Brian Kelly has done a great job turning Notre Dame back into the football program they once were. It wasn’t an easy job revamping the program after the Charlie Weiss era, but he has put out consistently good–and sometimes great–football teams and he has churned out some of the best recruiting classes in the country year in and year out. With all that said, I believe Kelly should be on the hot seat.
For all the great things he has done he has also struggled mightily in other areas. Since the departure of defensive coordinator Bob Diaco to UConn, the Notre Dame defense has routinely been one of the worst units for a major program. The hiring of Brian Vangorder was supposed to fix this issue and while they have looked better at times, they still let up big plays and cannot get it done when they need to. In my opinion, Vangorder should have already been fired.
He also mishandled the DeShone Kizer/Malik Zaire situation as well. In my initial predictions for the season I said they would be fine as long as they stuck to one guy. Instead he made the same mistake Ohio State did last year and tried to use both. He even continued with the rotation long after it was clear Kizer was the man for the job. Kelly’s inability to make a decision cost Notre Dame their opening season game and ultimately set the wrong tone for the year.
Moreover, he is now in his 7th year at Notre Dame and he has only mustered a 3-3 record in bowl games. The three wins he has been able to get have come against the likes of Miami, Rutgers, and Louisiana State, all of which nobody would call elite teams in those given years. Simply put, his struggles against top programs is a real issue. While he routinely wins against lesser programs, his inability to win against major programs is a big red flag. The best comparison to him is Les Miles without the National Championship. That lack of a championship is important, though. Les Miles has shown that he can win the big one. The last time Notre Dame made it to the big game it was a thumping of epic proportion at the hands of Alabama. Three games into 2016 and Brian Kelly has had two big games. His record in those games? 0-2.
Don’t get me wrong. Brian Kelly is a fantastic football coach. He does a lot of great things and he has shown he knows how to build a program. That isn’t the issue. The question is if he has what it takes to go from a very good football coach to a great one. Because at Notre Dame, Sun Bowl victories simply aren’t good enough. This season is already a wash for him which means he will go 7 years and no championship.
I don’t believe they should fire Brian Kelly this offseason. He still has more work to do. I do believe his seat should be getting a lot hotter after this season though. He needs to make the jump from a once and a while contender to an annual one. I hope he can do it, but time is running out.