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Kelly: “I need to be a better head coach.”

Aug 4, 2012, 5:49 PM EDT

Kelly, Martin, Elston

It was a pretty good exchange after practice between Brian Kelly and a large assembly of media after Day One on the LaBar Practice Fields. While Kelly gave some early impressions on quarterbacks, freshmen, and this blogger’s dark-horse favorite for the season, possibly the best comments to come from Kelly were self-reflective.

It’s no secret that Brian Kelly’s temper — on display quite a bit early in the disastrous 2011 season — has been a lightning rod for discussion. Whether you think raising your voice and yelling at players is a big deal or not (I don’t), an exchange midway through today’s media session let’s you know that the head coach of the Fighting Irish didn’t just evaluate how things were being done on the field, he took a long hard look at how he was doing his job.

His self-evaluation: Not good enough.

“It started back in January when I was committed to being a better head coach in the sense that I needed to spend more time with my players,” Kelly said. “This job has a tendency to distract you a little bit, and I took it because I wanted to coach. I wanted to be around the guys. So back in January, we started every Monday our A-Team and I would meet, just myself, with our players. So I just think my emphasis on spending more time with the players and getting to know them better and letting them get to know me better than just sitting up in an office, and there’s where the head coach of Notre Dame sits. I’ve never been that type of coach and I felt myself sliding toward that my first couple of years. I don’t think it’s anything on their part, I think it’s probably more on my part, of being more accessible and being around the guys a lot more.”

It’s hard not to think back on the biggest internal flap of last season, when Kelly’s comments during his weekly radio show where he differentiated his recruits with Charlie Weis’ caused a large rift in the locker room. Kelly didn’t point to that incident, but after some factions of the fan-base have called Kelly tone-deaf, it’s good to see that the head coach isn’t afraid to adapt.

“I think when there’s not the kind of results you’re looking for, you’ve got to look at yourself first,” Kelly said. “I need to coach. I need to be in the trenches. I need to be around our guys. To be an effective leader, some are better sitting up in the tower, and some are better being hands on. And I’m better. I need to be a better head coach and that’s are what my strengths are so I’m going to them.”


A few other quick notes that I found interesting:

Quarterback Everett Golson took the snaps with the first team offense today, while Andrew Hendrix split reps with Gunner Kiel and the second string, before shuffling between groupings. Kelly was asked what Golson did to earn those first snaps.

“He had a better spring game in our evaluation, so he got the first shot,” Kelly said of Golson. “Andrew had a really good practice today, so there’s a chance he could be the first tomorrow. That’s kind of where we are right now.”

While Tommy Rees didn’t find himself in the mix right off the bat, Kelly was especially impressed with Rees’ willingness to help his teammates, using his experience to help out.

“I was pleased with Tommy Rees,” Kelly said. “He was out there coaching all the quarterbacks, which just reaffirms the kind of kid that he is to me.

There are reasons why Rees’ teammates look at him as a leader. I think we just saw one of the reasons.



This little nugget on how running back Amir Carlisle looked while still working off the effects of a broken ankle.

“He did more than we thought,” Kelly said. Rob Hunt, our athletic trainer, made it sound like he was going to limp his way through practice, but he looked pretty good in some team periods. He’s going to help us. He’s not there yet. You can see he’s testing the ankle still. But I’m telling you what, when it’s straight line stuff, he’s got a burst.”


Lastly, sad news for lineman Brad Carrico. One of Brian Kelly’s earliest commitments is likely done for his career after a difficult foot injury has put him on a medical hardship scholarship.



  1. bernhtp - Aug 4, 2012 at 6:00 PM

    The reflective piece about Kelly getting down from the tower and out of the office to do hands-on coaching was interesting. My guess is that he’s right, and it will probably make a difference.

    Sad about Brad. I’m glad he’s at Notre Dame where his alternative – a great education – is a much better Plan B than other places.

    Excited to hear the good news about Amir. Again, I think he will likely be a dynamic contributor to the offense.

    • nudeman - Aug 4, 2012 at 9:02 PM

      I like Kelly, I’ll say that again
      But this stuff about “I’ve got to get better; I just want to be with my guys more” was 100% blather
      Completely non specific and with a PR agenda
      Like he’s still aware of the wound from the “my guys” comment.

      He said he started this approach back in January
      I was just BEGGING to hear someone ask “Could you give us a tangible example or two about how this has paid off?”

      Another good one that I’d like to have heard: “Will the QB be held accountable for bad play THIS YEAR?”

      • c4evr - Aug 4, 2012 at 9:17 PM

        I think we’ll see the tangible results in less than a month.

      • bernhtp - Aug 4, 2012 at 9:46 PM

        I disagree. It was far more substantive than mere blather. He was basically saying that he was becoming too much of a manager and too little of a coach, and that his calling is hands-on coaching/teaching. He implied that the special demands of Notre Dame seduced him in this direction and that upon reflection, especially after lower-than-expected results, he decided to go back to his roots – a Rocky-esque eye of the tiger thing.

        He is still early in effecting this understanding at Notre Dame. If he’s right, which I believe he probably is, we should see something this season. QB performance is obviously one area to watch out for since this is an area of focus for him.

      • nudeman - Aug 5, 2012 at 10:47 AM

        I understood all that. But it just had the ring of “We’re going to give 110%”
        I’ll be more impressed if I see a team that is:
        1) Doesn’t nearly lead the NCAA in penalties
        2) Doesn’t nearly lead the NCAA in worst turnover margin
        3) Isn’t quarterbacked by Tommy Rees
        4) Beats a “big boy” team

        Then we can talk

      • gtizzo - Aug 6, 2012 at 5:13 AM

        I prefer coaches who don’t talk to the press. I would much rather they shut up and coach. Since Kelly chats with the media then he is welcome to use any cliches or platitude he wants. Just start the season 2-0 and with less then 10 turnovers.

  2. 9irish - Aug 4, 2012 at 6:48 PM

    I think this is great. Seems more comfortable in his own skin, which is important. Big difference between UC and Notre Dame. I see good things coming. (and yes, he can yell at people all he wants in my book!)

  3. smurphdoggy29 - Aug 4, 2012 at 7:44 PM

    Pretty exciting stuff, it shows the evolution. Coach Kelly had to put in the foundation, followed by the structure & framework, and now he can get down to ground level again and work with the players. Sort of rubber meet the road.

    Evolution, pretty effective, it is the discussion from past years of Coach Kelly having and implementing a plan, and I hope people don’t miss this type of moment and let it pass them by. Coach Kelly and his Coaching Staff had a blue print, a plan, an idea of how they were going to go about approaching the Notre Dame Football situation.

    They are sticking to it and we can see the process unfold IF we watch. Remember in the past we (the fans) and the Coaches kept clamoring for results and production. We don’t have any way to effect the process, the Coaches do. They have a plan and are implementing it, and in the end, whatever the result may be they will be able to say they tried their best, were organized, and prepared. They won’t be left with regrets, except those that might be around if they fail.

    I think, just from observing from afar, that the plan is being implemented and carried out exactly as the Staff and Coach Kelly fashioned. The results aren’t where they want, yet, BUT the Coaches are sticking to their blue print and advancing toward their goals with determination and confidence.

    I think we should take note and appreciate that. Remind ourselves that they have put in the effort and the reward will come.

    I feel bad for Carrico, though in the long run I hope his health returns to top form !

    Looking forward to Riddick doing his best Gilyard impersonation too. I think Amir might be the Pead of the Fightin Irish. With Lewis-Moore being the Barwin of the Irish defense !

    I also think Coach Kelly is just waiting to bust out with a HOORAH when either Golson or Hendrix finally Carpe Diem !

    Good luck Coaches !

    GO Irish !

    Defeat Navy, strike fear in the heart of Purdue Pete !

    Brazen Head = Keith buying WOOHOO

  4. muir6 - Aug 4, 2012 at 8:27 PM

    He needs to calm down stick to a qb

  5. norvturnersneck - Aug 4, 2012 at 8:28 PM

    Good to hear that he is evolving as a coach. Every year will make a difference in any leader about how to approach any team. If he feels that he needs to “get in the trenches” more, than all the power to him for this realization. I hope it works.
    I’m also happy for the QB shake up. I hope Rees is motivated to make a push for the throne. His leadership will be key as the Irish transition in QBs. Hopefully away from him.

  6. norvturnersneck - Aug 4, 2012 at 9:31 PM


    The cynicism has gotten to you. As a teacher and coach, I’ve realized that a coach is always evolving. Ask any coach, they will tell you they aren’t doing it for show, but he is evolving (aren’t we all?). Self evaluation can result in the biggest critics.

    Secondly, no college coach should call out there players (i.e. Rees), but I understand your frustration. It reminds me of Carlyle Holiday and the tears I shed during most games. Patience!! We shall prevail. Probably not with this years inexperience and schedule, but next year(s) can be promising.

    • dickasman - Aug 4, 2012 at 9:56 PM

      Yeah ok. I don’t listen to anybody w that many pock marks.

    • nudeman - Aug 5, 2012 at 3:29 PM

      I’m not sure what you mean by the Holiday reference?

      I always thought he was athletically gifted but playing QB for Bob Davie would bring anyone down a notch or two. With another coach or another team would have been much better.

      I think he even played a little WR in the NFL, didn’t he?

  7. dickasman - Aug 4, 2012 at 9:54 PM

    Thank you that’s all I wanted to hear now let’s go horse pound navy 59-0 like the old days so for at least one week I can say we re back! Smurph, I can’t figure out if you’re über cheap arse(Jewish Irish?) or u just like Keith.

    • smurphdoggy29 - Aug 5, 2012 at 12:12 PM

      dickasman, naturally I really like Keith based on his tremendous handling of this site and all the information he has to get to !

      I am Roman Catholic Irish with roots firmly imbedded in Co. Kerry Ireland my friend and all I am trying to do is smoke him out, get him out from the brush, and hopefully into Dublin Eire for some fine Craic and an Irish win !

      Stay your course dickasman and also nudeman !

      GO Irish !

      See you ? (Gentleman) in Dublin !

      • nudeman - Aug 5, 2012 at 2:03 PM

        “some fine craic”

        Only the true blue among us know what that is

        Co. Cork for me, near town of Fermoy
        Dairy farm my grandfather left in the 1880s to come to the US is still in the family

      • irishcypressbay - Aug 6, 2012 at 1:47 PM

        I’m new to this site but not to ND football…old Jersey guy here and Yes, we’ll be in Dublin for the game in a few weeks…Notre Dame & Navy in Dublin…Wow!

  8. c4evr - Aug 4, 2012 at 10:29 PM

    A great quote regarding leadership from Lou Holtz’s top 10 lessons from coaching and life…

    “I can name you the coach, but I can not name you the leader. Leaders are named from below.”

    Here’s to hoping BK gets it.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Aug 4, 2012 at 10:58 PM

      Most in an organizational framework can benefit greatly from some intense self-critical analysis like Kelly is going through. I don’t think its just a bunch of PR hooey for the media. I like the commitment to his players and maybe they will want to start executing, start taking care of the details and start winning for him. It may be that one extra ingredient that brings about something special this season which would be a nice surprise. Sounds like Amir might be something to watch in the coming weeks. 4weeks to go…….I love this time of year when everything’s all potential and promise. No fumbles, picks or losses just yet, only the thought of what may be.

    • 1historian - Aug 5, 2012 at 10:55 AM

      “Leaders are named from below.” Very true – BK gets that now and he always has.

      It’s up to someone to step forward and say “follow me.”

  9. domer77blowsgoats - Aug 5, 2012 at 12:01 AM

    And herein lies the most critical part of the season and future of BK. can he inspire these kids to give their all every day for the next 5 months? Does he earn their respect and trust or do they play in fear? If he does the sky is the limit. Talent or lack there of is no longer the excuse. Forget QB and schedule, it won’t matter one bit if this TEAM comes together and shows up every down. If they play in fear of making mistakes then we arent going anywhere.

    • c4evr - Aug 5, 2012 at 3:43 AM


  10. yaketyyacc - Aug 5, 2012 at 3:25 AM

    old chinese proverb: admitting one’s mistakes is halfway to wisdom. and frankly, it takes a real man to do it. we can only move forward with Brian Kelly, and the talent Notre Dame posesses, not forgettng the other fine coaches.
    and look at the weight coach Kelly has lost and the fine shape he is in. we are now lean, mean and and a fighting machine. thank you coach Kelly, your staff, and the players for the winning season ahead. Gooooo Irish, beat Navy…

  11. norcalirish - Aug 5, 2012 at 6:28 AM

    My reaction to the headline above: “duh”

  12. 11thstreetmafia - Aug 5, 2012 at 7:43 AM

    You think he yells, you should see people yell at their tv’s across South Bend every fall. “what are are you doing, tommy Rees!!!!”

  13. mtflsmitty - Aug 5, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    Since silence could be confused as an endorsement…Dick, would you please keep the ethnic slurs off this site. I suspect you mean it to be harmless, but it’s not. Not the end of the world one way or another, but a respectful request on my part. Thanks.

  14. don74 - Aug 5, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    I don’t know if Kelly’s introspection is real or a PR statement but I am willing to take the leap of faith and believe it’s real. My friend Nude will ask, “where’s the evidence?”. Fair question and while we are at Day 1 of fall camp there has been a progression in the comments made by the coach and players. During the radio interview that took place Thursday, BK spoke of the comfort level of the players in the program and the work ethic that is evolving on the team. During Friday’s presser he took the time to mention “everyone is on the same page”. Yesterday was “I need to get better”. All could be PR except for Theo’s comments. Hansen’s column in the SB Tribune quotes Theo as saying BK is different. Because of his meetings and the players knowing him better and with more trust, Theo said “last year he was doing the yelling, this year we are doing the yelling”.

    We all know one data point is not a trend. I am getting the sense the players are more relaxed in the system and that will allow their talent to carry them.

    Theo also had some interesting comments about AH and EG. Based on what he said about their confidence or lack of confidence in their position it is no wonder why many of the starters are behind TR.

    Haven’t lost a game yet and the secondary has kept everything in front of them!

    • nudeman - Aug 5, 2012 at 10:54 AM

      Interesting. I’ll have to read the article
      I’m willing to be convinced on the reality of the BK transformation
      But nothing he says or does between now and 9/1 will matter to me
      Less turnovers, fewer penalties, a new QB and beating a quality team.
      That’s where the rubber hits the road

      • don74 - Aug 5, 2012 at 12:36 PM


        You are 100% correct. Results are all that matters after 2 years of inconsistent performance. My frustration is the dichotomy with areas of advancement (defense, strenght training, OL play, running) and all the things you speak of.

        As the first practice approached I was feeling a sense that this season was going to be a step back and I resigned myself watching without hope. As a said I am taking the leap of faith based on the very thin veneer of what BK is saying and what I am being told. I can’t disagree with you in any regard because there are no facts and there is no proof. That being said I know we both hope I am correct.

        • nudeman - Aug 5, 2012 at 3:25 PM

          So much about ND football right now revolves around the quality of QB play they will get, and none of us know what’s coming.
          Will Golson be as electric as we think/hope?
          Will BK choke and fall back on Rees as the guy who “gives us the best chance blah blah”?
          Will Hendrix have an impact?

          The QB conversation, tired as it might be dominates the boards because it is by FAR the biggest X Factor.

          The only thing I feel fairly certain about is that we’ve seen the best of Rees (and it wasn’t very good), and he just is NOT able to stand up to the likes of OK, UM, Stanf, USC and maybe even a couple others like BYU.

      • don74 - Aug 5, 2012 at 6:20 PM


        You are 100% correct regarding QB play and it’s impact on everything Irish football. Theo talked of the demeanor of EG and AH last year. To paraphase, even when they knew what to do they didn’t have confidence. They would come to the line and whisper the checks. Basically, if they didn’t have confidence in their calls the O didn’t have confidence in them. TR does not have the physical skills to be “the guy” but look at BK’s situation. He inherited the “next coming” and had nothing to back him up. Christ goes down game 2 of BK’s tenure and what happen’s, no one can run the offense. Christ goes down vs Tulsa and TR takes em back but when the game is on the line throws a ball he can’t complete or even make sure is not intercepted. BK takes the hit for not kicking…..

        Year 2. Christ is still Christ. We all think he should have been given a bigger chance but we will see what he does as a Jayhawk. For some reason I get the feeling he’s not going to be a top 3 round draft choice…….TR comes in. Everyone else does not instill confidence….

        End of year BK decides he needs to be the QB coach to get this headed in the right direction. I guess he really does know QB play and ball security will make the difference.

        To me the season hinges on QB play. BK knows that and is now the QB coach. Not Charlie Molnar, not Chuck Martin. The HC is the guy that’s on the line.

        Everything you say regarding the QB situation is a fact. BK is taking action to change it.

        I will say it again, I have taken the leap of faith. But then again I played golf this morning and if I didn’t have faith every time I played I would have given it up long ago…………

    • joeschu - Aug 5, 2012 at 8:15 PM

      Great job guys. Best discussion on this topic I’ve read in a while.

      The truth is, we’ll only be able to judge the sincerity of BK’s comments in hindsight. Guessing if this was PR bluster (which I suspect) or genuine introspection is impossible to know right now. The only window we’ll have in to this will be in his, and the team’s, actions in the coming months.

      To me, a guy that’s more interested in “being the head coach at Notre Dame” is someone who’s going to be:
      – Very political
      – Make a lot of excuses
      – Get volatile quickly
      – Make “safe” choices

      A guy who wants to “coach football at Notre Dame” is going to want to:
      – Foster great relationships with players
      – Allow player leadership emerge
      – Make the tough call when it is needed
      – Own mistakes when they happen

      Honestly, they could go 8-5 again (unproven QB and d-backfield with this schedule) and if we’ve got a guy coaching football instead of being the coach, then I’ll be happy. It’ll show up on the field, and just may even bring out one of those Lou Holtz “special performances” that makes all ND alum and fans proud.

  15. bearcatirishfan - Aug 5, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    If you watch the video on und it was a question asked of Kelly that prompted the response not orchestrated the way a pr move would be, he looked genuine when saying it. I am a huge bk believer so maybe I’ve got my rose colored glasses on.

  16. bearcatirishfan - Aug 5, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    Anybody else notice in the video of practice that nix looked like he was in really good shape.

  17. prophetjcb - Aug 5, 2012 at 11:08 AM

    I once read a study of athletes that sought to determine the approach or style that was effective for most athletes. Only two traits emerged as essential: a) know the game, and b) make sure players know you care. Whether or not someone is a “player’s coach,” is analytical or emotional, engages in the yelling and screaming and other sideline antics we see from BK on TV are inconsequential to players, if those first two items are intact.

    My concern about Kelly has never been the purple face we saw last year (especially as my face and language was matching his most of those moments), and I’m pretty sure he knows the game just fine. I have been a little concerned about his relationship with the players, though, based on some of the comments, particularly the Weis guys/my guys thing. Kelly has always had a good rep for these relationships, so I have often wondered if the incredible demands of the ND job have somehow consumed and monopolized more of his time than he expected… the words about getting stuck in the office were an important realization for me. He recruits well, so he is able to make connections quickly and raise expectations, but those relationships need to be maintained. And BK knows it, and wants to be that kind of coach. While it is just words in a presser, I really liked his comments about spending more time with the guys because it demonstrates some reflection about what may be missing, and what needs to get better – and it isn’t all things the players need to do, or stuff found on a coaching checklist. It shows some interpersonal intelligence, and for the players, that’s how they will know he does care about them, and has their best interests at heart rather than being the CEO, and that’s what will render even the more challenging parts of his personality and leadership style effective. This is all great news for me an a good sign moving forward.

    All that said, I’m sure it also concerns him (and it certainly concerns me) that we don’t have a clear cut #1 QB at this point. We certainly have a few other area on the field to be concerned about, but this is just essential. I don’t blame BK. if no one has won it yet, no one has won it. But that’s a problem for me. We can get by Navy and Purdue with quarterback by committee, but after that…

  18. acieu - Aug 5, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    He is now going to coaching the cheerleaders on head as he wants to be a better “head coach”?

    • irishcypressbay - Aug 6, 2012 at 1:53 PM

      You’re on the wrong kind of website, you arse…we love our Fightin’ Irish football here… grow up

  19. nd78gracehall - Aug 5, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    Hey Keith, great piece, I like that Kelly isn’t afraid to look himself in the mirror and make changes, other coaches never did that and we see the lack of development in the program when they were here: Ty, CW, even Davie. I think Kelly is the man.

    ON ANOTHER TOPIC: I was saddened to hear about the end of Brad Carrico’s football career at ND. Can you interview the young man and get his feelings on this, the support ND has offered, and his role as a team member now that he can no longer strap on the helmet? I think it would be a nice story and also be enlightening to young men considering ND as the place to play their college football. It’s been nearly 35 years since I attended a class under the golden dome and I still value my time on that campus. Great teachers, friends to this day, and so many awesome memories, football, basketball, Springsteen, b-ball at the rock, Corbys and on and on… Thanks, Keith for considering my request.

  20. norvturnersneck - Aug 6, 2012 at 12:53 AM

    I was mentioning Carlyle when he played for Weis before Quinn stepped in as a freshman. It was frustrating watching him especially during the beginning of the SC game. It’s like that for me now with Rees and his decision making.
    Hopefully, someone will step up and take the bull by the horns and own the QB position rather than just being given the opportunity.

    • chicagoirish23 - Aug 6, 2012 at 11:47 AM

      Carlyle didn’t play for Weis. Quinn was a junior in Weis’ first year.

  21. glynis1979 - Aug 7, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    I’ve been reading your fine work, Keith, for quite a while. I like reading the comments, too. I know you’ve addressed it in the past, but there are certain posters who make the comments unreadable. I’ll go back to lurking now.

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