Klonsinski: Brian Kelly deserves your patience
Zach Klonsinski | Friday, September 30, 2016
Everybody calm down.
The sky is not falling.
Everything is going to be okay.
Really — and this is coming from someone who questioned Brian Kelly’s job status before it was the cool thing to do.
At the beginning of last season, I wrote a column detailing how the Irish head coach’s job was on the line during the 2015 season. Irish fans had watched Notre Dame fall apart during the second half of 2014 after a mediocre 2013 campaign, 2012’s run to the BCS National Championship game looking more and more like a lucky fluke than sustained growth.
So yeah, if Kelly and the Irish managed just an average season in 2015, smoke would have started pouring through the cracks in his seat. I stand behind that claim.
Instead, in 2015, Notre Dame was two plays away from a berth in the College Football Playoff. This was despite Kelly “losing his starting quarterback, starting running back … ” and so on and so forth. You’re familiar with the spiel.
Two plays. College Football Playoff. Last season. Ten months ago.
Irish fans, Brian Kelly has made the program consistently relevant for the first time since the mid-’90s.
Yes, the defense has been dreadful to start this season. But the defensive decline has also been a trend that has reared its ugly head ever since Brian VanGorder took over the job. He had plenty of opportunities to show improvement, and he did not.
Few, if any, expected VanGorder to be fired this early — after Stanford and before the bye week at the earliest, at season’s end the choice of the majority — so kudos to Kelly for identifying a perceived problem and having the wherewithal to take care of it this early.
I won’t stand on a pedestal proclaiming that firing VanGorder is going to be the magic fix and that Notre Dame will now shutout an up-tempo, talented offense like the one it faces this weekend against Syracuse.
No, the problems run deeper than that. There are still going to be painful moments this season.
Kelly could whip the defense into shape immediately (unlikely). The Irish could miss the six-win threshold for bowl eligibility (they won’t). And Notre Dame fans could regret acting too rashly calling for Kelly’s head at the end of the season (they would regret it, and director of athletics Jack Swarbrick won’t cave anyway).
Kelly is and will forever be an offensively-minded coach. A quick look will tell you an offense putting up more than 37 points per game is not the problem for a team that’s 1-3.
Sure, Kelly is also responsible for bringing in people who will do their job well. So far, he’s 1-for-2 on defensive coordinators (remember Bob Diaco, the man who built that 2012 defense?).
One bad hire does not constitute a trend and let’s not forget the excitement about bringing in VanGorder and his NFL resume at the time.
If the defense doesn’t improve after a season or two with whomever Kelly decides to hand the reins, then maybe Irish fans can start complaining about his inability to hire the right guy for the job.
Until then, Brian Kelly has more than earned your patience.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.