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When the shoe drops

Dec 9, 2009, 7:30 AM EDT

With billows of smoke following Brian Kelly’s every move, it’s very likely he’ll be the man named the next football coach at Notre Dame. While his hiring brings to mind Kevin White’s ill-fated “central casting” comments from the introduction of George O’Leary, the fact that Kelly fits the profile of the man leading the Fighting Irish does nothing to ensure his success at Notre Dame.

If Brian Kelly is named the head coach at Notre Dame, the challenges he’ll need to deal with starting day one will be imperative to his success. When the shoe drops, here are Kelly’s three chief concerns:


If Kelly becomes head coach at Notre Dame, he’ll demand final say on his coaching staff. People have speculated who stays and who goes from the current Notre Dame coaching staff, but there’s no way to know for sure. I suspect Jack Swarbrick will request that Kelly meet with all the current assistants that have remained on staff after Weis was let go on November 30th. By reputation, Kelly would be smart to do so. Coaches like Rob Ianello, Tony Alford, Brian Polian, and Corwin Brown are thought of as elite recruiters. Coaches Randy Hart and Frank Verducci are regarded as master tacticians. Whether those coaches fit with Kelly and his philosophies will be anyone’s guess. Coaches like Brown, with strong loyalties to Weis and plucked from the NFL, might head back to the professional ranks. Whatever the case, Kelly’s decision on a coaching staff, especially at the defensive coordinator position, will be at the forefront.


While any hope to land a whale like Bob Stoops has passed for most Irish fans, what made an elite coach like that so intriguing is his ability to land an equally gigantic recruit. Stoops and Urban Meyer, another coach high atop many Irish wish-lists, have track records of landing blue-chip recruits on both sides of the ball. Brian Kelly doesn’t fit into that grouping.

If Kelly is going to succeed during his tenure in South Bend, his work in the living room will need to be as good as his work on the sidelines. Having the ability to find a diamond in the rough is essential for any coach. But closing the deal on a player that everybody knows about is another animal, and Kelly hasn’t had to do that yet. Notre Dame fans had to feel lucky that Charlie Weis, a man with zero recruiting experience, turned into an elite college recruiter. From all reports, Kelly is a charming man with the zest of a politician, but he’ll also lack the prop of three Super Bowl rings and an NFL ready offense. If Kelly can retain the recruits that Notre Dame has, and figure out a way to swing one or two of the blue-chippers on the board to South Bend, he’ll be well on his way.


Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate leaving early won’t be Kelly’s largest challenge. It’ll be installing his offense without quarterback Dayne Crist available. The promising sophomore signal caller could be a great fit for Kelly’s offense, but we’ll likely only find out come next fall, when Crist will be taking the first full-speed reps since he tore his ACL. I expect the Irish to schedule spring practice as late as possible, giving Crist as much time to get healthy as possible. 

Offensively, the Irish will need to get a group of fairly green offensive linemen familiar with a completely different scheme. Wide receivers like Duval Kamara and Shaq Evans will need to make the jump to the next level and step up in Tate’s absence, as they try to learn an offense that won’t have a scholarship quarterback in uniform this Spring.

Defensively, a group of promising youngsters will need to get their confidence back and learn how to play (at the very least) average defense. Kelly will also have to deal with the unique situation surrounding Manti Te’o, who has yet to comment on whether or not he’ll be taking his Mormon mission. If Te’o leaves for a mission, there’s no guarantee he’ll ever return to campus.

We’ll likely find out in the next day or two if Brian Kelly ends up being the man who’s picked to lead the Irish. If he is, his first weeks in charge of the program will be critical to his success. 

  1. mrrandolph - Dec 9, 2009 at 7:57 AM

    I just hope that Kelly is not just another snake-oil salesman like Charlie. Atleast, Kelly will have head coaching experience. And, maybe, he will be able to recruit kids that will help him win games and not just create the myth that he is a master recruiter.

  2. Rob - Dec 9, 2009 at 8:39 AM

    Charlie was a “master recruiter” of wideouts, that’s for sure, and he brought in a pair of talented QB’s, and one LB, but other than that, calling him a “master recruiter” is a bit of a stretch. Why is the Irish’s secondary so horrible if he was a “master recruiter?” Hey Charlie, this isn’t the arena league, there is more to the game than offense. And even at that, I’d argue that ND’s offense wasn’t anything too special for much of this year. The D held Navy to 21 points, ND should’ve won that going away if the O was elite. How many blue chip, elite, linemen did he sign? Not too many, judging from the performance of ND’s lines in the last couple of years. You could MAYBE say Sam Young, he started a lot of games, but that speaks a lot more to just how bad ND’s line was that he was able to start as a true freshman. But even after 4 years of starting, there were times this year when he was a turnstile for opposing DE’s.
    The biggest difference between the Irish under Lou and the Irish of the last 10-12 years is that Lou had linemen who got drafted in the first round. Whether he recruited them or developed them or both, he had quite a few who ended up as high draft picks and went on to stellar pro careers. When’s the last time an ND O Linemen was a 1st round pick? Probably under Lou, or maybe under Davie with a kid who was signed by Lou.
    Good luck to Jimmy and Golden, it’ll be interesting to see how they do in the pros. I think Golden has a shot at being pretty successful, but I think Jimmy is a bit of a prick, and I question whether players will go to war for him, unless he ends up on a team with a very strong head coach. Remember when Jimmy signed, there was all this huh-bub about how he was going to bring an elite army of recruits with him and in his words “win 4 National Championships.” Well that never happened. Where were all the elite recruits? I’ll tell you where, they were in LA and Gainsville and Tuscaloosa and Austin, that’s where.

  3. willmose - Dec 9, 2009 at 10:05 AM

    Why would Coach Kelly have any concerns about the Norte Dame football program? According to this blog, ex-Coach Weis was the great football coach ever, he did everything right except the pesky litte thing of winning games. Kelly is a winner. He has managed to take his non-blue-chip recruits to an undefeated season and a top 5 ranking and BCS bowl. Coach Kelly’s challenge is to build a winner at Norte Dame. Coach Kelly’s biggest concern is providing LEADERSHIP to a football program that has had none over the last five years.

  4. LIirish - Dec 9, 2009 at 12:45 PM

    “How many blue chip, elite, linemen did he sign?” According to recruiting services quite a few:
    Kyle Rudolf #1 Tight End in the country
    Chris Watt #2 quard
    Young #1 tackle…
    Romine #3 tackle
    Cave #4 center
    Trevor Robinson #1 guard
    Ragone #3 tight end
    (he also lost a lot of guys who left like Yeatman #10, Reuland #3 all top ten via the recruiting services..)
    You are right about the defense and the defensive line but… it is unfair to say he couldn’t recruit, he just didn’t know how to develop their talent

  5. SeantheFan - Dec 9, 2009 at 12:54 PM

    Charie Weis was a top recruiter based on the rankings of his recruiting classes. It is a fair statement.
    Both Ty Willingham and Charlie Weis couldn’t win at Notre Dame, but what got Ty booted early (and what kept Charlie around in the hope he would finally get better) was the state of recruiting.
    I think Ty’s last recruit class was somewhere in the 40’s. Charlie this year was headed for another top 20 class.

  6. Keith Arnold - Dec 9, 2009 at 1:39 PM

    Willmose, relax bud. Not sure I ever claimed that Weis was the greatest football coach ever. I know it’s become fashionable lately to turn these comments into pissing matches or let them devolve into a bashing session of someone, but let’s try to stay on point. (If you want to get into senseless banter, there are plenty of ND sites where that’s happening right now.)
    If you’ve got other things that are pertinent to the story, fire away.

  7. willmose - Dec 9, 2009 at 3:43 PM

    You missed my point: “Kelly is a winner. He has managed to take his non-blue-chip recruits to an undefeated season and a top 5 ranking and BCS bowl. Coach Kelly’s challenge is to build a winner at Norte Dame. Coach Kelly’s biggest concern is providing LEADERSHIP to a football program that has had none over the last five years.”
    I believe this is constructive comment about what needs to happen for the Norte Dame football program to get back on track. What has been missing in this blog, and I am beginning to sound like a broken record on this point, is REALITY. What the next Norte Dame football coach needs to do first and foremost to establish the LEADERSHIP that has been lacking. Get the best darn assistant coaches on the planet, recruit the best 20 high school players, run the spring practice like clockwork, all of this will not result in a winning program unless the new coach has the VISION and LEADERSHIP to make it work. The new coach has to turn around 20+ years of mediocrity (include the past 5 years where mediocrity is defended as almost good enough). Losing at Norte Dame has become a way of life.
    The new Norte Dame football coach will have to change the culture of mediocrity and apologetic losing that has infected the Norte Dame football program. It is not a tweek here and tweek there that will fix it. It is a bold vision, patient hard work, and strong leadership that will take the Irish off life support. Keith let me know if this comment is not on point.

  8. robertg - Dec 9, 2009 at 4:34 PM

    1. bringing kelly, or any other coach tainted by crooked officiating(kelly’s cincinnati team really is a 4 loss team, but for the intervention of dishonest big east conference game and tech review officials and kelly knows this) or crooked college football enterprises to notre dame football and to the university of notre dame would constitute notre dame’s becoming a full fledged member of crooked college football enterprises and notre dame would simply go down in economic flames in the civil courts along with every other person and entity involved with crooked college football enterprises.
    2. in 2005, notre dame seriously considered joining the ivy league in football and we know many key notre dame alums who want to excercise the ivy league option right now, instead of joining crooked college football enterprises, as swarbrick and jenkins want.
    3. notre dame plays many ivy league schools in other sports and notre dame’s current academics and character standards have much more in common with the ivy league schools than notre dame has with the football factories.
    4. do student athletec who also play football at the ivy league schools get their shots at the nfl, along with fine educations? they most certainly do.
    5. will notre dame’s fans who really matter follow notre dame football in the ivy league? absolutely yes.
    6. are the officials in ivy league football closely watched and honest? yes, they are.
    7. is the ivy league model the future of college football after we destroy economically in the civil courts every person and entity involved in crooked college football enterprises? yes.
    8. is college football at notre dame now severely distorting and putting in danger notre dame’s real mission in this world? Yes, courtesy of swarbrick and jenkins and certain other current members of notre dame’s administration, notre dame is in mortal danger.
    9. unlike keith, we do not hesitate to state, without any reservations, that charlie and his staff and notre dame’s student athletes who also play football have done magnificent jobs and that having swarbrick and jenkins and certain other current members stab them in the backs has been disgusting and an insult to every core value for which notre dame has always stood.
    10. anyone who wants to try pissing in our directions will find themselves pissing into very strong winds since we have gathered the film and other evidence.
    11. given their atrocities conduct, are their any places at notre dame for swarbrick or jenkins or kelly or any other person associated with the charlie weis atrocities? no.
    12.are there places for charlie and his staff at notre dame football if notre dame sacks swarbrick and jenkins and every other current member of notre dame’s administration responsible for these atrocities and making notre dame a national joke?
    13.yes, with an ad who actually knows something about college football and with strict limitations on what anyone in notre dame’s administration can do in the area of notre dame football and that means notre dame alums who have had great success as student athletes also playing football at notre dame, in the nfl, and in their personal and business lives- the same individuals who stepped up with the funds to save notre dame football and picked charlie in 2005.
    14. with a new ad and president, can we assist notre dame football in joining the ivy league? yes, nothing would give us greater pleasure in the notre dame area.
    15. unlike very many others, we really do love notre dame and want the very best for notre dame.

  9. James - Dec 9, 2009 at 6:40 PM

    robertg, robertg, robertg!

  10. Keith Arnold - Dec 9, 2009 at 6:56 PM

    Perfectly on point. Well crafted response.
    If you don’t like my point-of-view, I’ve got no problem with that. Just don’t be snide about it… (StephenofTroy has already locked that position up.)
    While I think you’re conveniently forgetting about 2 very good seasons to start with, I think you’re on point that the next coach needs to achieve.
    Brian Kelly certainly has a great resume. We will see if he’s the next coach and whether or not he can do it on the biggest stage. I’ve got no reason to think that he can’t, and there’d be nothing I’d like to see more than ND go on a legit run, regardless of who the coach is.

  11. willmose - Dec 9, 2009 at 7:49 PM

    Keith thanks for the response, I’ll try to keep my snideness to a minimum. BTW, I like Brian Kelly, but I am open to other possibilities. I maybe the only one that would like Norte Dame to take their time and get the hire right. I am firm believer that most companies (or universities) hire too quickly and wait too long to fire.

  12. teo - Dec 9, 2009 at 8:23 PM

    Raise your hand if you’re old enough to think that Kelly isn’t going to be the head coach?
    I’ve been around long enough to know that whenever any potential new Irish head coach is presented as a lock, that coach’s shot at being a head coach at the University of Notre Dame is over. Whether its O’Leary or Meyer or so many others, whenever someone seems like a lock, someone else comes into play.
    That someone else, of course, could be the University of Kansas in this case. It could be the University of Cincinnati. Who knows? But, one thing is certain, the chance of Kelly becoming a head coach plummeted as soon as it became a foregone conclusion that he would be the head coach.

  13. teo - Dec 9, 2009 at 8:24 PM

    These recruiting services are a joke. If Rudolph is the number one TE in the country, why is he dropping passes over the middle against Pitt in the biggest game of the year? He’s part of the reason that Weis is out.

  14. bolsh - Dec 9, 2009 at 8:38 PM

    I keep hearing things about Randy Edsall of UConn. Any thoughts on whether he could be the guy?

  15. Rob - Dec 9, 2009 at 8:51 PM

    Teo, you are dead on about those recruiting services being a joke, that’s exactly what I was going to reply when I saw that you beat me to it.
    Hey Lilirish, instead of bringing up pointless rankings of high school kids, which are impossible to rank against each other anyway, why don’t you look up the last ND O Lineman to go in the 1st round of the NFL draft. Bet it was a looooong time ago.
    And the Ivy League… that’s laughable. What would that accomplish, other than totally trashing any connection to ND football’s glorious past. Give me a break. If they were going to join a conference, the Big 10 is the ONLY serious option. I’d like to see the Big 10 in 2 divisions, with Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Northwestern in the west, and Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, and Notre Dame in the east. Then have a championship game at season’s end. That would be big money.

  16. teo - Dec 9, 2009 at 9:01 PM

    And, we could put that good money to use — like paying a coach like Urban Meyer to come up to South Bend and win a national title.
    Everyone says, “it’s not about the money.” Whenever I hear that, I know it’s about the money. If Urban was given a fifteen percent raise to come to South Bend, he would do it in a heartbeat. We can’t do that, though. It’s too much, given the fact that we haven’t made much dough in the football program in awhile.

  17. StephenOfTroy - Dec 9, 2009 at 10:03 PM

    teo, I’m pretty sure the Irish could afford to pay Urban 15 percent more than he makes now. I’m certain he wouldn’t take it. You and Art need to find a kid who will pretend to be deathly ill so you can try to scam the Make-a-Wish people; maybe if you get the kid to tell Urban, through Make-a-Wish, that his last wish is that Urban will coach ND, he’ll consider it.
    At the risk of being called “snide,” I have to side with mrrandolph, rob, and teo. Weis was overrated in everything from his supposed offensive genius status (See, e.g., running game, lack thereof) to his supposed recruiting brilliance (See, e.g., points made on this thread; See also, defensive talent, lack thereof) to his supposed class act status (See, e.g., wild accusations leveled against USC head coach). I disagree with Keith Arnold’s point of view, and I don’t think he has any real idea what “snide” means if he thinks I’ve locked it up. I suppose the people who take cracks at Weis’s weight or openly disparage Keith Arnold’s objectivity don’t count.
    I can’t spend a lot of time worrying about hurting Keith Arnold’s feelings. I’m too busy watching for the moment when Notre Dame, which “is in mortal danger,” will “simply go down in economic flames in the civil courts” thanks to Robert T. Gilleran. Now THERE’s the man who has a lockdown on the word “snide.”

  18. Keith Arnold - Dec 9, 2009 at 10:38 PM

    Steven you were doing so well until you had to get your little pokes in. Would it be possible for you to post about football and leave your little commentary about me and Robert G out of it?
    The Management

  19. Art Vandelay - Dec 9, 2009 at 10:44 PM

    @SOT: it will be Meyer and I don’t think that is unrealistic, even at this stage of the process. I have to think that Jack Swarbrick was smart enough to have a plan in place BEFORE letting Weis go. To do otherwise would have been patent incompetence. The longer we go with no announcement the better, as that furthers my belief that someone has been hired who can’t yet be announced. You know that all these public proclamations by all these coaches are pure BS at this point so why don’t let the process play out without having to bring some cancer kid into the mix. If the new coach is Kelly or somebody else, I will gladly eat my words, but if it is Meyer, get ready for the big I told you so complete with Ace Ventura-like victory dance in your honor….can you feel it? Can you?

  20. onlyNDfanlivinginBama - Dec 10, 2009 at 12:03 AM

    If ND gets Urban Meyer to South Bend, I too will do the Ace Ventura victory dance!! Now is the time for ND to pounce on Urban, he can fore see his future at Florida getting tougher, now that Tebow is gone.

  21. StephenOfTroy - Dec 10, 2009 at 12:25 AM

    Keith Arnold: Possible? Yes. Likely? Don’t bet on it.
    YOU were doing so well until you sent me that absurd email and ALSO deleted one of my posts. I don’t mind your petulant little selective-vision digs at me in the comment sections. Keep up the fancy writing and don’t mind me.

  22. StephenOfTroy - Dec 10, 2009 at 12:29 AM

    Art, I am fully aware that if it IS Meyer, you will be all but trying to steal HelenOfTroy away from me in the midst of my disgrace. I like for the stakes to be high. But really, aside from wishful thinking, what signs point to Urban Meyer either (a) being interested in the job, (b) being coveted by ND or (c) being in the mix?
    It’s fun to read the tea leaves and it’s nice to have a wish list, but I don’t see how Meyer is at all in the hunt. I don’t claim to have special expertise or insight; I just follow the “news,” such as it is.
    Whoever it is, I will be glad to see the new coach come in, and I’m hoping he puts together a staff and a team that does ND proud.
    Happy Holidays!

  23. StephenOfTroy - Dec 10, 2009 at 12:38 AM

    Oh, and Art, relax! The kid in my scenario doesn’t really have cancer. He’s faking it. “Come on, give me some credit.”

  24. robertg - Dec 10, 2009 at 12:59 AM

    1. the flavor of today is edsall of uconn, another real loser like kelly.
    2. and no, swarbrick and jenkins did have zero plans in mind before they stabbed charlie and his staff and notre dame’s student athletes in the backs.
    3. swarbrick and jenkins are very desperate men,intelligent in other areas, but having, with great dtermination, refused to learn anything at all about college football.
    4. having the intelligence to learn and refusing to is referred to accurately as monumental stupidity.
    5. those shoes fit both swarbrick and jenkins and every other current member of the notre dame administration who did not stop these atrocities before they started.
    6.swarbrick’s start was during the 2008 seasson when swarbick’s stupidity cost notre dame key commits for the recruiting class of 2009.
    7.during the 2009 season, the problems started when swarbrick and jenkins did not go on the warpath against one of swarbrick’s best buddies, jim delany of the big 10, when the big 10 conference game and tech review crew stole notre dame’s win over michigan.
    8. when swarbrick and jenkins continued to do nothing but to allow the media shill con artists to vilify charlie and his staff and their families and notre dame’s student athletes, swarbrick and jenkins gave the dishonest conference officials, notre dame’s enemies, and players on opposition teams carte blanche to cheat notre dame out of 6 wins and to intentionally injure notre dame student athletes with zero consequences.
    9. whether it happens sooner or later after more humiliation and suffering for notre dame football and the university of notre dame, the only viable path for notre dame football is the ivy league and getting rid of swarbrick and jenkins and everyone else in the notre dame administration.
    10. notre dame football should be run by notre dame alums who had great success as student athletes playing football at notre dame, in the nfl, and in their personal and business lives.
    11. those of us who really love notre dame and know that notre dame has a unique mission in this world also know that swarbrick and jenkins have to go and that the future of notre dame football is in the ivy league, not in the sewers of crooked college football enterprises into which swarbrick and jenkins are pushing notre dame right now.

  25. mrrandolph - Dec 10, 2009 at 7:39 AM

    I would think if Urban is coming to South Bend that Swarbrick has been after him since last year. The main reason ND didn’t get Urban the first time is 3 reasons.
    1. Florida fired Ron Zook after the Miss. State game and Florida started talking with Urban then. A full month before Ty was fired. They let Zook finish out the year. He went 21-15(same as Ty) and lost 5 games by less than a TD his last year.
    2. Bernie Machen, the Univ. of Florida president, is the same man that hired Urban at Utah (pres. of Utah) and told the AD to go after Urban.
    3. And, how do you tell your lady that she’ll be spending her winters in South Bend instead of Florida. Even Rockne spent his winters in Florida.

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