If Notre Dame is truly conducting a search for an offensive coordinator and hasn’t already settled on Tommy Rees as the successor to Chip Long, the Bears’ decision to part ways with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand should impact their search. No, Notre Dame shouldn’t look to make Hiestand their new offensive coordinator, but they should pull out every stop to get him back on the staff, and that could impact what they do at OC.
The Bears fired Hiestand along with several other offensive coaches on Tuesday while retaining their head coach and the general manager who made the eggregious error of trading up in the draft to take Mitch Trubisky when he could have had either Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes without trading any assets. Yeah, that guy still amazingly has a job while the offensive line coach got canned. Sorry for any Bears fans reading, but this sums up how poorly the Bears organization is run perfectly.
But I digress. Let’s forget about how bad Ryan Pace is at his job GMing the Bears and focus on how this can – and should – impact Notre Dame.
Before Hiestand left Notre Dame for the NFL, he was one of the best offensive line coaches in all of college football. He produced a Joe Moore Award winning unit in 2017 and developed NFL stars like Zach Martin, Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson, and Mike McGlinchey. He turned Notre Dame into Offensive Line U. The grind of college coaching got to him though and he wanted to go back to the NFL.
Since he’s left Notre Dame, the Irish offensive line has been okay, but has clearly regressed. Arguments can be made for where that fault lies. Offensive line coach Jeff Quinn is the obvious first place to look, but he isn’t the coach that was let go before the bowl game. That was Chip Long who was rumored to be jettisoned so quickly after the season in large part due to his relationship with the players and other coaches.
Long’s departure opened up two roles on the staff – offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. And this is where is could all come together for Notre Dame if Hiestand would entertain a return to South Bend where his family still lives. Notre Dame should put on the full court press to get Hiestand back on the staff to take up his old role as offensive line coach and move Jeff Quinn over to tight end’s coach.
In this scenario, most Notre Dame fans who are not sold on Tommy Rees as offensive coordinator (count me firmly in that group), could be onboard with Rees as OC if it meant Hiestand coaching the offensive line and Quinn coaching the tight ends. Notre Dame could even elevate Lance Taylor to running game coordinator and have split duties ala LSU this year.
Another possible scenario here could be moving Quinn to an analyst role again – if he were open to it – and still conducting a full time search for an offensive coordinator.
All of this, of course, hinges on Hiestand being interested in returning to Notre Dame. If he is, Brian Kelly would be absolutely foolish not to do everything he can to make it happen. Remember though, Hiestand left Notre Dame in the first place because he just wanted to coach offensive linemen and didn’t want to be on the road all year long recruiting. That was only two years ago so who knows if Hiestand’s return to the NFL has changed that.
Ironically, for as much as Hiestand just wanted to coach, he was a pretty good recruiter during his time at Notre Dame. That is one area where Quinn, however, has actually been an upgrade. Since taking over for Hiestand, Quinn has been dynamite on the recruiting trail with back to back ridiculous offensive line hauls and the makings of another elite group in 2021. That is why keeping Quinn on staff would be important in this scenario.
There’s a lot of moving parts involved here, but at a bare minimum, Brian Kelly should be on the phone with Hiestand in the near future, if he hasn’t been already. If another NFL teams doesn’t come calling, another college team would gladly scoop him up in hurry. Notre Dame’s last offensive coordinator helped engineer an offense that scored a lot of points, but apparently didn’t get along with everyone. We know Notre Dame wouldn’t have to worry about that with Hiestand.
I’ve been in the “look outside the program” for the next OC boat since news broke of Chip Long’s departure, but if Notre Dame can get back Harry and keep the rest of the staff together, they should do all they can to make that happen.