I must have written and rewritten this article a half a dozen times over the course of the last three weeks. It’s been impossible to finish, and the wording felt so jumbled, it might as well had been in Finnish. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have had such a strange and disappointing season so far, that I was never sure enough about any possible outcome to put my full weight behind it.
Let’s be clear here... I have called for the firing of Brian Kelly since the North Carolina State game. Had someone asked me prior to that game, I would have said that Notre Dame just needs to ride this season out and Kelly will be able to get things back on track. I mean after all... who else would or could realistically do better?
It was that game against the N.C. State Wolfpack when my mind was changed, as I witnessed Brian Kelly get outcoached by Dave Doeren. I started thinking, if that was the case who couldn’t do better right now?
So, the tally for the #FireKelly crowd added one more resident.
The problem was, that no matter how right or wrong I was (or how right and wrong many of you were as well) we really had no understanding about if it would actually happen. Would Jack Swarbrick and Notre Dame actually fire Brian Kelly or not?
To call for Brian Kelly’s head felt like we were all tilting at windmills.
Well, okay Sancho... you got me there. Jack Swarbrick put a lid on the conversation recently in a story by Matt Fortuna with ESPN.
"Brian will lead this team out of the tunnel opening day next year," Jack Swarbrick said. "I bear responsibility. I'm ultimately responsible for our performance, so all of us are in this together. But I can tell you I continue to have complete confidence in Brian. I think you really see what you've got in a coach with how they manage times like this, and I think he has done a great job of it."
So, what we have in a nutshell is the boss saying the employee will still be working here for a while.
For me, this changes the conversation entirely for the remainder of the 2016 season. While this in no way means that we won’t or shouldn’t criticize Brian Kelly, it does mean that there is no real conversation to be had about “firing Kelly,” because it’s not going to happen. Perhaps the conversation should shift back to who Notre Dame is going to hire as its next defensive coordinator as so many have suggested.
The seat for 2016 may be cold now, but the seat for 2017 couldn’t be hotter- but that’s a conversation for next year. For now, the goal is to get better across the board. Get better as a team, as a coaching staff, and on the recruiting trail. The season is garbage, but it could end up as garbage that got sprayed with Febreeze and is sitting on the end of the driveway. If Notre Dame can win out, for example, it would include victories over hated Miami, rival USC, and a bowl win (#BelkBowlBound). That’s not a horrible season- just not a very good one.
Maybe that’s next year.