Notre Dame DC Brian Vangorder Fired!

Photo: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Photo: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Wow.  Talk about an about face.  Less than 24 hours after stating that coaching wasn’t a problem and that he was not concerned at all about the defensive coaching leadership of his team, Brian Kelly has announced that he has fired Brian Vangorder as the defensive coordinator for Notre Dame.  In an official press release, Kelly also said defensive analyst Greg Hudson will assume Vangorder’s responsibilities.

“This is a difficult decision,” said Kelly. “I have the utmost respect for Brian as both a person and football coach, but our defense simply isn’t it where it should be and I believe this change is necessary for the best interest of our program and our student-athletes.

“It’s never easy to make a change on your staff, but I’m confident in Greg’s ability to lead our defense. As a former player at Notre Dame and an experienced defensive coordinator, he not only understands the expectations necessary to compete at the highest level, but he’ll bring a fresh perspective to our sideline, practice field and meeting rooms.”

Wow.  Last night Kelly almost defiantly stated that coaching wasn’t an issue while placing the blame on the shoulder of his players  Since then, Kelly has changed his tune and now Brian Vangorder is officially a former Notre Dame defensive coordinator.

We will have plenty more on this sudden change in direction from Brian Kelly later today after he meets with the media.  For now though, this is the first bit of good news Notre Dame fans have received in some time.


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  1. Best thing that could’ve happened for ND might’ve been LSU firing Les Miles. Maybe ND can take a shot at a young, dynamic DC like Dave Aranda.

  2. Bruce,
    I definitely agree with the if, but really, we have the defensive personnel to be very good and if we pump them up and let them play, I think we can be average very rapidly. Our offense is very good and is affected by the defensive ineptitude.

    1. USAF Irish,
      The defense is confused, lacks basic techniques, and maybe is a little hesitant or gun shy in the front seven area.
      But it was the defense that bailed the offense out of its follies against Nevada. And they got no credit for it.
      I understand why the defense is inept – they don’t know what they are doing out there, or at least, they don’t know how to do what they want to do out there.
      But why does the offense falter so frequently? They know exactly what they are doing, nobody can match up with them when they are on their game (at least nobody we’ve played so far), and they know the defense needs help! If this team is going to have any chance at success – it’s the offense that is going to have to step it up, and right away. Just do your jobs. Just execute our offense.
      Unless that happens, as it should, a turn around of 6 or 7 wins is a pipe dream.
      Anyway, the coaching changes we’ve seen are proof that BK hasn’t given up on this season, if nothing else. That’s nice – it’s something you’d expect to see in December, going into a bowl. Obviously, he is practicing what he recently preached – Urgency.
      Bruce Curme 77′ 82′

  3. USAF Irish,
    That’s a big “if” and a projection of a lightning quick turnaround.
    I doubt it is possible, based on direct observations of the team, such as it is.
    Frankly, I would just be happy at this point if we outscore Syracuse, eliminate the fumbles, remember to occasionally give their QB something to worry about with some penetration, and get some “real” contributions out of special teams (other than CJ).
    Oh yes – and not regress back to penalties and other self-inflicted wounds.
    It would be a start.
    Bruce Curme
    La Crosse, Indiana

  4. Hudson was brought in as a potential substitute for Van Gorder under the radar, and I give the Kelly/Swarbrick a lot of credit for this move. There was great hope that the defense would turn around, but it didn’t, and the coordinator was fired – plan B was already in place. That is slick.
    Hudson is the perfect interim – if he gets us back to average defense, we win 7 of remaining 8. If he gets us to hold remaining teams to 28 or less, we run the board. Nd grad with success = meet your new permanent DC.

  5. The high water mark for Van Gorder was the shutout win against Michigan.

    But that was with players who were recruited and developed under a different set of coaches.

    On one hand, the defense has been decimated by injuries and BVG was forced to play a number
    of underclassmen. Ok. Hard to compete against good teams when your best players are out.
    On the flip side, while you would expect some growing pains with younger players, the benefit should be that this year those players come back with much better knowledge and experience.

    This Year, the ND defense is facing a number of first year QB’s, freshmen QB’s, and red shirt QB’s.
    Yet nothing is done to try to confuse these first time starters.
    Good defenses will at least show a possible blitz.
    That alone can cause a new QB to pause, to change plays, call time out, hurry throws. It can affect the blocking, the pass routes.

    Yet ND lines up and just stands there.

    These QB’s have plenty of time to read the defense.
    Offensive linemen, receivers, everyone’s on the same page. It’s way too easy for them.

    The best defensive play against Duke?
    The late hit on the QB by (I think) Rochelle.
    I’ll take that 15 yarder every now and then (preferably early in the game) just to get a hit on a young QB and send a message.

    You know… like when you’re up 14 -0 in the first quarter.

  6. Until Kelley and every one of his crew are fired we’ll continue with this agony. Kelly’s offense is childish, unimaginative, and so predictable. Pee-Wee league stuff, at best!

  7. The first step to fixing any problem is admitting you have one. Hopefully this is the first step.

    For those saying Notre Dame can do better than Kelly, I really think that is pie in the sky. The coaches who are better than Kelly wouldn’t leave to come to ND.

  8. Honestly dont care either way on BVG, finally though something I agree with BK on……and that is this team completely lacks the Fire and Passion during the game…..watching them it doesn’t look like they are having any fun, it’s almost like its painful for them to be playing, I don’t understand it?

    And please new Defensive Coordinator, please start teaching the DB’s to look for the ball in the air…….nooo clue how u can play DB and have absolutely no fricken clue where the ball is

  9. George:
    That is exactly why computer rankings have been severed completely from the playoff berth decision making process.
    Bruce Curme

  10. Don’t confuse hoping for some unlikely turnaround for believing there is reason for hope. There is a difference. I won’t root for the Irish to lose, whatever my belief in BK is. I’ll continue to root for them to win every game.

    As for Hudson, well, first of all you’re not going to find an elite DC midseason. Second, he actually has had some success in past gigs. I won’t throw him under the bus his first day on the job. Hell, it’s probably impossible for him to do any worse.

  11. What a bunch of wimps. He sacks a total incompetent and you think there is hope. Hudson is a great guy but if you want to be the best you get the best DC in the country. The best. The best. My god the best. You get an ad for football that knows football, that is not swarbrick. If you want to keep swarbrick give him everything else but football. I don’t want p t Barnum swarbrick. And for the sake of God go get the best coach in the country. Not the best guy in Cincinnati. Stop pussyfooting around. Doesn’t anybody in south bend remember what fighting Irish means.

  12. “Interestingly, the Sagarin computer rankings still considers Notre Dame, at No. 35, a better team than each of the teams that have handed it a loss — No. 39 Texas, No. 46 Michigan State and No. 59 Duke.”

  13. So what if they blew it in spring practice? And in camp? Can they fix deep problems during fall practices that are more limited ?

    Is 4-8 a real possibility ? What happens to BK then?

  14. It was a necessary move. BVG is probably a good guy, but he was the wrong choice to begin with. I think we’ll see some immediate improvement. Mostly in getting more players in that front 7 rotated in and out of the game. The biggest change needs to happen in the way they practice. They need to be more physical and faster, and fundamentally sound. The Irish have the talent. It’s now going to be all about attitude and preparation now. There are still some questions on offense and special teams, but it can only get better at this point.


  15. Damian,
    Yeah. I don’t disagree that he wasn’t getting the defense to respond. And if he was the only issue is have no problem with the announcement. I just hate to see headlines that have Notre Dame and coach fired on them. It’s also not good for his family. Weiss has some legitimate gripes about how his family was treated in the end. I hate that.
    And so for me t matters that there is real confidence in an improvement around he corner.
    The other thing is that in Kelly’s 7 years there has not developed a team identity. A coordinator isn’t going to change that.
    So does anyone think the Irish will develop an identity over this season and the next?

  16. Defense wins championships – period. The offensive rankings are not stellar but, a hell of alot better than the defensive rankings. A change was needed, a few recruits will be lost but, ND will continue to march on. A true sign that the change was needed is a solid victory against Stanford in a few weeks. If they get blown out then, BK is on the hot seat.
    Again, it’s quite simple – DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS.

  17. Damien:
    Trust me on this – football donors at Notre Dame are small potatoes. The donors the Development Office really “cultivates” (to use their own terminology for it) pay for entire buildings. Those guys in Development wouldn’t waste their time on someone giving a few thousand dollars to the Rockne Fund, other than to get them a couple pairs of tickets.
    The only “money” that might have an effect would be NBC money if the ratings take an extended dive. That would get their attention real fast.
    But I don’t think you need to appeal to donations to effect change. If BK doesn’t get this thing fixed by the start of the next season, people who have nothing to do with the Development Office will make the change at head coach – and it will not be Les Miles. I mean seriously guys, if we were going to run the ball all the time (like Les) we’d at least get in some kind of running formation and give our kids a chance to score – like Georgia Tech’s coach does, or even Wisconsin’s coach. Hiring Les Miles might be good for recruiting, maybe, but it would be the death rattle for offense.
    Bruce Curme 77′ 82′

  18. It should have been done after last year’s Stanford game… Or this yearsTexas…if you score 47 points you should win !! Won’t change much…still the same players!!

  19. Good news for the new DC is the defense can’t get much worse. Letting BVG was a necessary step.

    The next and most important step for future years is for Notre Dame fans to realize that Football Independence is a long outdated model and pressure the AD to commit to a conference already.

    We wonder why the players play without passion. Lose the first game and effectively the ND season is nearly over for goal setting, lose 2 of your first 3 and the season is officially over might as well sit all of the seniors and start playing for next year.

    If we were in the ACC right now even after losing to Duke there would still be a lot to play for, still a chance for a division title and the conference championship and a top bowl game. At ND lose 2 of your first 3 time to bench the seniors and start playing a bunch of scrimmages to get ready for next year. We wonder why no passion after the loss to Michigan State. There is nothing left to play for, Duke was just another Spring Scrimmage.

  20. I’m really not certain that the firing of Vangorder is anything more than window dressing. I think that Kelly is feeling the heat. This firing Vangorder may just be a stop-gap measure. Realistically, Vangorder cannot rush the passer, tackle or cover wide receivers, however, with that in mind maybe some good will come with a change. A wise man once said that one thing is for certain: there will be change. Go Irish! Beat Syracuse!

  21. BK saw the writing on the wall. It was either drop the ax on BVG now or go down with him on the same ship at seasons end or sooner!

  22. C-dog,

    Still, a step that had to absolutely be made. But I agree in the sense that it is the first of many. I don’t know how long BK will be at ND at this point. That probably depends on how restless the donors start getting. For now, I agree with others that he’ll likely have until next year because of any buyout they would have to pay. My prediction is if next year starts like this, he will be gone next year. I could be wrong, but that’s just my gut feeling. If so, he basically has to game 1 next year to effect his miracle turnaround. I really don’t see it happening, but I’ll continue to hope I have to eat my words next year for giving up on BK.

  23. Funny how on this very page there is an article titled “5 Reasons to be Optimistic About the Notre Dame Defense”. With a picture of BVG.
    I think he’s probably a solid coordinator. But not in this program. And BKs system isn’t working either. Year 7. With a probable 7-5 season or worse coming. It doesn’t take years to build ; it doesn’t take more than a season to dismantle.
    They need to take this year and next and create a succession plan for 2018 that will put a coaching staff that believes in the old Notre Dame and not the current prissy administration.

  24. I wonder if Hudson was hired as an assistant as a back-up scenario, at least reading his credentials. He has a decent enough resume. I paid it little attention when he was brought on, but I wonder now if he was brought on so he could take over the defense if BVG failed to turn things around. Far-fetched, probably.

    At the very least, it’s fortuitous that they had a former DC on staff already. We’ll see if he can effect meaningful changes.

  25. George and Damien; No you will not see an immediate 180 degree turn around on defense in the middle of the season. But we should be able to outscore our next two opponents (just as we should have outscored Duke), buying time for our defense to improve. But as I said earlier, we have one of the best offenses in the country – when we are not shooting ourselves in the head.
    A five yard penalty is a shot in the foot. 10 and 15 yard penalties are shots in the head. So are three lost fumbles which basically erase anywhere from 10 to 21 points. These are drives (and points) and field position we can’t afford to “spot” our opponents, whoever they are, when our defense is leaky.
    Winning really is not as complicated as people make it sound when you have our level of talent!
    Losing is even simpler.
    Bruce Curme

  26. This is a move more for principle than substance, but, it needed to be done. Kelly now needs to use time to attract a D coordinator and pay him well. I don’t see any significant on field changes occurring but I guess you never know if they should. Bottom line, BVG’s defense was not cutting it.

  27. They lost a lot of talent last year. Too busy signing skill players on offense and not bolstering up the defense. Should also consideri moving athletes who are not playing on offense. I’msure most of them played defense in high school. It worked for Holtz.

  28. I know this has little to do with the ND defense, except former ND and Current NYG Defensive End Romeo Okwara just had a great blocked punt. Unfortunately the G-men made a very ND like mistake and had a personal found penalty at the other end of the field, giving the Skins a chance for a re-punt. But Okwara still made a great play.

  29. A step in the right direction, but I’m afraid George may be right. I’ll keep my fingers crossed nonetheless.

    My guess is probably Swarbick got on BK about the necessity of making changes now. Either that or BK was just playing everyone last night. I doubt that though. You don’t have a complete about face like this unless you just got chewed out.

    I’d love to say we see immediate results on defense, but midseason changes don’t usually work like that. However, if there are just changes to the basics like tackling and assignments, hopefully we should see improvement.

  30. Him not calling out BVG in public isn’t a big deal. I view him calling out the players as a motivational tactic (especially since all he did was say they lacked fire and passion), but calling out coaches… you’re not going to want to do that when you know you’re about to try and hire a different one.

  31. Actually, something has already changed. The 10 and 15 yard penalties were finally cleaned up a bit. Also, the defense made two stops on downs in the redzone. Both of those things were huge changes from the way I look at things.
    But they were replaced by three fumbles, all lost, and none of them should have happened – unforced errors. No coaching change of any sort can cure that.

    The secondary is still way too leaky, though there were a few flashes of good play. And despite some good run defense in the red zone, our D still gave up too many big gains on the ground. Above all, there were still way too many missed tackles, and Special Teams, once again, turned momentum against us by letting a second string returner take to the house! We really need a REAL special teams coach – not some dabbler, whoever it is. I wonder if we offered Frank Beamer a million a year to come out of retirement and do nothing but coach our “Special Teams” if he’d do it! It would be money well spent, in my opinion. You would see immediate and dramatic changes on those units.
    Bruce G. Curme 77′ 82′
    La Crosse, Indiana

  32. Looking into this guy his numbers are terrible too. But least its a change its only interim and he has a season to find a new coordinator.

  33. Brian Kelly need to step up and say that some of the fault belongs to him also, I would think he would put the Rope around his neck, not saying that he has to jump right now but he can at least have it ready, he’s not doing a great coaching job his self but then someone has to be the scapegoat, right?

  34. It can’t get worse

    There is talent based on recruiting ratings however schemes must be developed to take advantage of the talent

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