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The case for patience

Sep 27, 2010, 11:30 PM EDT

There are some very ugly facts surrounding Notre Dame football, the most distressing being that the Irish have now lost seven of their last eight football games dating back to last season.

And while there are certainly more than a few sane and logical arguments to be made in support of ditching your blue-and-gold and taking up another pastime during the fall months, two of the senior voices covering Notre Dame football made some excellent points in the aftermath of the ugly Stanford loss.

The South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen had this to say when deconstructing the Irish after four football games:

The only commodities ND first-year head football coach Brian Kelly is in danger of losing at this juncture are bandwagon-jumpers.

best thing the Cardinal did Saturday on Kelly’s behalf was show him
that his 1-3 football team isn’t just a mistake or two, a blown coverage
or three, a missed block or four away from being “return to glory”

There’s some retooling, maybe reinvention, required to change the trajectory of this season.

The foundation is in order. The things that made Kelly the right fit for the program haven’t changed — 19 years of prior head coaching experience at the college level,
knowledge of both sides of the ball, ability to move players to new
positions and develop them there, and the ability to think on his feet.

It may come as a surprise to some Notre Dame fans (or perhaps not after actually watching him coach), but Kelly has had slow starts and losing streaks.

There haven’t been many of those rough spots — not as a head coach
anyway. Kelly has experienced two four-game losing streaks in his
career, both at Grand Valley State, preceding his two Division II
national titles there. One started at the tail end of 1998 and extended
through the first three games of 1999. The other started at the end of
1999 and finished up in 2000.

He’s never lost five in a row, for those thinking ahead to the Oct. 9 home game against Pittsburgh.

has been 1-3 three times before, though. and nothing close to
apocalyptic happened. In 2005, his Central Michigan team followed that
start with a four-game winning streak. In 1999, his 1-3 Grand Valley
team won four of its next five to finish 5-4. And in 2000, his 1-3 team
actually started 0-3. From there, Kelly won 20 games in a row and 40 of
his next 41.

Those are reassuring trends for Irish fans, though nothing would make people feel better than a step in the actual right direction.

Meanwhile, veteran scribe Lou Somogyi of reached into the mailbag to help quell reader anger.

From Somogyi:

After dropping to 1-3 under a new head coach that
was and is still considered the man who will turn it around for Notre
Dame football, we received the following mail from subscribers.

A doctor in Kansas City wrote: “It’s not that we’re not used to losing
(how couldn’t we be). It’s about the weekly exercise in losing ugly.
Notre Dame football equates with buffoonery. I’ll check back in five or
ten years.”

From Columbus, Ohio: One reader who is constantly
mocked by Ohio State Buckeyes fans asked, “Is this the new leader we
were looking forward to? I doubt it.”

From Pennsylvania, our top state for subscribers: “The strength of the
team is the wide receivers. Why didn’t the ball get to any of them?
Notre Dame looked very disorganized.”

From Brooklyn: “Let’s end the hypocrisy right now. If [Charlie Weis] was still coaching the Irish, the record would be the same… the Irish would still be committing uncorrected errors. The press would be rightfully all over [Weis].
Why the double standard? Why has the press fawned all over [Brian Kelly]?

By the way … those letters are from 1986. I just
took a little liberty with the last one by inserting Charlie Weis’ name
instead of Gerry Faust in the brackets, and Brian Kelly instead of Lou Holtz. The fourth game blowout came at Alabama, 28-10, a game where three Irish quarterbacks (Steve Beuerlein, Terry Andrysiak and Steve Belles) each threw an interception. That hadn’t happened again until … well, this season with Kelly versus Michigan (Dayne Crist, Tommy Rees and Nate Montana).

Nobody is saying Kelly will turn it around like
Holtz. Nobody is saying he can’t. All we’re trying to show is that
whether you’re a future Hall of Fame head coach or one who is aspiring
to attain such a stature (and statue), the road toward prosperity seldom
comes smoothly paved. And instant results by some segments of the
fandom are expected now just as they were then.

The travails continued for Holtz that year when he and the Irish lost
10-9 at home to a mediocre Pitt team that would finish 5-5-1. That
dropped Notre Dame to 1-7 overall in its last eight games — just like

As Somogyi points out — Lou Holtz wasn’t Lou Holtz when he got the Notre Dame job. And after starting 1-3, he was just another guy that may have won before coming to South Bend, but wasn’t up to the task of waking up the echoes.

The point is, we’ll find out if Brian Kelly will win at Notre Dame soon enough. For some fans, it’s already taking too long. For those with some patience, find strength that there’s logic in your beliefs.


  1. mrrandolph - Sep 28, 2010 at 6:45 AM

    I completely agree. If we are playing like this in BK’s 3rd,4th, and 5th year then his hire was a mistake. I think this start points out one thing: Weis couldn’t recruit. He was a sham.

  2. TersigniND - Sep 28, 2010 at 6:59 AM

    This is the best thing I have read to date on ND football. Rome wasn’t built in one day. Unfortunately it’s a win now society. We have to be patient, let’s see what BK can do when he gets his recruits in here.
    A brand new QB, new offensive scheme, new defense, and trying to change a philosophy of a team is not an easy task to accomplish in ONE season.
    Have some faith and patience. Go ND

  3. Jim Fitzgerald - Sep 28, 2010 at 9:01 AM

    Lou Holtz’s first year at ND was dismal, and I remember many fans who weren’t that impressed with his second (8-4, losing the Cotton Bowl). But 1988 was Magic. This is the ND team I grew up with. I am so glad that Fr. Hesburgh did not listen any of the angry voices calling for Holtz’s dismissal. Lou got his chance; Kelly deserves his.
    This team is already pretty good; they’re going to get a whole lot better. Keep the Faith. Go Irish!

  4. Ray McConaghy - Sep 28, 2010 at 9:06 AM

    The biggest risk that Coach Kelly and Notre Dame face with continuing losses is recruiting. Current commitments may re-think their choice of school and uncommitted recruits may decide to go elsewhere.
    Prior to the season I projected Notre Dame would be 3-3 after the first six games on the way to an 8-4 season. I still believe that the Irish will be 3-3 and then 8-4. The only difference so far is an unexpected loss to Michigan, which I believe will be offset by an unexpected win over Pittsburgh. My forecasts are available on my Web site at All are invited.

  5. Jim Kress - Sep 28, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    Actually, Weis COULD recruit. He recruited Offensive players quite well (Clausen, Crist, Allen, Floyd, Tate, etc). But that was his focus. He just did a poor job on the defense and good defense is how you win games.
    Also, Charlie could not coach/ develop any players other than QBs and receivers.
    BK seems to be doing a more Holtzian job on both sides of the ball. Time will tell if he can be successful. But, he needs a couple of seasons to mold the team and prove himself.
    Someone like Ara and the simultaneous confluence of skilled players comes about only one or two times in a lifetime …
    Just because we are ND, doesn’t mean it will always happen for us.
    Not to say I’m not hysterical about 18 years of crummy teams. I’ve taked to NOT watching the games live, DVR’ing them and, if we win, then I’ll watch the game. It’s the best coping mechanism I’ve found for this Irish fan of 38 years.

  6. Jim Kress - Sep 28, 2010 at 9:14 AM

    Actually, Weis COULD recruit. He recruited Offensive players quite well (Clausen, Crist, Allen, Floyd, Tate, etc). But that was his focus. He just did a poor job on the defense and good defense is how you win games.
    Also, Charlie could not coach/ develop any players other than QBs and receivers.
    BK seems to be doing a more Holtzian job on both sides of the ball. Time will tell if he can be successful. But, he needs a couple of seasons to mold the team and prove himself.
    Someone like Ara and the simultaneous confluence of skilled players comes about only one or two times in a lifetime …
    Just because we are ND, doesn’t mean it will always happen for us.
    Not to say I’m not hysterical about 18 years of crummy teams. I’ve taked to NOT watching the games live, DVR’ing them and, if we win, then I’ll watch the game. It’s the best coping mechanism I’ve found for this Irish fan of 38 years.

  7. TBoneND - Sep 28, 2010 at 9:15 AM

    I disagree about Weis and his recruiting efforts. ND was going up against SC, Fla, oSU, uM(sucks) and many other top notch schools.
    Now if you want to make the argument that Weis did not delvelope his defensive players and his O’ line recruits, I certainly would agree.

  8. Terry - Sep 28, 2010 at 9:48 AM

    When Charlie came in the Irish started winning from the get-go. Why? Because they had seasoned players in nearly all positions and all Weis has to do was pull them together. While Weis did not leave the cupboards bare he left a program short on discipline and long on ego. Kelly is taking it one step at a time. He has the players, especially on offense, and the defense is coming along slowly due to lack of depth, especially along the line. Things will be okay in the not too distant future. I would rather gradually move toward being relevant again instead of a flash in the pan which is what the case was with Charlie. Patience!

  9. borromini - Sep 28, 2010 at 10:17 AM

    It wasn’t a sham Mr. Randolph. Weis could recruit…albeit more successful on the offensive side, but overall he was a good recruiter. His downfall was developing those players along with putting together a cohesive staff. Kelly will obviously have to develop the talent Weis brought in along with changing the culture.

  10. doogerfuji - Sep 28, 2010 at 10:25 AM

    Kelly will get his chance. If the recruiting class stays in tact, ND will recruit more big skill than anyone in the country and more than Kelly has ever had in his career. Then we will see.

  11. Luke - Sep 28, 2010 at 10:32 AM

    I wholeheartedly agree. The cupboards aren’t bare this year. There are plenty of “staples”. It just takes a lot of effort to put those ingredients together in the correct proportions to make something to be proud of.

  12. R Irish - Sep 28, 2010 at 11:42 AM

    I was hoping for and even expecting a faster start this year under Kelly’s leadership. Unfortunately, that has not happened and I am disappointed. It is still not too late to make a real season out of this and that can start on Saturday against BC.

  13. jmc - Sep 28, 2010 at 12:02 PM

    Weis recruited skill guys, but seriously lacked bringing offensive and defensive lineman… the holes in depth this year also strike at the fact that we didn’t get the big picture..
    Also, why don’t folks interview/listen to the players. If you listen to their interviews, the culture is entirely different and they see great things ahead. This is so different from the NFL/big ego chat we heard in years past.
    My greatest disappointment is in the ND fan base — Weis left this place a disaster — lots of holes, no strength program and convinced Jimmy/Golden to take off… ND fans need to realize it takes time to lay a foundation and build a championship caliber team.
    I think ND is on the right track based on what I hear from players and their families and the stellar recruitng class BK already has lined up 6 months before signing day. We will know we are back, when we line up on 4th and 1, run it up the middle and gain 4 yards.

  14. Ohio Irish - Sep 28, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    I agree only partially with the Weis could recruit comments. He did not do a very good job recruiting along the line of scrimmage. The first thing any coach will tell you is, “we need to control the line of scrimmage”. You can have the best QB and wide receivers in world, but if they don’t have time to pass and/or get open, then your chances of moving the ball are not very high. On the defensive side, if you do not have players that can put pressure on the opposing QB, then he has too much time.
    Brian Kelly has already addressed this. He has some good recruits coming in on the D line. This should help out our defense greatly.

  15. mrrandolph - Sep 28, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    Well, he either he couldn’t recruit or he couldn’t coach. You choose.

  16. ugetwutuask4 - Sep 28, 2010 at 1:17 PM

    I get a little upset when we lose but once the dust has settled and the birds are chirping the Sunday after I take a step back and look at the game for what it’s worth. Then I read what The Fightin’ Bandwagoner’s have to say and hope and pray I don’t sound like they. I keep repeating over and over would any of these questions even be asked, if not for that last second pass being thrown through the back of the end zone right before time expired against Michigan or had we been able to defend that fake field goal against State, and we were 3-1 not 1-3? Had those plays worked out in our favor then the same slithery snake fans would still be on our bus enjoying the ride only to get off at the next stop(loss) and start throwing rocks at our coach and team again. So losing like this is good because it is only gonna toughen up our players and show them that work still needs to be done in order to get to the “top of that mountain” and at the same time exposes the weak-minded be it the fans, coaches, and/or players!
    So I really could care less about how many wins or losses come our way the rest of the season but I’m gauranteeing it, right here, right now, you heard it hear first, remember I told everyone this going into our fith week of the season before the BC Eagles game, mark it on your calendars. That Coach Kelly will make everyone into beleivers with thee, first signature moment of his career in South Bend and the victory that will turn our program around for 2011 and beyond will come against SC and for the rest of this year and every game leading up to it is what Coach Kelly and his staff will be preparing and building his team towards, g-a-u-r-a-n-t-e-e-d.

  17. John Hutton - Sep 28, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    Players and coaches from other teams agree that Notre Dame plays tougher, stronger, and more disciplined this year. That’s what I want to hear. Come on, fan base, keep your heads. BC will be a breakout game, guaranteed.

  18. freddyt - Sep 28, 2010 at 2:25 PM

    ay mann look at this thing thats been goin round its like that drudge thing u like but sports . and u need to give me ur picks for the week

  19. Mike Keane - Sep 28, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    Just a thought, but if the Irish were soo terrible and the outlook was soo dire and ND had no prestige, why were Michigan & Michigan State both ranked teams based upon wins over the Irish and why did Stanford jump in the polls after Sat. The Irish are clearly not there for 60 min. but for 45 or 50 they look pretty good, especially the defense.

  20. beav - Sep 28, 2010 at 4:00 PM

    I hope you guys aren’t betting the houses on those “guarantees”. ND still has a long way to go before they can win soundly and consistently. BC and USC are no where near sure things. Ywo big reasons I say this.
    1. I don’t think the running game can truely be effective until the QB is allowed to run the ball on the option looks. Until that happens, the opposing defenses will continue to target the RB with the ball and no amount of passes (see UM game) will help ND get over the top.
    2. The defense will improve when depth in the secondary is solidified and the outside LB’s start playing to their potential.
    Vast improvement in those two areas and victories will start to mount.
    Go Irish!

  21. MD Kellerhals - Sep 28, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    Sadly, I’ve watched too many Saturday’s slip through somebody’s fingers at Notre Dame Stadium, and then all the talk begins, again. I have not watched a single Irish football game this season. I decided that I just don’t enjoy watching losing games. The university has made a decision not to field a competitive, major college football program, probably for all the right reasons. So, stop thinking the national championship is just around the corner, and worse stop hiring coaches who are convinced they will lead the Irish back to national prominence. It’s not going to happen. Just read most of the other comments above, everybody seems convinced that in time the coaching staff will turn things around. For a brief time that may happen, but it will not last long enough to create the kind of football program the fans want. Letting Charlie Weis go after a great start was a foolish choice and the university was wrong. Coach Kelly has enjoyed a fine career as a head football coach in the NCAA system, and I would be the last person to say it isn’t true. But I think he’ll find the same problems the other coaches have found and will leave the program in four or five years. A sportswriter said the other day that Notre Dame Football is completely irrelevant to college football. Notre Dame needs to stop thinking like a football factory, it isn’t. For once, accept reality.

  22. ugetwutuask4 - Sep 28, 2010 at 9:02 PM

    You’re funny Kellerballs, PHD as in playerhater degree. You’re probably the same dude who before the season predicted Texas probably wouldn’t lose a game. UF would be a dynasty forever and Alabama is gonna win another title this year and the year after that too, right? Everything goes in cycles a lot of pundits were saying that Nebraska wasn’t gonna rise from the ashes and FSU won’t be back for a while either. Last but not least whomever thought Boise St. or TCU would have have a spot in the AP top 5 and look where they’re at. I’m a realist and I know B.K. probably won’t last past 6 to 8 years at the most and our “dynasty” won’t be long, but nowadays whose does? Hate to bust your ovaries but you obviously don’t know what it’s like to go a couple of decades with out one (championship) of course, like so many other schools have gone in the past. We’ll be back on top shortly even if it is short-lived, that’s still enough for me. Peace Out!

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