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Balancing act begins for Kelly

Dec 13, 2013, 10:10 AM EST

USA TODAY Sports USA TODAY Sports

An early Brian Kelly quote that’s followed the head coach from the moment he uttered it keeps bubbling back to the surface.

“Get used to it.”

That’s the first thing that comes to mind when you watch Irish assistants head out the door for head coaching jobs.

First, offensive coordinator Chuck Martin left South Bend for the Cradle of Coaches, taking over a Miami Redhawks program that is in need of a massive rebuilding job. If there was any despair in Kelly after losing one of his most trusted assistants, it certainly didn’t show.

“I want my coordinators to have an opportunity for leadership positions,” Kelly told Comcast SportsNet. “I do not endorse lateral moves for my coordinators, but if they have a chance to lead a program, I’m excited for them. Miami of Ohio is the cradle of coaches—Bo Shembechler, Woody Hayes, some of the great coaches have gone through there. It’s a great opportunity for Chuck Martin.”

Just eight days later, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco left to take a UConn job that brings him back home to the East Coast. For those that had the pleasure of watching Diaco introduced as the head man in Storrs, the energetic assistant spoke Latin, quoted Rockne, talked about Pavlov’s Dog and Energy Vampires, all while whipping out stats about the Nutmeg state like a tour guide.

The hiring came out of the blue for players and recruits, with Diaco on the road with Kelly recruiting. But one listen to Kelly and again, you don’t get the feeling this is a move that angers or surprised the Irish head coach.

“Connecticut hired the perfect man to lead their football program into the future,” Kelly said in a statement released Thursday. “Bob Diaco possesses every characteristic necessary to be successful. He’s a top-notch recruiter, tremendous leader of young men and brilliant coach. Bob was arguably the top coordinator in the country as demonstrated by our defense over the last few years. He played an immense role that ultimately helped our program reach four consecutive bowl games, including the 2013 BCS National Championship game.”

We all knew change was coming. No staff stays together forever, especially not one filled with young, energetic and hungry coaches like the group Kelly put together. Both Diaco and Martin had opportunities to leave last year. Martin came close to getting the Northern Illinois job, a pairing with Jordan Lynch that would’ve catapulted Martin quickly. Diaco was on a variety of shortlists, but ultimately wasn’t looking to leave without seeing last season to the end.

Kelly pulled all the right strings during his last staff shake up, letting Ed Warinner, Tim Hinton and Charley Molnar walk from the offensive staff, and replacing them with Harry Hiestand, Scott Booker and Martin.

But with the identity of the defense so aligned with Diaco, how will Kelly respond? Does he turn the keys over to Kerry Cooks, by name the unit’s co-defensive coordinator? Kelly released a statement today from the road, saying that Cooks will coordinate the defense for the Pinstipe Bowl. Or does he promote Mike Elston, who FootballScoop.com reports is Diaco’s first choice for defensive coordinator at UConn.

Lou Holtz seemingly reshaped his staff just about every year he was in South Bend, with Holtz the only true leadership constant. With a quiet period coming in recruiting shortly, Kelly will have time to catch his breath and make some significant hires, by either promoting from within or reaching outside the program.

This is Kelly’s fourth coordinator that’s gotten a head coaching job in four years. With Jeff Quinn and Charley Molnar coming before Diaco and Martin. That’s quite a bit of talent drain.

But with the team’s end of the year awards banquet tonight, and a major on-campus recruiting weekend taking place, expect Brian Kelly to sell his most important message to players, recruits and fans alike.

Get used to it.

  1. c4evr - Dec 13, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    2 words… Kif-fin.

    Hell, bring ‘em both on! While we’re at it, let Willingham coach the girl’s golf team.

    Sorry, Charlie, no room for you at the inn.

  2. onward2victory - Dec 13, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    I think these changes could be really good. Offensively, hopefully BK can pretty much take over, loosen the reigns on Golson and turn this offense into the fast paced spread we expected from Cincinnati.

    Defensively, it will be interesting. In 2012 the defense played inspired football every week and completely over achieved. In 2013, the defense was pretty dreadful the first half of the season and seemed to have a hard time getting up for games. I know the players seem to love Diaco, but maybe it’s time for a new voice to lead them. And maybe the safety position won’t be like brain surgery so we can get the best athletes on the field!

  3. viktory2013 - Dec 13, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    Coordinators are important, but it’s the head coach that basically moves and shakes the team. Very seldom does an assistant make an earth shattering difference. The only time I recall it being a glaring issue was in 1991 when Holtz replaced a very lost Gary Darnell as d.c.

  4. matreyu13 - Dec 13, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    ND should reach out to Ed Ogeron

    • onward2victory - Dec 13, 2013 at 3:38 PM

      It would be a huge get if he came to ND but it seems like he wants to be a head coach.

      • danirish - Dec 14, 2013 at 5:31 PM

        Tell him he can be coach when Kelly leaves?

    • irishfaithful666 - Dec 15, 2013 at 12:46 AM

      I have no problem with this idea.

  5. cbusdomer - Dec 13, 2013 at 1:53 PM

    Ogeron would be awesome but I don’t see him as a good fit with BK. If EO did come it would be nice to see what kind of ass whoopen we would put on SC next year.

  6. scottatnd - Dec 13, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    Was Orgeron coaching at USC last year? I seem to remember a very bad defense. Maybe you guys should think this through a little more.

    • ndirish10 - Dec 13, 2013 at 2:34 PM

      Just bring him on as a d-line coach and recruiter.

    • mtndguy - Dec 13, 2013 at 5:10 PM

      Monte Kiffin was the Defensive Coordinator for USC last year.

  7. mediocrebob - Dec 13, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    I don’t care who is brought on. As long as it’s a good fit and the Irish win.

    That being said, I would have a tough time supporting Lane Kiffin. The guy couldn’t represent $C with class ( or Tennessee…or the raiders) so I have a hard time seeing him being a good representative of Notre Dame and everything Our Lady stands for.

    • mtflsmitty - Dec 13, 2013 at 9:35 PM

      I have to believe that whoever suggested Kiffin was joking.

      Kiffin is a grade-A jagoff.

  8. irish4me - Dec 13, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    Had this happened after the 2012 season the twin losses of Chuck Martin and Bob Diaco would have seemed devastating at the time. Now I see this as an opportunity for Kelly to up his game. I’ll be genuinely disappointed if he picks replacements from within, to me that’ll mean nothing changes and I believe that ND needs some changes. The Defense with this bend don’t break mentality is brutal; you give up a ton of yards and tighten up in the red zone and hope you don’t give up seven. It did not work this year and I believe it’s a miracle it worked so well in the 2012 regular season; it didn’t work out in the title game though. The sheer numbers of missed tackles this year was disheartening and for me that’s on Diaco. He needed to teach fundamentals.
    On the offensive side of the ball Martin was just too darn pass happy for me, we needed to play to our strengths which would be power football, i.e. running the ball, we have an impressive stable of backs and we should have used them and not put so much pressure on an immobile QB to pass the ball so much.

    • irishfaithful666 - Dec 15, 2013 at 12:56 AM

      I was hoping the running game would be the strong point for the team this year but that never came to be. However, as us ND fans seem to say, wait till next year. With the way Folston came to the front towards the end of the year, Cam being the short yardage third down back, and the stable of young talent in the backfield, we should see a huge improvement in the running game. Also throw in Gholstein’s mobility on 3rd down, the running game should be a strength for the Irish next year. But being a fan for so many years, I’ve seen what the wait till next year mentality always gets us. Here’s hoping to a fast paced, strong running, put points on the board, especially td’s in the red zone offense we have been hoping to see since BK signed on for the HC position!

  9. irish4me - Dec 13, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    Had this happened after the 2012 season the twin losses of Chuck Martin and Bob Diaco would have seemed devastating at the time. Now I see this as an opportunity for Kelly to up his game. I’ll be genuinely disappointed if he picks replacements from within, to me that’ll mean nothing changes and I believe that ND needs some changes. The Defense with this bend don’t break mentality is brutal; you give up a ton of yards and tighten up in the red zone and hope you don’t give up seven. It did not work this year and I believe it’s a miracle it worked so well in the 2012 regular season; it didn’t work out in the title game though. The sheer numbers of missed tackles this year was disheartening and for me that’s on Diaco. He needed to teach fundamentals.
    On the offensive side of the ball Martin was just too darn pass happy for me, we needed to play to our strengths which would be power football, i.e. running the ball, we have an impressive stable of backs and we should have used them and not put so much pressure on an immobile QB to pass the ball so much.

  10. domerboyirish - Dec 13, 2013 at 5:48 PM

    As I mentioned last week:

    I personally think that Nick Rolovich is the perfect choice for OC. I’d be stunned if he wasn’t mentioned or considered. He is currently the OC at Nevada where he has a great deal of experience with the Pistol offense and previously coached under June Jones at Hawaii where they ran a faced paced spread attack. I’m not saying that I want the full spread offense here but I think this guy would bring a creativity that we do not currently possess that can work with formations and sets that we currently employ.

    I still stand by this

    • irishrugby990 - Dec 16, 2013 at 1:08 PM

      I like that option. At any rate, it would be better than promoting from within the programme. I’d be more in favour of more pistol over run-&-shoot, especially to take advantage of Golson’s mobility at quarterback. But more than anything, whoever the new OC is has to run more play-action! If we had at least faked run half of the time on 3rd down instead of those empty-backfield 3rd & short looks, I feel like this team would have been in the running for a BCS bowl right up to the last weekend of the season.

      That said, does Rolovich employ much play-action?

  11. footballnut85 - Dec 13, 2013 at 5:59 PM

    If anybody seriously thinks Chuck Martin was in control of the offense you really aren’t paying attention! It was Kelly’s offense and Kelly’s play calling. Martin got the title in name only.

    • mediocrebob - Dec 14, 2013 at 8:16 AM

      Based on what exactly?

    • ndfaithful - Dec 14, 2013 at 12:28 PM

      I guess I’m not paying attention. The offense looked like a Chuck Martin gig to me. There were glaring changes from BK play calling and formations. Game plans looked different. I can’t agree with this comment.

  12. papadec - Dec 13, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    At the rate Kelly is losing coaches to HC jobs, it won’t be long before he could be playing a whole season’s worth of games against his former assistants.

  13. fnc111 - Dec 13, 2013 at 8:06 PM

    What footballnut85 said. If you think otherwise I have beach front property to sell you.

  14. paulhargis53 - Dec 14, 2013 at 8:17 AM

    It doesn’t matter who they bring in. 8-4 is the BEST they can hope for. ND, outside of once every 20 years or so, is irrelevant to the NC picture. Why can’t you just accept that?

    BK will be gone soon when this irrational fanbase turns on him because he’s not winning enough. He knows he’s handcuffed recruiting wise because of the archaic standards in place.
    Its a no win situation to be the HC. You have a rabid fanbase that wants a winner, but he cannot recruit the players he needs to give them that. Tradition means nothing to todays players, that was a simpler time. ND is stuck in yesteryear, while the other powerhouses have moved into the future. Just try to be happy with the 8 wins and the Pinstripe bowls…ok?

    • papadec - Dec 14, 2013 at 3:49 PM

      I dunno Paul – I haven’t figured out what has you so upset. It isn’t the BS that you spew here – there’s something more personal. Talk about being stuck in yesteryear – you really come across as one more of the anti-Catholic, anti-black, anti-Northerner bigots I was exposed to when I was stationed in the South back in the late 1960s. Time to tear down those Civil War monuments and move into the 21st century.

    • danirish - Dec 14, 2013 at 5:32 PM

      Well Paul, at least Notre Dame is irrelevant…

      Right?

      Amiright?

  15. paulhargis53 - Dec 14, 2013 at 5:55 PM

    papa, I live in Wisconsin, have done so my whole life, so you are way off base on me being a Redneck.

    I don’t care what you’re religion is. Organized religion to me is not a good thing. You don’t need to go to church to have a relationship with your higher power.

    I’m also not racist. There are many other reasons besides the color of ones skin to hate people.

    And No Mediocreposter(Bob), living Wisconsin doesn’t make me a Badgers fan.
    And I’m still not a Buckets fan.
    Papa, I told you once what I’m up too, dont go looking for a reason, there is none.
    I’m just an a$$hole.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Dec 15, 2013 at 7:10 AM

      “I am just an a$$hole.”

      And who says you can’t believe what you read on the interwebs?

  16. papadec - Dec 14, 2013 at 7:04 PM

    Well I didn’t call you a redneck – reread what I posted. Thanks for the explanation – I knew there was something more personal. Hopefully, you’ll get over it some day.

  17. footballnut85 - Dec 14, 2013 at 7:53 PM

    ndfaithful…Kelly loves the passing game and it was evident with them abandoning the run so early in the losses and putting the burden on Tommy. Kelly called the plays, not Martin.

    • runners00 - Dec 15, 2013 at 1:27 PM

      Martin worked for Kelly. Of course Kelly had a say in the offensive structure and the approach to attacking defenses. But during games, I have to think that Martin was instrumental in calling the plays based on the run-up game plan.

  18. 1historian - Dec 18, 2013 at 7:29 AM

    Paul Hargis does seem to be playing with a lot of you in this ongoing banter/repartee (accent over the 1st e) battle. I strongly suggest you read some P.G. Wodehouse in order to build a stock of clever comments. Any Jeeves and Bertie novel (or even just a story) is a good starting point.

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