Only The Athletic can cause such a tremendous shit storm behind a paywall that the college football media starts dropping gloves for guys making seven figures. That’s what happened today when The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel (the manliest duo in CFB) released their top 25 coaching rankings. To the surprise of many... both had Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly firmly at #3 behind #1 Nick Saban and #2 Dabo Swinney.
This is absolutely the correct order.
A person in that lives in the United States that barely qualifies for a bar/bat mitzvah could identify the top two coaches in the country. 14 of the last 15 national champions have either been the Alabama Crimson Tide or have had to go through the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Clemson Tigers have done a better job than everyone else.
That leaves massive amounts of space for the throwdowns for the number three spot. To be fair, there are multiple coaches that can lay a fair claim to this spot, and before I go on — I’m not here to bash any of them (except for maybe James Franklin because let’s get real here).
Mandel and Feldman didn’t dismiss career achievement, but did place emphasis on the last three years. In those three years, the Irish went undefeated in the regular season twice which resulted in college football playoff appearances. 33-5 with three of the 5 losses coming at the hands of Alabama (0-1) and Clemson (1-2).
So here’s the thing though... no one is going to change your mind if you agree or disagree with these rankings. For Notre Dame fans the bias actually goes both ways with those that think Kelly has done a good job agreeing with the #3 spot, and those that
can’t see the forest for the trees aren’t happy with what Brian Kelly has done — and for the latter that have zero fun with winning — who gives a fuck what they think?
If the argument is that Lincoln Riley with the Oklahoma Sooners and Ryan Day with the Ohio State Buckeyes are better than Brian Kelly, then (in my opinion) simply don’t have any grasp on the inherent differences between the jobs at these three schools — and especially the situations.
Lincoln Riley took over a program that had dominated its conference for quite some time with little resistance otherwise. Ryan Day got a Urban Meyer Ferrari before he wrapped it around a telephone pole.
Brian Kelly got a giant shit sandwich from Charlie Weis after over 15 years of mediocrity at Notre Dame from the terrible trio. They ain’t the same. While I have no doubt that Brian Kelly could achieve the same type of results at Oklahoma and Ohio State, I have little faith those two could do better than BK at Notre Dame. It’s a different way of life under the Golden Dome, and yes academics matter a great deal both on the recruiting trail and in the classrooms on campus. It’s just harder to do what Brian Kelly is doing, and they all three are having the same type of results — mostly.
Brian Kelly deserves that #3 spot, and that’s exactly where known Notre Dame lovers Stewart Mandel and Bruce Feldman have him.