As college coaches like Bill O’Brien and Doug Marrone find themselves on the short list for several NFL head coaching openings, the lone defeated head coach of a BCS program was bound to find his name coming up in a few discussions.
But with Notre Dame’s biggest football game in the past 20 years less than a week away, seeing Brian Kelly‘s name come up in the conversation of college coaches primed to head to the NFL certainly raised an eyebrow or two.
The discussions started in earnest after CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman tweeted that Chip Kelly wasn’t the only Kelly generating interest amongst NFL general managers looking for a new coach. That led to ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio running with the story, echoing Feldman’s sentiments while discussing the similarities between the head coaching job at Notre Dame and the top spot at an NFL franchise.
Florio even went on air today to discuss the report, adding some unique thoughts to the conversation.
Usually discussion like this flies across a message board after an anonymous blogger discusses it. But Feldman and Florio — two reporters that have tremendous reputations (and disclaimer, have played a huge part in me being where I am today), turn this into something that’s more than just a water cooler discussion.
Personally, I don’t see Kelly leaving Notre Dame for a head coaching job. Just about any opportunity he’s given will likely be a step backwards compared to the responsibility and prestige he currently has in South Bend. Whether this story is the product of excellent agenting — remember Charlie Weis’ 10-year contract extension after the Giants started sniffing round? — or legitimate news, a few things have me thinking that Kelly has little interest in coaching on Sundays.
First, Kelly has always identified Notre Dame as his dream job. After 19 years as a head coach, Kelly jumped at the Irish head job as soon as it was offered to him, making his departure from undefeated Cincinnati an awkward situation after he left his undefeated team to recruit for a bowl-less Irish squad.
Secondly, Kelly has turned in the opposite direction of the similarly surnamed Chip, who intrigues NFL teams because of his reputation as an offensive innovator. When he took the job at Notre Dame, many expected Brian Kelly to bring a fast paced, up-tempo offense to South Bend. But Kelly has shown himself to be a coach fairly pliable in regards to scheme, and his offensive struggles the past few seasons stopped any offensive guru comments in their tracks.
Lastly, the educator in Kelly likely finds the college job more rewarding that any NFL position. Whether it’s the tough love he gives his players, as often noted by his red-faced sideline demeanor, or the development process he uses with 18-t0-21-year-old players, Kelly the college coach with a very plentiful fiefdom probably holds more sway than any position where he’d answer to a general manager and owner.
At a time like this, coaching candidates come fast and furious, with some reporters eager to throw something against the wall, in hopes that it sticks. Brian Kelly, the consensus collegiate coach of the year, deserves to have his name on just about any short list out there, especially after leading Notre Dame to their first championship opportunity in 20 years.
But I’m a long way from believing Kelly is on his way anywhere after laying the foundation of a potential Notre Dame dynasty. That’s a head coaching job that’ll leaving a legacy far more enduring than anything the NFL can offer.