Notre Dame, Brian Kelly Need to Target Charlie Strong

Photo: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we know definitively that Brian Kelly will be back to coach Notre Dame in 2017, the most pressing issue facing the Notre Dame program is finding a new defensive coordinator.  If Kelly is to succeed in rebounding from this disastrous 2016 season, this hire has to be a grand slam.  For that reason, Kelly’s attention should be on luring Charlie Strong back to Notre Dame.

Charlie Strong may not be interested in being a defensive coordinator again after his failed stint as a head coach at Texas, but should he be open to the idea, Notre Dame should do everything it can to get him on board.

The Case For Pursuing Charlie Strong

Notre Dame needs a strong defensive coordinator who rebuild a unit that’s been bruised and battered ever since Bob Diaco took his perfectly parted hair to Storrs to coach the Huskies.  The Brian Vangorder experiment was a disaster of nearly epic proportions with Notre Dame failing to play competitive defense for long stretches despite a wealth of NFL talent at times.  The fact that Jaylon Smith – one of the program’s greatest linebackers of all-time – excelled in spite of the scheme instead of because it is proof alone Vangorder’s defense would never work at Notre Dame.

When Kelly made the decision to hire Vangorder he stayed in his comfort zone and brought in a coach he knew and was comfortable with.  He played it safe and the result was a disaster.  This time around Kelly needs to go outside his comfort zone.  If he goes back to the well of coaches he knows or simply elevates a current assistant – none of whom have proven to be ready for the challenge nor have had much, if any, outside interest – Notre Dame will be looking for more than a new defensive coordinator sooner rather than later.

Strong would be outside Kelly’s comfort zone though the two do know each other from squaring off against each other the last two seasons.  Strong would be an outside voice and a voice from someone who has run a program and worked with elite level college defenses before.  His coaching credentials speak for themselves.

Prior to his successful run as a head coach at Louisville, Strong served as the defensive coordinator for Lou Holtz at South Carolina from 1999-2002.  Before moving on to Florida under Ron Zook and eventually Urban Meyer.  Strong spent seven seasons at Florida winning two national titles as part of Meyer’s staff.

Outside of Strong’s resume and credentials, he just spent the last three years building connections and ties with high school coaches in talent rich Texas.  Notre Dame has struggled to recruit the Lone Star State after a brief stint of success a few years back.  Todd Lyght’s addition in early 2015 has helped some, but Strong would be able to reopen some doors in Texas for Notre Dame on the recruiting trail.

RELATED
Notre Dame Football's Homework with No Game Today

The Case Against Pursuing Charlie Strong

Let’s assume that Brian Kelly and Notre Dame want Strong and the feeling is mutual.  However successful, or unsuccessful Strong ultimately ends up being, his potential Notre Dame tenure would be brief.  If Strong flames out and is unable to rebuild the Irish defense, there’s a good chance the entire staff will be looking for jobs since Kelly has to nail this hire to rebound his own Notre Dame career.  If Strong works some of his old magic and the Irish have a resurgent defense, he will get another head coaching opportunity somewhere in fairly short order.

Strong would be a bandaid in many ways for Notre Dame.  Is that necessarily a band thing though?  Notre Dame has to start playing better defense and if Strong comes in, rebuilds the defense, and leaves after two highly successful years, it shouldn’t be difficult at all for Kelly to find a replacement.

Some will also argue that Strong lost his magic at Texas and might be burnt out and unable to step right into a new job.  And  it is a valid concern, but at the same time, perhaps a return to just coaching defense is just what the man needs to get his mojo back.

There is also the argument that Notre Dame should look to identify a young up and coming defensive mind like a Dave Aranda at LSU. A coach that is still on the rise and not yet ready for a head coaching job but still has a bright future.  A defensive version of current offensive coordinator Mike Sanford.  Does Kelly have time to make such a hire though?

Oh an  spoiler alert: there ain’t no way in hell Notre Dame can lure Aranda from LSU after the contract he got.

Would Charlie Strong Want the Job?

There’s a good chance that Charlie Strong can be a head coach next year at a FBS program if he wants to be one.  For instance, Purdue could do a hell of a lot worse than Charlie Strong as their next head coach.  That said, there aren’t a lot of great openings this year so the bigger question might be, does Strong even want to coach in 2017?

Rumors are his buyout with Texas will net him in the range of $10 million.  That’s a lot of money to make to not work next fall.  After his quick burn out in Austin, Strong might simply prefer to take a year off, relax and recharge, and come back next fall when there are some more marquee openings.

RELATED
Immediate Regrets from My Top 25 Notre Dame Players Ballot

At the same time, the fire to coach burns in these guys and Strong is still a relatively young coach.

The Notre Dame defensive coordinator position could be very appealing to Charlie Strong if he is open to a coordinator gig.  Being the defensive coordinator at a program like Notre Dame is in a lot of ways a more high profile position than being the head coach at a smaller program.  Being able to refocus solely on the defensive side the ball and not have to worry about all of the outside factors that fall on the head coaches’ responsibilities could entice him as well.

One aspect of the job that would be a deterrent to an up and coming head coach could be a moot point for Strong as well.  A young coach could be scared away by the scrutiny that Brian Kelly is under following this year’s 4-8 campaign.  Many coaches may not want to jump into what very well could be a short term situation.  In Strong’s case, however, he almost certainly would be looking at any coordinator position as temporary anyway.

Strong also coached at Notre Dame for four years under both Lou Holtz and Bob Davie.   From 1995-1998, Charlie Strong coached the Notre Dame defensive line under Lou Holtz and then Bob Davie.  He saw what both a successful and unsuccessful head coach at Notre Dame looks like.  Perhaps helping rebuild the Irish defense would appeal to him.

Would Brian Kelly Ever Consider It?

The biggest question in all of this might be, would Brian Kelly even consider bringing in a coach like Charlie Strong at all since he’s outside his close circle.  Two years go Kelly went outside that circle with Mike Sanford and to a lesser degree Autry Denson and Todd Lyght.  The latter two coaches’ Notre Dame ties made those hires different than that of Sanford who Kelly had no connection to.

That said, Kelly tabbed Vangorder as his defensive coordinator last time around even though he hadn’t been coaching on the college level for a few years and didn’t appear to have much interest from other programs.  Kelly also was steadfast in his support of Vangorder even as the Irish defense continued to be a sieve week in and week out.

Kelly has said that he will look inside and outside of the program, but could his need to win now force him into going with someone like Mike Elston and only making subtle tweaks instead of wholesale changes?

RELATED
Recapping Notre Dame Football's 1st Week of Fall Camp 2019

Notre Dame could do far, far worse at defensive coordinator than Charlie Strong and at a bare minimum Kelly needs to make that call – if he hasn’t already.  If Strong is interested, the only remaining question should be, how much will it take to get it done.

Videos

You may also like

59 comments

  1. James 3 years ago

    We are not going to a bowl this year. Think about how excited you were before season. We lost 8 games, folks. With this talent and high expectation. Let that sink in!

    Reply Like Dislike
    1. Ron Burgundy 3 years ago

      Breaking news!

      Reply Like Dislike
      1. James 3 years ago

        Breaking news Dipstick! Kelly has 31 losses since 2010.

        Like Dislike
      2. Ron Burgundy 3 years ago

        You have some incredible inside sources. Bravo!

        Like Dislike
  2. Rich M 3 years ago

    Strong is certainly an interesting idea. He has coached at big time programs and should certainly be able to handle the scrutiny at ND. The questions are would Kelly want an experienced head coach looking over his shoulder especially after the 4-8 disaster of this past season and is Strong willing to take a defensive coordinator’s job? I guess for the right money he might but I’m not sure Kelly would be overjoyed about the prospect. Of course if Strong succeeds everyone will be happy! Whatever happens ND needs a major change (s). In the end if things continue to be worse then mediocre, Kelly will not have much say in what happens. Good Luck Irish!

    Reply Like Dislike
  3. UBeenBriefed 3 years ago

    I would be happy if he just hired a special teams coach with experience and average success.. i aint blaming whoever the hell been doing that gig..cause i can tell they dont spend any time in practice on it..shabby for 7 years at best..if that unit was good, it would be able to win some of these close games during the transition years of braking new young teams in..and maybe a tuff running game would help also..?

    Reply Like Dislike
    1. Ron Burgundy 3 years ago

      English your second language?

      Reply Like Dislike
      1. HURLS 3 years ago

        Succinct question for Mr.Briefed. I think he should try boxers. Or maybe She should try boxers…

        Like Dislike
  4. BooH 3 years ago

    ND needs to hire charlie Strong as a HC. Texas was not the right fit for him. He had to much working against him. At ND, he could be himself without the negative pressure, recruit top tier talent, and get ND back to national championship status…..Charlie Strong recruits the state of Florida very well! Now he has recruiting ties in TX. A college football team with FLA/TX players on your roster equals immense success!!!

    Reply Like Dislike
    1. Ron Burgundy 3 years ago

      So you want the guy with the worst winning percentage in Texas history?

      Reply Like Dislike
    2. bruce johnson 3 years ago

      Absurd

      Reply Like Dislike
    3. Damian 3 years ago

      I’m not sure Strong would make a good HC at this point. Yes, there was a lot going on at Texas and Mack Brown had left a mess. But Strong’s record at Texas was not impressive.

      I do think he could be an excellent DC and he is a good recruiter, and he has ties to ND. So I think as a DC there is a lot of potential.

      I just doubt it will happen for all the reasons Frank pointed out, along with BK being almost a dead man walking as a HC at ND. Also there is some school that will take a chance on Strong as HC. And ND is not known for paying it’s assistant coaches all that well so he probably would make more as a HC at a mid level program.

      Reply Like Dislike
      1. George 3 years ago

        What makes you so sure he’s a dead man walking?

        Like Dislike
      2. Damian 3 years ago

        If BK goes 4-8 again he will be gone next year. The powers that be will not tolerate losing seasons. We can argue whether how much they want ND to be a football powerhouse, but losing seasons will not be tolerated.

        And Swarbick did leave BK hanging in the wind for a week before acknowledging he will be back next year. That doesn’t sound like someone that’s all in. More like we’re keeping BK another year because they don’t have much choice (maybe due to economics, also the lack of available coaches right now, or both). Another thing we could argue, but I think BK is the default choice right now until something better becomes available.

        Like Dislike
  5. Steve Grumley 3 years ago

    I have been a lifelong ND fan going back to The days of Ara. No more. It is painfully obvious that everything ND claims to stand for is dead and gone. The only difference between them and any other football factory is success. In keeping Kelly, after all the arrests. academic suspensions, the death of Declan and Lizzy, and the cheating scandel it is obvious that everything ND CLAIMS to stand for is complete and total bullshit. To have any respect for this university is impossible any longer. They are hypocrites. I wish for them exactly what they deserve. You reap what you sow. GO NAVY.

    Reply Like Dislike
    1. George 3 years ago

      Oh wow, what a twist!!

      Reply Like Dislike
    2. Ron Burgundy 3 years ago

      Sad to lose you Stephen, godspeed.

      Reply Like Dislike
  6. jeff 3 years ago

    Might as well re-hire Chuckie Weis

    Reply Like Dislike
    1. George 3 years ago

      He was a better recruiter than BK, and things can only get better from here. So why not.

      Reply Like Dislike
    2. HURLS 3 years ago

      “Chuckie” I’m ALL FOR giving So.Bend native Jon “Chuckie” Grudin a shot!

      Reply Like Dislike
  7. JK 3 years ago

    Dreaming of better days and grasping at straws without addressing the problem. These teams are consistently unprepared and lack discipline. The turmoil off the field is an embarrassment and getting worse every year.

    Heck yeah, hiring Charlie Strong is the solution…he didn’t have any of these problems in Texas.

    This is beyond ridiculous, fire Kelly already and let’s move on.

    Reply Like Dislike
    1. Z 3 years ago

      Out of 119 coaches 74 make more than Kelly

      Out of the 33. 13 were fired out of the pool of 20 4 just took new jobs.

      With the dozen and a half left who’s better than Kelly..

      No one

      Learn the facts b4 complaining

      Reply Like Dislike
      1. MRP 3 years ago

        BK is paid more from the endorsement deals then directly from Notre Dame. I guarantee you that the list you are looking at does not reflect the actual salary of BK. Since Notre Dame is a private school, they do not have to release this information. The link below is not necessarily accurate as well.

        http://www.coacheshotseat.com/SalariesContracts.htm

        Like Dislike
  8. James 3 years ago

    Notre Dame academics are too challenging to land Bama type athletes year in and year out. Alabama players arent predominantly there for the education. Lets just be honest. We cant reload like the OSU and Bamas do. Thats why we are really good about every 3 or 4 yrs.

    Reply Like Dislike
    1. Kenny 3 years ago

      I get so sick of hearing we can’t recruit with the big boys. Holtz did it and it can be done again. You have to give the 5 star and high 4 star players a reason to come to Notre Dame. They are not coming to South Bend to win 8 games a year.

      Reply Like Dislike
      1. George 3 years ago

        How about 4 games a year?

        Like Dislike
      2. miles uptown 3 years ago

        You see the marginal athletes at ND struggling w/ the academics. What Holtz did was 25 years ago.Many of the top players (esp from the South) cannot pass the requirements and have an easier path to the NFL staying in the SEC.
        On The other side of the coin LSU,Florida and Texas have had down years.
        This is what really bothers me: 12/3/16: Temple’s defense stuffs Navy’s triple option rushing attack. Temple wins the game 34-10. ND has NOT been able to stop Navy’s triple option in years. Why ? In the words of Trump: What the hell is going on here?
        Kelly and whoever his DC will be better STUDY this game film and figure out what Temple did to stuff Navy’s rushing attack. ND has to beat Navy, Duke, NC State before they can beat any Top 20 team.

        Like Dislike
      3. James 3 years ago

        I am talking about this century.

        Like Dislike
    2. bruce johnson 3 years ago

      Loser talk

      Reply Like Dislike
      1. Kenny 3 years ago

        You are 100% right Bruce.

        @miles uptown

        That is such a cop out. Its nothing more than a excuse. Stephon Tuitt came from the south and so did Nix. Look at all the elite talent that comes from catholic high schools every year. The #1 Catholic University in the country you would think they would have a pipeline into these high schools but they dont. When Notre Dame plays at a elite level they can recruit with anyone. Go back and look at the recruits they signed the year they went 12-1. Notre Dame simply needs to put a better product on the field. You cant have these crippling lost to Navy and Duke because it kills them in recruiting. Its a complete joke that this is still happening in year 7 of the Kelly era. By saying ND cant recruit with the elite is a BS excuse that Notre Dame fans say way to much and it needs to stop. There is plenty of talent that ND can get but they have to simply play better.

        Like Dislike
  9. q2333 3 years ago

    “Some will also argue that Strong lost his magic at Texas and might be burnt out and unable to step right into a new job. And it is a valid concern, but at the same time, perhaps a return to just coaching defense is just what the man needs to get his mojo back.”

    Sounds like a stretch

    Reply Like Dislike
  10. ndfan4life 3 years ago

    we are all entitled to our opinions, but ND’s program has not been prominent since coach holtz left in 88. they have not even sniffed a championship until bk came there. you might not like him or his actions (calling out players), but ND is a very tough place to win CHAMPIONSHIPS. BK has done a great job other than the dumpster fire that was this year and his ability to recruit student athletes has put this football program back on the map. His biggest transgression was not hiring a better defensive coordinator when Diaco left. He is a smart offensive minded football coach, and if they get someone that can shore up the defense they will be a top 5 program again. he does more with less than the other programs that continue to get multiple 5 and 4 star recruits year after year

    Reply Like Dislike
    1. George 3 years ago

      BK does more with less? Reality is the exact opposite. He just won FOUR GAMES. Sure, he doesn’t have any real 5 star players, but he has plenty of 4 stars and enough talent to beat DOOK and NAVY.

      Reply Like Dislike
      1. Damian 3 years ago

        Absolutely. We can argue whether they had a NC caliber team. But 4 wins is unacceptable with the talent on the team and the schedule. I actually strongly believe they had the talent to at least be playing in a NY Day 6 bowl. They grossly underachieved this year.

        Like Dislike
  11. Michael the Archangel 3 years ago

    For a year- maybe

    Could C. Strong work for BK?
    For a year- maybe
    Would C. Strong work for BK?
    Unlikely, unless . . .

    Let’s continue to play make-believe, trumps shoveling more snow

    Coach Strong is hired as DC & Asst. Head Coach,
    in place if/when BK leaves-

    For a year- maybe.

    Anyone have any better options? None that i’ve heard.

    Reply Like Dislike
    1. miles uptown 3 years ago

      You try to get the best guy available at this place in time.. Doesn’t matter if its 1 yr, 3 yrs or 5 yrs. Coaches come and go depending on various circumstances. The Kelly haters are gonna hate. But, who do you bring in ? Since Holtz left there has been a boatload of different coaches. None have satisfied the fan base. One thing i do notice….ND has lacked a game breaker…a difference maker….a Heisman hopeful for years now. A player who can turn a game around quickly. That and the inability to reload.. The top schools ALWAYS reload. ND loses 3 or 4 top players and they cannot fill that void. Is it coaching or the institution itself. Probably a little of both.

      Reply Like Dislike
      1. Michael the Archangel 3 years ago

        Many from the Kelly era are playing in the NFL. Is it more talent needed, or better use of the talent there? Fuller, Zach Martin, Jaylon Smith, Golden Tate and others were all difference makers. Te’o is the D Captain in San Diego. Former ND TEs star on several NFL teams. Proscise plays more for Seattle at RB than he did at ND.
        How well is the talent maximized remains suspect under BK.
        But other than Tuitt at the next level with the Steelers, what’s been missing is the dominant D’s, especially along the DL, with next year’s returners none so promising.
        Back to Frank’s point:
        That’s why C. Strong might be the guy to go after- even if for a year- and the assistant head coach title is just a terrible BK start away from C. Strong being, at least, the interim head coach. (Swarbick said BK will be leading them out of the tunnel for the first game; he didn’t say anything about him being there in late November). Strong’s DC credentials are as noted and his familiarity with ND coaching there under Holtz shouldn’t need much orientation.
        Other options that at this point, at least, seem better? Buehler, Buehler, anyone?

        Like Dislike
    2. bruce johnson 3 years ago

      He is not the guy you want that fool swarbrick to promote to head coach

      Reply Like Dislike
  12. George 3 years ago

    Hopefully Charlie would have the authority to come in and expel all of ND’s best players just like he did at Texas. Come to think of it, he would be a perfect fit at ND, as he delusionally believes he can have his cake and eat it too.

    Reply Like Dislike
  13. Hunter 3 years ago

    Coach C. Strong during his tenure as HC at Louisville did exceptional work. I can’t help but contemplate how + why he struggled at UT?

    Reply Like Dislike
    1. BooH 3 years ago

      politics

      Reply Like Dislike