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Notre Dame Football: A Blow For Honesty

Brian Kelly says he won’t give us the unvarnished truth any more. Will this affect how we understand what’s going on?

NCAA Football: Notre Dame Spring Game Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Kelly is the son of a politician, but you wouldn’t know it from the way he speaks to the media.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish football coach doesn’t choose his words carefully as a seasoned statesman would. Instead, we’re treated to the unfiltered insights of a coach with 30 years experience.

All of this may be coming to an end, however.

In a recent interview with the Associated Press’ Ralph Russo, Kelly acknowledged that his comments about former Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer were “portrayed as throwing [a player] under the bus.” Kelly’s takeaway from his experience? It’s time to be less honest with the media.

Here’s the full quote:

"I demand. I never demean 'em. We have a high level of accountability. We're very demanding and (the players) expect me to be honest with them on a day-to-day basis. They would say that 'That's Coach Kelly being Coach Kelly. If he came in and sugarcoated it, he's full of it. That's just not him.'

"But what I will change this year is that I can't be honest with assessments of players to the media. Totally honest. Because it's portrayed as throwing players under the bus. Being disloyal to a player. They don't know the relationship with the player. Based upon what happened last year and the fallout that occurred from other media sources, it doesn't do the university — it doesn't do our program — any good for me to be forthright when it comes to those kinds of assessments of our players."

Kelly’s issue rarely seems to be with the beat writers who cover the team regularly. However, they are the ones relaying his thoughts 140 characters at a time — which is then interpreted by fans and media who don’t cover the team. This is a perfect example.

Pete Sampson’s tweet during the post-North Carolina St. press conference contains one quoted word: “atrocious.”

To his credit, Mike Golic Jr. recognizes that quotes are not always what they seem on Twitter:

And Sampson delivers the full context about 90 minutes later, which shows that Kelly did not single out center Sam Mustipher.

Unfortunately, Sampson’s respectable effort to provide context was lost on the media who wanted to portray Kelly as a bad guy. (Examples here, here, here and here, among other places).

Kelly may find it difficult to temper his criticisms, especially in emotional moments. But if the coach is serious, then this is a blow for media and fans.

Those two groups aren’t at every practice and don’t have access to the playbook. We don’t know who is struggling or who ran the wrong route or covered the wrong guy unless the coach helps us. There’s certainly a way to criticize a player publicly without it being interpreted as “throwing a player under the bus.” If Kelly holds back, then we lack the information needed for informed insight.

My concern is that, absent the coach’s expert eyes, media members and fans will try to analyze the team’s weaknesses and assign blame without complete information. This will create more noise in the analysis, which is never good.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.