As Notre Dame’s season gets darker and darker, the calls for change grow louder. So whatever happens these next three games, Brian Kelly—if Jack Swarbrick hasn’t changed his mind—will likely face the biggest offseason of his coaching career.
He’ll need to find a new defensive coordinator. He’ll have to address other potential coaching changes. And after yet another week where Kelly’s game management came up short in a tight game, the head coach will also have to evaluate his own in-game thought process.
But even as the Irish rack up their sixth loss in nine tries, even as Kelly’s record in South Bend tumbles closer and closer to .500, the seventh-year head coach believes that improvement will come from making progress doing the things they’re working on, rather than making wholesale changes.
“If you look at the six games that we’ve played, what needs to change is a little bit better play calling here, maybe a little bit better execution there, and players just maturing,” Kelly said on Sunday. “All these guys pretty much are going to be back. And when they are put into similar situations that we have all grown from them, and we flipped six very difficult losses into six wins, and we are sitting in a better position.”
Finding ways to flip those games from losses to wins isn’t very hard. But believing that experience will be what cures those ills—than another year will simply solve the problem–is a much tougher pill to swallow. So whether it’s a message Kelly’s sending just to keep his players and coaches on task or his actual belief, Kelly feels confident that the close games will turn once his team learns how to win.
“Look, if we’re losing 31-0, then changes are made or you’re playing younger players, and you know, that’s how you handle those situations,” Kelly said. “But when you know that your nucleus is maturing and getting better and is going to be the group that you’re playing next year, you’re just working on the finer details during the course of the year and during the course of your preparation.”