Those Irish did it again. They lost to a ranked team. In a close game. At home. In a game they shouldn’t have lost. And with that loss, my attitude has changed.
I have long been a vocal supporter of Brian Kelly. I wasn’t quick to jump on and recommend a firing last year because it was his first losing season in South Bend (in fact, it was only the second in his career, the other being his first year at Central Michigan in 2004). It came in a season that had lots of new faces on both sides of the ball, after graduating several key contributors. It came early into his new, expensive extension running into 2021, and ND just finished paying Charlie Weis after that disaster not too long ago.
But ultimately, they need to move on. I’m not saying make the move during this season. I’m not even saying he can’t turn it around – it is only 2 games into the year after all.
But there are three reasons you have to make this move.
First, the program can’t win close games. This was the first opportunity to prove that they can do so this season and they failed to win a one-possession game with over three minutes left against a team that had a freshman quarterback making his first start. They lost 7 of their 8 games last year by one possession or less. This isn’t new – they lost 3 games of that sort in 2010, 3 in 2011, 2 in 2013, 3 in 2014, and 2 in 2015.
Elite coaches and elite programs win close games. I get you’re simply not going to win them all. But 20 one-possession losses in seven-plus seasons is unacceptable. At least, it’s unacceptable if you hold yourself in a respectable regard.
Second, the program can’t beat ranked opponents. I won’t list every ranked loss to you, but the sad thing is that they’ve time and time again been in position to win against AP-25 teams. This Georgia game is the latest example. They lost to USC and Stanford last year, Clemson the year before. They got their doors blown off by Alabama in one of only two or three relevant bowl games the program has appeared in during the Brian Kelly era.
Elite coaches and elite programs beat other elite programs. You can’t waltz to the playoff, and eventually a National Championship, if you hang your hat on beating God-damn Temple.
Finally, Kelly negatively affects their recruiting. You know who the last 5-star recruit is that committed to Brian Kelly? Jaylon Smith, back in 2013. It’s the last time ND has had a top-5 recruiting class. In fact, it was the last time they had a top-10 class until this season. You had a 4-star recruit in Donovan Jeter decommit and run to Michigan because he said he though Jim Harbaugh would help his development better than Brian Kelly (to be fair, I think it’s because Jeter is soft and doesn’t like the vocal criticism Kelly is notorious for giving on the sidelines, but you have to adapt to the kids in terms of recruiting, they don’t adapt to you).
Elite coaches and elite programs don’t go on runs where they’re not signing 5-star recruits. Like, you can’t even get one of them? Not one?
You can blame it on not being in a conference, though I don’t think that’s necessarily fair, because it gives Notre Dame scheduling power. You can blame it on the school being harder on academic requirements, though they had to vacate 9 wins back in 2013 for academic dishonesty.
Kelly’s seat should be burning a hole through his pants at this point. And it’s going to have to take a serious bowl appearance in my opinion to save his job.
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Cover photo from Yahoo Sports.
GIF from Giphy.