At the age of 54, Brian Kelly has reached an age in life where there are very surprises left that he hasn’t witnessed before. With that said, without personal confirmation, I assume that this year’s injuries and fallout had to have a certain Déjà vu quality to it.

Starting in the offseason with the dismissal and transfer of Greg Bryant, to the losses of Malik Zaire, Tarean Folston, Alex Bars, Durham Smythe, Jarron Jones, plus others, the Irish Coach has had to deal with significant losses. Injuries are not part of the game and every team has to deal with them, but the loss of your starting quarterback and running back could be devastating to many a program. Instead of making excuses in the media, Kelly circled the wagons and relied upon the all-too-familiar mantra of Notre Dame Football, ‘Next Man In”. A philosophy that Irish fans, staff, and players have embedded in their minds from the past two previous years, has been prevalent and more importantly, successful during the 2015 campaign.

Injury and eligibility issues aside, Brian Kelly has still had to find a way to insert multiple inexperienced players into the offense while facing some difficult defenses along the way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming the transition and process has been completely smooth and issue free, but there have been far more answers to those questions than in previous years.

There are many adjectives that we could adhere to years past, such as implosion, confusion, and under-performance, just to name a few, but this year Brian Kelly has found a way to keep the proverbial Band-Aid secure up to this point. If you specifically focus on the his work with first year quarterback Deshone Kizer, then what he has accomplished as a head coach this year is even more impressive.

In years past Kelly has been described as being too hard on his quarterbacks, often mentally dismantling them on national television on the sidelines. This year, he seems to have backed off considerably, while still being tough with his young quarterback. It is extremely visible also, that Kelly has given the native of Ohio enough space to be effective behind center, but not ask him to more than he is capable of doing.

Some would argue that Kelly has still struggled as much in 2015 as in previous years with his play calling and in-game decisions, and while there are surely examples of this conjecture littered throughout the current season, he has succeeded much more than he has failed. Some would also claim that it has nothing to do with Kelly, and everything to do with the makeup and talent of Deshone Kizer and C.J. Prosise – two players that Brian Kelly is responsible for in the recruiting process.   I say that while the character of a young man definitely helps, the tutelage they receive is just as important in such an early stage of their career.

As with any controversial subject, there will always be differing opinions on the topic. For myself, I have seen both sides of the argument up close, and honestly have employed the mindset of each at different times.   There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to ones opinion of Brian Kelly’s accomplishments (or lack thereof) while at Notre Dame, but I would suggest that it is hard to argue against what he has drawn out of the 2015 Notre Dame squad. A combination of injuries, imposed youth integration, and a somewhat challenging schedule could have easily been seen as a lethal concoction that could have been viewed as insurmountable, but instead, Notre Dame has persevered – at least for now.

Notre Dame still have some work to do and may need some help if they have their eyes set on a playoff spot, but the fact that the playoffs are still an option at this juncture is proof enough for me that the coaching job of Brian Kelly in 2015 is the best he’s put forth during his time at Notre Dame.

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  1. When it comes to Brian Kelly, I think it’s safe to say he’s the best coach we’ve had since Lou Holtz. He’s clearly an upgrade over the Davies/Willingham/Weis years. I think there’s potential in BK that has been hampered by injuries the last 2 years. I’d love to see what BK can do without practically half the starters being injured. What would our team look like if Zaire, Folston, Bryant and others were still playing? I think in some ways ND has done very well this year considering we’re playing with a QB who got very few reps in Spring Ball. That speaks well of Kizer and the coaching staff.

    Is BK an elite coach though? That is a question we’ll have to answer when is tenure is done at ND. Clearly it will have to involve whether we have an NC under out belt.

    I do find in insane that there are fans calling for BK to be fired and a new coach to be hired. Are you CRAZY? ND Football has improved since Weis was fired. Anyone who says otherwise clearly has not watched in the last 5 years. Do I think there’s room for improvement? Absolutely, but I haven’t by any stretch given up on BK.

    Plus, just who do you think you are getting to take his place? Someone like Nick Saban? Urban Meyer? Forget it. Those types of coaches are not coming to ND because they don’t want to deal with the academics and discipline required at ND. Plus they have everything they could ever want right where they are at. ALso if Swarbick were to do something boneheaded like fire BK, they’d be incredulous. Most people outside the world of ND see BK as someone who has elevated ND football, made them a force to be reckoned with. Made them a team other teams have to take seriously every week.

  2. Yes he is a good “HEAD COACH”. Yes we question play calling in past. Temple game wasn’t play calling. ND was play calling to use Temple’s defensive set against themselves. Unlike Clemson game. Temples’s front 7 were just to fast for our offensive front period. Again I didn’t see O lineman getting to 2nd level on backers. Temple had back end coverage on receivers. Only a few times did running between tackles work when defense was spread. Slow offense. Alley off tackle was only thing successfull and that needed to be quick not slow developing. So yes Kelly is a good coach. But as in the Buisiness world we’re seeing more competition and consequently the slice of the pie get smaller. Not just for student athletes either. For all assets of a program. So yes possibly this is his best coaching/administrating year to date. All factors considered. Again what prominent H.C. is going to want the ND job. Best stick with Kelly. Program is growing and sustaining now. He will continue to make staff changes too. Thanks

  3. Kelly has tried to reinvent himself this season. The quality control positions ( eg: Elloit’s successful game planning for GT and Navy) Upgrades on the staff, better recruiting and player development, with better depth, are all clearly improved. HOWEVER BK IS NOT a championship level coach. I know there aren’t many of them, but ND SHOULD have one. His game day management decisions are poor, as is his play calling.

    ND can be good under Kelly, but not likely great, or good enough for national championship considerations on a fairly regular basis. If Kelly would relinquish play calling, shore up the few week staff positions (eg: BVG), and be more CEO that COO, he and the Irish program would be much better off.

  4. I agree to some extent with Robert Kolt. The Irish are still too predictable on offense. I also wonder about the use (or lack thereof) of players. Why no snaps for the freshman running back? Why not use the TE more (especially Alize Jones). We need to see more of Torii Hunter. I thought the sideline incident was bush league. There does seem to be a lack of preparation.

    On the other hand, I am so impressed with the character of this team and their QB.


  5. “Is this Brian Kelly’s Best Coaching Job to Date?”

    You MUST be joking!!! Brian Kelly has got some of the most talented players in college football and doesn’t have an earthly clue as to how to use them. They NEVER looked prepared to play, look lethargic and uninterested, and always have to come from behind to win. Kelly’s play calling is a miserable farce… run up the middle, run up the middle, throw a screen pass to the flat and get tackled behind the line, punt. Only when the game is on the line does he open the playbook and do something different… totally predictable and ineffective.

    Its time to seriously look for a new coach. We are never going to be elite with this second-rate coach. Let’s get a coach who knows how to use quality players, knows how to prepare a team, and has a killer instinct… it sure ain’t Kelly!!!

  6. We only gave up 20 points in the bvg defensive nightmare. Hire Kirby smart from bana if you want to give up less than our avg 26-27 per game last 20 games.
    Kelly still can’t run the ball. But he only has a one back offense, where are the other two guys. Those interceptions were the result of no run game. Play calling still is an enigma to me.

  7. Not the most impressive looking win and definitely no style points. Further, that little altercation between Kelly and Grimes on the sideline made Kelly look like a buffoon. It’s a win but these are teams ND should be handling better if they want to be considered top tier. Prosise and Fuller certainly didn’t have their A game tonight. On to next week.

  8. “Depending on who you talk to, the best to ever man the helm?” Ok, ANYBODY thinking that deserves to be hit on the head with a hammer. That’s an insult to Leahy, Rockne, Parsegian, Holtz, and hell, I might even throw Devine in there. Is Kelly a good coach, yeah, and he has been upgrading talent, but, not counting this year, he has had only 1 chance for a NC, and got blown out and flirted to leave for the NFL during the same time. Until he either wins a NC or has 3 or 4 straight seasons with 11+ wins AND some major bowl wins, the best ever to man the helm, please!

    Focus on Temple, come out sharp, and put this team away quickly tonight, period.

    Go IRISH!

  9. I concur with Jack. And very lucky to win against Virginia. Outcoached and unprepared against Clemson. Still without a signature win IMO. I dont believe ND will have a chance to beat a top 20 ranked team that actually stays in the top 20 until they face Stanford. B- with a chance to achieve a B+ if they run the table. Make the playoffs for A-. Win in the first round for an A. National Championship for A+

  10. If I were going to give him a grade overall it would be B- . You must consider we played in the title game in his 3rd year, something no coach since Holtz was able to do. Have we had some bad seasons? Certainly! As for this year, it’s a totally different team than last years team. So many injuries but we are still winning. We now enter the toughest part of the schedule (who would have guessed that) and after November we can judge BK and the Irish are a great team.

    No turnovers tonight and the Irish win big. Irish 38 Owls 10.

    Go Irish!

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