December 10, 2009

Dream Job: Thoughts, comments, and concerns about Brian Kelly at Notre Dame on everything from academics to fit to expectations and more

10) Is there a better purpose for the Internet than a college football head coaching search?? These head coaching searches have become like a sport in themselves. Between the message boards and blogs and Twitter and old school newspapers, I don't even know what to believe. The message boards are the best. Is there a coach in America who hasn't been rumored for the Notre Dame job in the last two weeks??

I'll admit that I bought into the Stoops rumors. I bought into these wild stories about Eddie Debartolo and Bill Warren making Godfather offers to Stoops, but now I don't think there's any real truth to them. Maybe ND contacted Stoops, but I don't think we were even on his radar. The only reason Stoops didn't put an end to it right away is because he has this policy about not talking about other jobs. Look at how many times he tried to end the speculation. He said Monday that he was staying, the rumors didn't die, he said Tuesday that he was staying, the rumors still didn't die, he then literally started mocking us by joking with reporters that he was calling from South Bend, the rumors continued, and finally he just had enough and put out a statement that he was not coming to ND.

Now, maybe it was all some negotiating ploy, but I don't buy it. I don't think we ever really discussed terms, and I don't buy the rumor that Stoops made demands on Res Life or academic exemptions or whatever. If we were at the point where we were actually discussing that stuff, a deal would have been done. No way we let Bob Stoops slip through our fingers over a couple academic exemptions. The more likely story is that Stoops was never even on the radar.

The other thing that's funny about all the Stoops rumors is this: We heard all these "insider" guys on the message boards saying that Stoops was close and all this stuff. It seemed like everyone had some cousin who worked in the athletic department or had a "source" who was close to Stoops. Once Stoops officially denied us, what happened to all these supposed "insiders" with updates on who else we were targeting? They are nowhere to be found. If they knew so much about the Stoops pursuit, why didn't they know anything about what was going on with Kelly or other candidates?? People were literally talking specifics on the Stoops front, and now it's all quiet and we're all in the dark??

My guess is that a bunch of people were full of garbage and rumors started spreading wild. Suddenly, everything was "friend of a friend of a friend" when the reality is that we were all spreading the same false rumors.

I admit that I bought into it all and spread a million rumors myself, but I don't think Stoops was ever strongly considering the ND job.

9) So on to Brian Kelly. Everyone has discussed his record at this point. You don't just go 12-0 by blind luck. He must be doing something right down there at UC. They're winning games at Pitt and at Oregon State and South Florida and beating teams like West Virginia and Rutgers. Not exactly murderer's row or anything, but he's coaching at Cincinnati!! When has Cincinnati ever expected to beat any of those teams, let alone ALL of them??

I like this hire. Kelly has the type of personality and charisma that we haven't had on that ND sideline since Holtz, and you can't argue with his track record. I have some concerns (which I'll get to below), but I think he's going to bring a ton of energy and discipline to this Notre Dame program.

Of course, ND fans are going to one of their favorite tactics to bash Kelly. Straw men!! Nothing like a good straw man to bring this guy down a few notches and rain on the parade.

My favorite straw man to emerge about Kelly is that he's "never beaten a major power." People cite their blowout loss at Oklahoma as some sort of major red flag against Brian Kelly like he's a complete failure for getting blown out at Oklahoma.

Are people for real with this nonsense?? IT'S OKLAHOMA!!! The Oklahoma Sooners coached by Mr. Superstar Dream Boy Coach, Bob Stoops. People expected Kelly to take his rag tag crew to Norman and hang with OU?? Cmon, that's absurd. Oklahoma has superstar players up and down their roster. Brian Kelly has guys like Demetrius Jones starting at OLB and 260 pound defensive tackles.

I remember that OU game. Cincy was actually in the game for a half. The fact that they were even in the game at all is a sign that Kelly had them prepared. They just ran out of gas. Oklahoma was a top 5 team that year and borderline unbeatable at home. They aren't losing at home to Cincy.

There is no coach in America who would have taken that UC team to Norman and won that game. Not Stoops. Not Urban. Not Saban. Not Ara Parseghian. NO ONE. Cincinnati doesn't win at Oklahoma. It doesn't happen. Period.

If you don't like Kelly, fine. But don't bring up ridiculous stuff like "he couldn't win at Oklahoma" for bashing the guy.

The other one I find hilarious is the argument that Kelly won't be able to handle ND's "tough" schedules and that coaching in the Big East isn't analogous to ND's schedules. Man, that is rich.

Ummm................are we sure we're talking about the same Notre Dame program that I'm thinking about?? The ND that's playing FIVE mid-majors next year?? The ND that's playing two heavyweights next year and indefinitely into the future?? The ND that loads up on mediocre Big Ten teams and Big East teams??

Again, look at our 2010 schedule.

S18 @ Michigan St.
O02 @ Boston College
O23 @ Navy (NY/NJ)
N20 ARMY (Yankee Stadium)
N27 @ Southern Cal

Man, how is Kelly going to deal with coaching against Tulsa and Army and Western Michigan?? BRUTAL!! How is he going to do it?? I can't even imagine. Oh wait, he was the head coach at Central Michigan and smoked those teams there and has done the same at UC.

And how is he going to coach against Pittsburgh?? Those juggernauts!! Oh wait, I forgot he's beaten them three years in a row. Whoops.

And my god, PURDUE!! OH NO!! I bet Brian Kelly just crawled into the fetal position thinking about those mighty Boilermakers. Never mind that UC just destroyed a bad Big Ten team like Illinois this year.

I mean, come on now. This ain't your older brother's Notre Dame. ND plays watered-down schedules these days. Other than USC, this schedule is no different from what you see at Cincinnati. Yes, USC will be a very tough game for ND, but when has it not been a tough game for ND?? It would be a tough game for Bob Stoops too. The same Bob Stoops who lost to USC 55-19 in the Orange Bowl. Plus, UC went to Corvallis this year and beat Oregon State. Oregon State is not USC of course, but they play power football just like the Trojans. Why couldn't Kelly prepare his ND teams to do the same thing and beat USC??

Hilarious. You gotta love our fans. There are folks out there just grasping at any straw to bring down Kelly, and somehow keep finding new ways to make up dumb strawmen without informed facts.

Nothing like the Notre Dame fanbase. Hands down the dumbest fanbase in America.

8) Here's another argument that needs to be debunked:

"Kelly doesn't know how to coach defense."

Wait, you mean the Brian Kelly who got his start as a defensive coordinator?? That Brian Kelly doesn't know anything about defense?? I went to 3 UC games in 2008, and their defense was good. Good secondary, stopped the run, great pass rush. Kelly turned Connor Barwin from a chump tight end into an early 2nd round draft pick at defensive end with the Houston Texans. Barwin was like a college version of Jared Allen. Unblockable. UC had several guys who got drafted from their defense. I went to the UC-Pitt game last year at Nippert, and UC shut down LeSean McCoy.

Admittedly their defense collapsed this year, but it also might have been a product of not having any talent or depth. Their nose tackle weighs 260 pounds and Demetrius freaking Jones is their starting outside linebacker.

Put Kelly at ND with better athletes and depth, and I think it could be a different story. I also think he'll revisit the switch to the 3-4 defense and decide if that's really where he wants to go in the future.

I could also see Kelly switching several offensive recruits to defense right away. He did that when he got to UC. First candidate: Cierre Wood. We need two black safeties next year. Put Cierre Wood at safety in the winter, get him fired up, and maybe he becomes a playmaker next year for this group. We got KILLED in the passing game last year, and I think it had something to do with a lack of playmakers in the secondary.

I'll throw out another guy who could be a star next year. KERRY NEAL. Get that guy flying up field and making plays like Barwin did at Cincy. I hope Kelly lights a fire under Kerry Neal and KLM all offseason.

I hope Kelly comes in and puts a premium on being extremely physical on defense. He should just spend all offseason talking to Bo Pelini.

7) Another thing I like about Kelly is that he's not an ideologue. Even though I love Jim Harbaugh and think he would be a superstar at ND, he's one of those guys who would rather go down doing it "his way" and running it for 300 yards while losing the game than just going with the flow and finding a way to get it done.

Kelly seems like one of those "just win, baby" guys who doesn't have the ego to stubbornly stick to some bogus game plan or system. He will adapt to the circumstances and build his team around what they do best. I think it's because of Kelly's political background. In that world, you have to be willing to change it up on the fly, and Kelly is one of the best I've seen at making adjustments that end up winning games. Isn't that what it's all about ultimately?? Winning games??

Two perfect examples jump to mind from this season:

--Tony Pike goes down in the South Florida game -- UC goes to a zone read spread option with Zack Collaros almost on the fly and the offense doesn't even skip a beat. If anything, they were even more effective offensively. How many other teams would have completely folded under those circumstances??

--Pitt was gashing Cincy on the ground for the first half -- UC goes to a run blitz in the second half to take away the run, and actually did just enough to slow down Pitt to catch up and win the game in the fourth quarter.

Did UC's defense play well against Pitt? No, not at all. But Kelly found a way to do enough to get a couple stops out of his defense and put his team in a position to come back and win the game. To me, that's why you have a head coach. He can make a little adjustment to pull out a game. It's a nice weapon to have. Kelly seems to be a master at doing it.

It's not rocket science. It's just common sense adjustments to win a game. Believe it or not, a lot of coaches don't do this stuff. Coaches love to overcomplicate things.

Some would say this sounds too much like Weis. A guy with no system who game plans and schemes every week to win games instead of paying attention to solid, fundamentally sound football. I think there's a major difference though. Weis "adjusted" on the fly quite often in games, but it was more like he just defaulted back to the one thing that he was comfortable with: No-huddle passing and trying to outscore everyone. We did that every game whenever things started going bad. Weis had nothing else in his arsenal. We never had a new wrinkle on defense or special teams to make a play and turn the tide.

We almost always got outadjusted at halftime under Weis. We lost the Michigan game in the 3rd quarter when they shut down our screen game and got us off track. By the time we got back on track, we were already down by double digits. And we never did figure out a way to stop their offense. Teams routinely would make adjustments at halftime to slow us down offensively, and we never countered.

When I've watched Cincy play, they've generally owned the 1st and 3rd quarters. To me, that's a sign of good coaching. I don't think people remember what it's like to see a well-coached football team at Notre Dame. We don't remember what it's like to see teams that make good adjustments at halftime or win a game with special teams or come out on the road and hang tough. We haven't done anything like that on a consistent basis in a long time.

Kelly keeps things simple. He's a guy who focuses on execution and preparation and motivation instead of schemes and things like that. The first thing that really jumped out at me about Kelly was before his first season at Cincinnati when his players were saying how well prepared they felt going into every game and how they really felt an edge that they didn't feel under Mark Dantonio. Does it get any more simple to explain Kelly's success than that??

I think that factor alone is a big reason to feel optimistic about Kelly at Notre Dame.

6) Now while I have generally been a Brian Kelly supporter and think he has a chance to be successful at ND, there are a few things of course that are giving me pause just a little bit.

1) Does Kelly really know what he's getting himself into from an instituational standpoint??

Brian Kelly is the ultimate "subway alum." Irish Catholic guy who grew up in Boston. He probably thinks of ND the way way he did back when he was 12 years old watching Ara and Terry Hanratty when ND was the ultimate college football program. He thinks of those gold helmets and the fight song and Touchdown Jesus. This is ND!! The "dream job." The pinnacle of college football for a guy like Kelly.

And from a competitive standpoint, he's probably thinking "Look at me winning all these games at Cincinnati. Put me at ND with their tradition and fans and built-in advantages, and I could be unbelievable!"

I think Weis felt the same way when he came to ND. He didn't know any better. That's why he said all that stuff about "they should fire me if I don't win a championship in five years" and all that. I think he really believed that. He figured ND was like it was in 1977 when he was a student. He thought ND was the same ND it's always been and that all it needed was a good coach and the championships would start flowing back to South Bend.

The problem is that the ND of 2005 isn't like the ND of 2009 when Weis and Kelly grew up thinking that ND was the best program in football.

Back in 1975, there were no football factories. You could go to ND, get an education, and also play championship football. There weren't all these training tables and other little edges. Everyone was operating on the same playing field, and ND happened to get the best high school talent. So we won. A lot.

The problem is that the rest of college football has changed immeasurably since those days, but ND is still stuck in that era. I'm not saying it's a bad thing to have true student-athletes, but most programs don't operate that way. Maybe Northwestern, Stanford, Duke, Vandy,etc but none of those programs have championship aspirations. ND still wants to be perceived as a major college football program, but we haven't really acted like it for a long time. A concept as simple as a training table (which is standard at most schools now and has been for a long time) is only now looking like a possibility and only after the idea was thoroughly vetted by the collars. Things like Res Life are obstacles that scared off Urban Meyer and maybe even Bob Stoops.

Is Brian Kelly aware of all this?? Does he know what he's getting himself into?? If so, does he have a plan to overcome those challenges or is he going to be overwhelmed by them like Ty and Davie and even Weis were??

Coaching at ND is no longer just about coaching football. There are a hundred things on your plate that you probably don't have at any other school. As strange as it sounds, that's why I continue to believe Harbaugh would have been a better fit culturally. Harbaugh is a loose cannon, but he is a guy who seems to identify with these academic schools. I was listening to Mike and Mike on ESPN the other day, and Greenberg had an interesting story about Harbaugh telling the Chicago media before the 92 Michigan-Duke NCAA championship game that he was rooting for Duke to beat Michigan because he was friends with Coach K. UM fans were outraged of course, but it just kind of goes along with the whole Harbaugh "go your own way" mentality. I don't think he likes the "football factory" scene. I think he appreciates and understands what a school like ND is all about. He's the type of guy who would embrace ND's tough academic standards but also work within those parameters to find a way to build tough teams and win games.

The question is whether can Kelly win with academic-oriented players. Does he know what it's like to have true student-athletes?? Yes, Kelly will get better high school players than he has had at Cincy and CMU, but they are also expected to be students at ND.

That's the thing about UC. They don't have a lot of pedigreed high school recruits, but they do have a lot of shaky academic guys who actually have talent but couldn't get accepted at a Big Ten school. A guy like Mardy Gilyard did not get offers from the big state schools because of concerns about academics and things like that even though he is as talented as just about anyone on our roster. Gilyard will be an NFL wide receiver next year. Maybe he wasn't a Rivals 5 star because of grades or eligibility issues, but he's a five star type talent.

At UC, you can bring in whoever you want. At ND, it's not even close to that. You couldn't find two more different schools than Cincinnati and Notre Dame.

Does Kelly know how to operate at a place like ND?? You can't get guys like Mardy Gilyard. You take guys like John Goodman at ND. Goodman is a good player, but he's a different kind of player from Mardy Gilyard. You need to be able to win with the Goodmans at ND.

One thing that pleases me on that front is that Kelly has apparently asked for admissions exceptions and more control over the program. If he is asking for this stuff, he must know that it is an issue and has a plan for how to overcome it. I hope that ND gives Kelly these concessions.

Memo to the collars: No one is asking for ND to turn into South Florida North. We don't want a renegade program. But there is a middle ground here that we should explore. Let the coach handle the football team and stay out of the way as long as he graduates players and doesn't have a team full of thugs running around committing crimes. We hired this guy to do his job and win football games. Give him the control that he needs to do it.

5) The other concern that I have is that as successful as Kelly has been, it almost feels like we know very little about the guy and what he's all about as a head coach. His basic philosophy is "winning games," but what goes into that?? What goes into this winning philosophy that will translate at Notre Dame??

Plus, he basically has zero pedigree in the coaching world. He's completely a self-made man. I don't know who his coaching influences are. I don't know who he learned football from. Did he just read a bunch of books about it?? How has he succeeded in football with no real mentors?? And if he does have mentors, who are they??

Think about the top coaches in the game today. They all seem to have worshipped at the knee of some other coach:

Urban Meyer -- grew up at the knee of Earle Bruce at Ohio State and Lou Holtz at ND
Nick Saban -- Belichick disciple
Bob Stoops -- played at Iowa, coached under Bill Snyder and Steve Spurrier; grew up in a coaching family in Ohio
Jim Tressel -- dad was a coach; part of the Woody Hayes/Earle Bruce coaching tree
Pete Carroll -- coached under Lou Holtz and Earle Bruce (noticing a pattern on those two?)

We knew what these coaches were all about when they got hired because we know who their influences were. We know that a guy like Jim Tressel is going to win games with defense and ball control offenses. We know a guy like Urban Meyer is going to emphasize toughness and discipline and attention to detail. We know that a guy like Bob Stoops is going to have an array of contacts from his KSU and Florida and Iowa days to put together a top notch staff.

With Kelly, he may have all those same qualities, but where did he develop this coaching acumen?? We really have no idea.

4) Two names terrify me when I think of Brian Kelly:

1) Billy Gillespie
2) Dan Hawkins

Gillespie pops into my head because Gillespie had a very similar background when he got hired. He was one of those guys who showed up at downtrodden programs and quickly built UTEP and Texas A&M into winners. When UK hired him, it was easy to look at his A&M and UTEP days and say "all this guy does is win!! If he can win at A&M, he is going to be a monster at Kentucky!"

No one really did their due diligence to find out more about Gillespie other than that "he wins." But why does he win?? Who are his influences?? What kind of offense does he want to run?? How will he handle elite athletes?? How will he handle the pressure?? How will he handle playing the big games when everyone is giving you their best shot??

Gillespie turned out to be a disaster at Kentucky because this "all he does is win" stuff didn't translate to Kentucky.

It just feels awfully familiar to this Kelly thing. Kelly is this self-made guy who has won a bunch of games in lesser conferences, but how do we know that ND won't be one rung too high on the coaching ladder??

The Big East is a good league and gets an unfair bad rap, but it's a different league than what you see around the rest of college football. Most of the Big East teams don't have the big time personnel, so they win with spread schemes and smaller lines and speed on the edges. The WRs in the Big East are as big as the linebackers. Brian Kelly is like the perfect coach for the Big East. His type of offense with an emphasis on getting the ball to playmakers in space is a perfect fit in that league. Time of possession isn't as big of a deal in the Big East because no one is big enough on the lines to wear another team out.

The risk for ND continuing to play a finesse style of ball is when you go back to back with Michigan and Michigan State early in the year and play USC and BC later in the year and then a big SEC team in the bowl games. Those teams have big lines and 250 pound linebackers, and they're going to beat up your lines if you play finesse pass-oriented football. We saw it with Weis and I fear that we'd see it again with Kelly.

ND needs to be able to play power football at least to some degree. ND is a school with big, slow offensive linemen and big power running backs. We need to be able to play power football with the personnel we have. We have been pushed around for 8 years now between the Ty and the Weis eras. Soft offenses, soft defenses, horrible special teams. I'm tired of seeing ND getting pushed around. We need to become tougher and more physical.

The other thing about power football is that it preserves your defense. If you can run the ball and eat clock, your defense stays off the field. We might not have Alabama's talent on defense, but we can get away with it if they are taking fewer snaps and playing with more energy because of our ball control offense. Passing on every down lengthens the game, and gives your opponent more possessions. It's not some coincidence that Weis' teams have completely collapsed in the second half of the year. The defense was worn out, and we lost games in the fourth quarter. And look at what you have with Brian Kelly's teams. Same issues popping up. Second half of the year has been a problem for Cincy's defense this year.

The good news is that Kelly is not an ideologue and may have a different philosophy if he ends up at ND. He actually had more of a power run attack in his days at Central Michigan, so maybe he would revert back to that style of play at ND. He seems like the type of coach who adjusts his system around the personnel he has. I prefer that type of coach, and it seems like Kelly operates that way.

The other name that terrifies me even more than Billy Gillespie is the name Dan Hawkins. Now, I personally don't think we are getting the next Dan Hawkins. Kelly has proven that he can win at multiple stops and build programs quickly from the scrap heap. Hawkins had no such track record.

But there are some rumblings out there that this Jeff Quinn guy (who is Kelly's offensive line coach and offensive coordinator) is something of a savant and possibly the brains behind the Kelly machine. I have no idea if this is true, but it's been rumored in a few different places.

Scary thought. What if this Jeff Quinn guy really is the key to the Kelly operation and doesn't follow Kelly to ND?? What if he becomes the head coach at UC?? What if he ends up landing a job as a head coach in the MAC or something like that?? If it turns out that Kelly is just some figurehead "motivator" and that he's nothing without Quinn, we'd basically be hiring the next Dan Hawkins.

That terrifies me. Even if Quinn is not as important to Kelly as the rumor mill indicates, I'm hoping that he ends up being our offensive coordinator just to cover our bases.

3) Some thoughts on expectations. I keep reading stuff from ND fans saying "Brian Kelly won't win a championship at Notre Dame" as a reason to avoid him. Ummm, is that even the standard anymore?? I'm more than comfortable saying that our days as a national power are over. Watch that Bama-Florida game and tell me that we're ever getting to that level again. I don't see it. We're fighting a losing battle with demographics. We might get a couple southern kids, but not the Bama/Florida type athletes up and down our roster. It's plain as day to anyone with a pair of eyeballs. Bama and Florida have speed and talent all over the field. We have two white safeties. Period.

People keep talking about "high expectations" as a deterrent for the Notre Dame job. Are expectations really that high?? Remember, we gave a STANDING OVATION after a LOSS to an 8-4 USC team. I was in the stands clapping with the rest of the 80,000 on their feet applauding the Irish for a close loss. Imagine the reaction in Gainesville after losing a home game. People would not be applauding a close loss to anyone.

Not only are ND's standards not all that high, I think they're too low. People talk about 2005 and 2006 like they were the glory days. If Weis had produced a steady stream of 9-3 type seasons the last few years, he would not even be sniffing the hot seat today. In fact, we'd probably be working on an extension as we speak. The only reason Weis got fired is because he couldn't even sniff 9-3 in his last three years. 3-9, 6-6, 6-6 is about as bad as you can do at a school like ND. He didn't get fired because of "high expectations." He got fired because he was awful and went 15-21 in his last three years. If those numbers were reversed and he was 21-15 in his last three years (5-7, 7-5, 9-3), he would not have been fired. That averages out to 7-5. Those are high expectations??

ND fans probably have the lowest expectations of any major football power. 9-3 at Florida is a bad year. 9-3 at Ohio State has people all up in arms about Jim Tressel and demanding that he fire some of his staff. 9-3 at USC is a disaster and causes 25,000 empty seats at the Colisseum. 9-3 at Texas is a "rebuilding" year. 9-3 at Oklahoma has Bob Stoops sweating and fake listening to other offers just to get fans back on his side.

At ND, 9-3 is good enough. 9-3 gets you standing ovations after a close loss to USC. 9-3 gets your name chanted during the 1812 overture. 9-3 gets you to a New Years Day bowl game. 9-3 gives you hope on the recruiting trail. 9-3 makes you think "we're going to be preseason top five next year!"

People hate hearing this, but the closest sports comparison to ND right now is the Chicago Cubs. The expectations are not to win the BCS title or win big games. It's to beat BC and Michigan State (the Milwaukee Brewers and the Houston Astros), to win 9 or so games (win the NL Central), recruit some highly-ranked prospects (sign Alfonso Soriano to show a "commitment" to winning), and to give us hope for next year ("It's gonna happen!").

I'll be the first to admit that I have a Cubs-esque attitude about ND these days. I love going up to ND (Wrigley), hanging out on campus (Wrigleyville), going to the Linebacker (The Cubby Bear), hearing the band and Mike Collins in the that glorious stadium (the ivy walls, Harry Carey) , and going to Between the Buns (Murphy's Patio) after the game. The next day, I might head over to Warren and waddle around the links for 18 holes. I want ND to win, but it's not the #1 priority for an ND football weekend. I want to go and have a good time. If we win, great. If not, the beer is still cold.

There's nothing wrong with it, but the ND administration reflects where our fans are. We have a Cubs mindset, and the administration responds accordingly. If there was really that much accountability, ND football wouldn't be as mediocre as it has been the last fifteen years.

The expectations for Kelly will be that he produce consistent winning teams. Davie would win one year, lose the next year. Willingham had one good year and then fell apart. Weis had two solid years and three disastrous years. If any of those guys could have won 8-9 games consistently every single year with an occasional reach into the 10 win range, they would still be here now.

If Kelly goes 9-3 for the next five years, that will be a substantial improvement from what we've had. I think he can do it, and maybe even get us a notch higher.

2) I'm no Jack Swarbrick fan, but calling a Kelly hire a "failure" is ridiculous. Bob Stoops is not coming through that door. Neither is Urban. Kelly is a good football coach. He's the best hire we've had since Holtz. It's perfectly reasonable to think that he can be successful at ND. He's won at Central Michigan and Cincy. This isn't like Davie or Willingham or Weis. None of those guys had any type of track record for consistent success as a head coach. Kelly does. He has far exceeded the traditional standards at Cincy and CMU.

I will definitely support this hire and line up behind Coach Kelly. I will follow recruiting and spring practice and gobble up all the Brian Kelly info out there. And I'll fully admit that I'll probably be guzzling the Kool-Aid by August and start talking myself into 10+ wins.

But I also think it's perfectly reasonable to remain skeptical and cautious about this hire. No one has any idea if he will be a superstar at ND. He could be great, or a giant bust. I will be optimistic, but we've been through this before. And the same restrictions that have held back Weis and Davie and Willingham (Res Life, admissions, PEDs, etc) might still be in place for Kelly. He might not work out for reasons that have nothing to do with his coaching ability.

Stay tuned. I'm already excited for spring practice!!

1) Finally, some thoughts on the Heisman:

My Final Heisman poll:

5) Colt McCoy
4) Toby Gerhart
3) Jeremiah Masoli
2) Ndamukong Suh
1) Mark Ingram

For my money, the most dominant player I've seen this year is Ndamukong Suh. I was blown away by him in the Big 12 championship game. One of the best defensive performances I've ever seen in college football. He was throwing Texas linemen around like rag dolls. I considered putting him at #1 just based on that performance alone.

If I was an NFL team, I think I'd take Suh with the #1 overall pick. He reminds me of Michael Strahan. Just one of those physically dominant guys who relies on brute strength and leverage to get to the quarterback and make plays. Put him at defensive end for the next ten years, and he could be a superstar. Pass rush and stopping the run. That's what it all comes down to on defense in the NFL. A guy like Suh solves both those problems immediately.

One guy who would definitely not get my vote is Colt McCoy. Couldn't have been less impressed with Colt McCoy on Saturday. He has a noodle!! And this is the second time I've seen him wildly uncomfortable with a pass rush. Imagine what he's going to look like against Alabama's pass rush. Yikes. If any NFL team thinks Colt McCoy has a future as an NFL starter, they are just throwing a draft pick down the toilet.

By default, I'm going with Mark Ingram. Even though I think Bama's style of play would make a lot of running backs look good, Ingram has been great all year. He carried me all year to a fantasy college title, and he played his best game in the SEC Championship game. I'm a huge fan of Ingram. Power runner, stays on his feet, very tough. He's the total package. And I can't believe an Alabama player has never won the Heisman.

My vote goes to Ingram.


Craig said...

You're engaging in a little bit of revisionist history with respect to the third quarter at Michigan. We had three series in the third quarter, only one of which was stopped cold. Of the other two, one picked up a first down, then Jonas Gray coughed the ball up, the other stalled after a 70-yard gain to Rudolph was wiped out by what looked like a very questionable holding call.

To your larger point about adjustments, I think you're giving Weis a bum rap there. Not that we were especially effective in the third quarter, but the record shows that Weis would adjust quicker than that---our second and fourth quarter scoring was outstanding.

Anonymous said...

It is time to give our noodles a rest. It's time to have a little faith. Go Irish, Beat Purdue!!!! One more thing. Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Man, what is the deal with you and race? The black = fast good athlete and white = slow bad athlete is tired and inaccurate.

Jeremy said...

One thing about Ingram's candidacy - I'm not sure he's the best RB on his own team.

What a terrible year for the Heisman. The fact that Tebow is even getting an invite to NYC is a joke.

Kevin said...

Anonymous - I think you are being WAY to sensitive about race, just like the majority of people in this country. Unless you think there is some sort of systematic reverse racism going on in the NFL, a place in which an overwhelming majority of head coaches, GM's, and owners are white, you are simply ignoring the facts. America has many more whites than blacks, and many more whites with access to superior football facilities and training regimes growing up. Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of NFL running backs, cornerbacks and wide receivers are black. Yes, there are a few exceptions where white people have succeeded at those positions in the last 20 years, but they are very, very, very, rare. It's undeniable. Are there exceptional white athletes? Absolutely. For whatever reason, though, black men seem to make up virtually the entire pool of people who possess the necessary athletic ability to play skill positions in the NFL like running back, wide receiver and cornerback. There is absolutely nothing wrong with acknowledging that fact. There is nothing racist with acknowledging that fact.

It's no different than acknowledging that short people struggle in the NBA. Are there a few 5'7" exceptions? Yes. But it's a pretty fair assumption that if you are less than 6' tall, you aren't going to succeed in the NFL. It's widely accepted by any anthropologist to say that the American population is, on average, taller than the Japanese population, particularly with respect to the percentage of people who are 6'5" or taller. I don't think you would claim that people who would rather have a team full of American basketball players than Japanese basketball players are making irrational decisions or racist towards Japanese people.

It's no different with black football players. People are overly sensitive in America, but we are different and it's fine, and it makes America great. If black players are playing those positions in the NFL, it is a very fair conclusion that Notre Dame would want to have black people at those positions, most of the time, if we want to compete at the highest levels.

Anonymous said...

From a BC undergrad and ND grad student, refreshing to see a Domer with a bit of perspective and candor. Great post. I may just root for ND next year. Not nearly as hate-able as Weis.