Can Brian Kelly Push The Right Buttons On The Offensive Staff For Notre Dame?

The good news for Brian Kelly as he tries to put together an offensive staff for the second time since the 2016 season ended, is it comes at a good time. The program is in a good place, the offense as a whole ranked 20th nationally in SP+, and his starting quarterback is returning for his third season as a starter. This feels more like a retooling than a reconstruction, but he does need to push the right buttons to get where he wants his offense to go.

Previous offensive coordinator Chip Long was let go due to personality differences and coaching style, and not the overall performance of the offense. Kelly has stated he doesn’t want to rock the boat too much with the operation; as previously stated, this was a top 20 unit last season. But, a 20th ranked offense leaves plenty of room to drop and not as much room to grow. It’s like being a six handicap in golf. It’s a lot easier to fall back to being a 15 than it is to climb to a four. Kelly’s goal is to make the offense better, so let’s take a look at his options.

Promote Rees To OC, Hire A Tight Ends Coach

This one involves the least amount of boat rocking in terms of continuity, and the most amount of risk in terms of success. Outgoing OC Chip Long also coached the tight ends, so they’d need to hire someone to do that in this scenario, preferably it would be someone with a very strong recruiting reputation.

The move to Rees would be a good one from a continuity standpoint; he’s coached Ian Book for three seasons now, recruited every quarterback on the roster, and has been around Chip Long for the duration of his time at Notre Dame. He’d clearly have some grasp of how Long went about his business, and as a former player, he’d work well with head coach Brian Kelly. He also did an excellent job calling plays in the bowl game, though it wasn’t some kind of offensive extravaganza.

The move would also appear to be a bit lazy and taking the path of least resistance, not that it would mean it’s the wrong one, but it wouldn’t be the best process. It’d be a pretty polarizing move as well, perhaps not what you want Rees walking into.

Make Rees CO-OC With Jeff Quinn, Hire An Offensive Line Coach

This is an intriguing option that was brought up on the One Foot Down podcast I was a guest on last night, so I thought I’d mention it here.

Say what you want about Quinn, the guy is an excellent recruiter, especially on the offensive line, and if you can get someone on the staff, you don’t want to let them go. At the same time, as a coach, the results have been mixed, to say the least. While excellent in pass protection, his lines often struggle in the running game, and the screen game is sloppy. And then there are the false starts to consider. A move for Quinn would allow him to stay on staff, help Rees with creating the game plan, and give him a promotion.

As for Rees. He wouldn’t have to take on the whole operation his first foray into being a play-caller, and he’d be able to work with a coach who Kelly has worked with in the past as an OC who didn’t call the plays.

The focus would then turn to Kelly hiring a new offensive line coach, with many people taking note that former line coach Harry Hiestand just became available from the Chicago Bears. The thinking is Quinn would assist on the recruiting front for Hiestand, who famously hated it, and the line would improve as a whole. Win-win.

The thing here is Quinn would have to be ok with working alongside Rees and giving up the offensive line, as well as being the lead recruiter while Hiestand skates a bit. This isn’t my preferred option, but it’s acceptable.

Bring In A New OC, Give Rees A Promotion to CO-OC/Passing Game Coordinator

There doesn’t appear to be a realistic scenario where Kelly moves on from Quinn entirely, so I won’t even confront it. He is going to be on the staff in some capacity. My thought is a new voice for the offense can improve the entire operation, and this is my preferred outcome. When news broke today that Joe Moorehead, former head coach for Mississippi State and former offensive coordinator at Penn State, was being fired by MSU, many started speculating he’d be a good fit for Notre Dame. Former head coach, former OC, and quarterbacks coach, and relatively young. He could be a perfect complement to Rees and what he brings to the table in terms of program knowledge while bringing his experience as a play-caller to the program.

If he’s a better fit chemistry wise with Quinn, this could be a home run type of situation.

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  1. This off-season has been a busy one. Lots of teams have made bold, decisive moves to get better, especially in the already superior south.

    ND? Fired the OC, with no replacement in sight, lost yet another QB to transfer, and very likely to extend the ageing zombie thru 2023.

    Geaux Tigers!

  2. Really disappointed Jurkovec is transferring. I had a feeling though that was inevitable. The kid probably just wants to play somewhere (and don’t forget, if you really are good the NFL doesn’t care what school you played for–I honestly don’t know if he’s NFL material because, well, he hasn’t really got to play yet). And it’s 100% crystal clear, no matter what BK might say, that Book was his guy and was going to start next year.

    I’m not as angry as Chris. But disappointed. But maybe Jurkovec is better off. EG, Zaire, Wimbush (even Kizer though he was arguably the best of the bunch)—ND is littered with the remains of QBs who were highly rated coming in and supposedly the perfect QB for BK’s system. Jurkovec may have only been the next name to add to that list. I just hope we don’t see Jurkovec taking his team to a NY Day Bowl or higher when he starts while we go to another Camping World Bowl because we find out Book is really not any better against strong defenses.

    BK teams may have improved ND in many areas. But QB is still his Achilles’ heel. It’s one area he continues to struggle with and you’ll have to excuse me if I find his handling of this situations suspect.

  3. So which MAC school is Jurkovec transferring to? Maybe he can transfer to a school like Rutgers or Maryland if he is really lucky.

      1. Damn. Pittsburgh is not on the 2021, nor the 2022 schedule. I can imagine the meltdown that some of the fellow users of this website would have when Pittsburgh would go up 7-3 in the 1st quarter against ND. There would be the obligatory, “I’m done with Kelly” quote.

  4. Wasn’t surprised Jurkovec put in for transfer. The Almighty One again has failed to develop as he put a few years ago, one of the best QB’s, and really gave minimal attention to Phil. No point in making a big rant, what’s done, is done.

    I would like to see if Moorehead would have interest in ND’s OC. I would prefer a more seasoned OC come in than one breaking in his chops (Rees) at ND.

      1. Yeah, I know he has some shortcomings but as an OC at PSU, in that role, he wasn’t exactly chump change.

    1. It’s unreal to me that Kelly’s best QB recruit he’s brought in to ND was treated so poorly that he has to transfer. Book being the starter this year was fine considering the results from last year. However, he didn’t progress. And the whole thing is that Kelly hardly let Jurkovec play even in blowouts. That is treating a high recruit poorly. I guarantee Kelly and Jurkovec had a conversation and Kelly straight up said “Look Phil, Ian is our guy and there won’t be a competition going into spring ball.” This is f***ing mind boggling. If Book lit it up this year and looked like a guy who could take us to the NC level, then ok but this definitely wasn’t the case. Kelly decided to pass on the guy with the largest upside of any of the QBs on our roster for an average QB in Ian Book.

      If this doesn’t frustrate you and prove that Kelly doesn’t handle player development very well (or even have the general knowledge to play his best recruits), then you’re freakin blind. I really hope Jurkovec transfers to a school that plays ND at some point and he kicks our f***ing ass. If it’s at ND, I will be purchasing a Jurkovec jersey from his team and will be rooting against ND for the first time in my life. Remember, Jurkovec was a guy who was making calls to other recruits to try to get them to come to ND with him. He loved ND and this is how Kelly repays him. POS

    2. Go read the article on Jurkovec transferring on ND Insider…

      Brian Kelly when recruiting Phil Jurkovec pulled directly from the article…

      “He’s the best quarterback in the country,” head coach Brian Kelly said the day Jurkovec signed with the Irish in December of 2017. “He’s somebody that I could put up against any quarterback that I’ve ever seen.”

      What a fn joke…

      Sorry everyone, I’m really pissed off about this one. I couldn’t wait for this kid to take the reigns.

  5. I’m really not sure what information every single one of you has about Phil Jurkovec being “the guy” (after Book exhausts eligibility or gets injured) rather than Brandon Clark. I have not heard anything like that coming out of South Bend. Could you all please enlighten me about where your information is coming from?

    BGC ’77 ’82

  6. Joe Burrow, Justin Fields, Trevor Lawrence, Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa…is Ian Book even close to these guys? No….

    Every one of these guys has much better stats than Ian Book and are at the top of most statistical categories. I would consider these guys the elite QBs of college football. There are actually many other power 5 QBs that had better stats than Ian Book in categories that matter and one thing to keep in mind is that a lot of the time, these QBs actually get pulled in blowouts before the 4th quarter even starts unlike Kelly keeping Book in to pad stats against garbage teams late into the 4th in blowouts.

    Jalen Hurts is the only QB with substantially more experience than Book in this list. The rest basically have the same experience. Each of one of these players are bigger, faster, and stronger physically than Ian Book. From a physical tools perspective, Phil Jurkovec matches each of the elite QBs listed here. Just something to think about…is there even going to be a competition going into spring ball? This is why I’m frustrated as an ND fan right now with Kelly and Book at the helm.

    1. Chris, Should be interesting to see how Book does next year with the absence of all his skill position players. There are some talented youngsters waiting in the wings but they are inexperienced. BK had numerous opportunities to insert PJ in the game and give him meaningful reps but instead shit the bed. Don’t understand why he would do that to the kid.

      1. Completely agree, Jeff. There is no receiver on the roster remotely close to Chase Claypool going into next season. Austin hasn’t shown me anything impressive in the small time he has played. This new 5 star kid coming in is hopefully a beast. Tremble is about as close as you get to Claypool but he is at TE even though I feel he should split out. Who the heck really knows what McKinley truly has since he’s been wasted all these years. But regardless, none will be a target like Claypool was. I think Book struggles next season and we waste another year of Jurkovec riding the pine. Jurkovec as a three year starter sounds pretty good to me, especially when we play OSU in 2022 and 2023. I really wish this would happen but no way. Kelly loves Book.

      2. Do we even have 3 years left for Jurkovec? I can’t remember if he’s a true Sophomore or Junior (I know they redshirted him one year–was that last year, I can’t remember)?

        There’s a log jam at QB right now between just Book, Jurkovec and Clark right now. And from what I hear Jurkovec and Clark both have a better skill set then Book. I can’t help but think if Book is the starter again next year we’re going to lose one of those guys (my money is on Jurkovec only because he’s older and would probably start to wonder if he’ll ever be a starter—but it could be Clark also if he feels he’ll have to wait until practically his senior season to play, if ever).

    2. I echo Chris and jeff.

      First of the five you mention, I think Tua is the least. He has just got a lot of props, for one long pass to Devonta smith,
      and Hurts had to bail him out against Georgia last year.

      He has the GREATEST trio (quartet?)( of college receivers ever in smith, Jeudy, Ruggs and Waddle. He throws 10 yard
      passes they take the next 60 to the house.

      But Book has a large Achilles Heel. He cannot run the RPO. If under pressure he can escape the pocket and get yards, but that is only half the

      He can not scramble, reset and spin it downfield.
      Lawrence can
      Fields can
      Burrow can
      Hurt can.

      And that is what separates Book from the elite
      and Notre Dame from the elite.
      We have four in the holding tank
      Jurkovec, Brendon Clark, Drew Pyne, Tyler Buchner (13 months hence)
      Hopefully one of them can do that. If not, Notre Dame, despite a strong roster otherwise (getting better every year) is locked into
      that 8-15 status. .

    3. That’s what’s frustrating for me as well. At the beginning of the season it seemed BK was testing Jurkovec more. Giving him chances to run the offense. The results were what I would expect from a QB with a lack of experience. Potential, but some rookie mistakes.

      But it seemed after VT when Book seemingly turned a corner BK made a decision that Book was going to be his starter next year (and we all knew Book would come back) and then the handcuffs were back on Jurkovec. As Chris noted Book was left in games after they were well decided instead of giving Jurkovec some meaningful practice AND the few times Jurkovec saw the field we were back to the hand offs to RB’s to chew up clock instead of letting him run the offense.

      I hope Book turned a corner. I really do. Because he’s our QB next year like it or not and if he’s not improved, if it’s all just a mirage because we played several weak teams to close out the year (including the bowl game) then we are going to be sitting here again next year after another mid level bowl wondering what could have been.

      1. Very weak teams to close out the year…def a mirage.

        I WANT Book to be successful but I’m not blind either. I’ve seen his ceiling and it’s not enough. Jurkovec is Kelly’s highest rated QB he has recruited but still not playing him after two years. Book is one of Kelly’s lowest rated QBs to come out of high school. I just don’t understand not giving Jurkovec a chance to even compete for a starting spot. Book announcing he is coming back is Kelly basically assuring Book will be the starter.

  7. I can’t say I’m fond of the co-coordinator idea. It seems mushy, a way to get around making a final decision. You’re not sure who to pick so you pick both. I think you’re usually better off with one person in charge.

    It reminds me of when a coach will decide to play two QB’s. It rarely turns out well for anyone.

    I’d really prefer BK goes outside to get a good OC. You won’t get an elite OC like Alabama or Clemson could because ND just isn’t willing to pay the money for that kind of OC. And sadly ND just isn’t a destination anymore. But I still think they can get someone who’s already had some proven success but still has something to prove.

    With everyone saying the starts are aligning for ND next year, experimenting with Rees as OC next year is a big risk that can blow up in your face. Not a time you want to go with someone with no experience as a full time OC.

    And….make sure to keep Lea on the DC side. I haven’t heard a peep about potentially losing him this year. Keep it that way.

  8. Notre Dame needs a better quarterback. Look at the quarterbacks that played on the four playoff teams. Book has been very good but he doesn’t possess the same skill set as those four. Notre Dame needs a difference maker at QB with an elite skill set running and throwing the ball. Brian Kelly has not been able to recruit one of these guys. Maybe PJ is that guy but it appears we wont know the answer to that question until 2021.

  9. It’s totally rediculous to contemplate Rees as OC or co-OC. Rees Simply lacks the experience. What could Book and ND have achieved with a better QB coach vs Clemson or Michigan? IMO ND also needs a better more experienced QB coach.

    1. Notre Dame needs a better quarterback. Look at the quarterbacks that played on the four playoff teams. Book has been very good but he doesn’t possess the same skill set as those four. Notre Dame needs a difference maker at QB with an elite skill set running and throwing the ball. Brian Kelly has not been able to recruit one of these guys. Maybe PJ is that guy but it appears we wont know the answer to that question until 2021.

  10. Orrrr, maybe hire a first rate, proven Offensive Coordinator with a solid track record against major college football powers? We are talking about the University of Notre Dame, right? You point out that the offense is not broken, so I imagine there is some OC somewhere who might be interested in it. Unless the notion of an independent coaching voice is too challenging to someone at the top.

  11. I don’t like the idea of a Co-anything. Morehead is obviously the best option for now – if he’s interested. However, expect Tommy to move on soon if he doesn’t get the OC position.

  12. Kelly needs to bring in an outsider and let him put his stamp on the offense. Moorehead would be great but not sure he would want to go back to being a coordinator after being a head coach. I loved the way he turned Penn States offense into a prolific 40 points a game juggernaut.Also he really was effective developing Mcsorley into a really good qb. I would say Book and Mcsorley are very similiar.Both 3 stars good accurate passers both good runners
    Mcsorley was probably a little faster and more athletic than Book but their both pretty comparable imho.

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