Brian Kelly: "I Don't See" NFL In My Future

Kelly, who is coming off a 10-3 season, believes Notre Dame is the best job in college football

Tiki and Tierney
May 07, 2018 - 4:52 pm

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Earlier in his career, Bran Kelly figured that he would one day transition from Saturdays to Sundays, that he would jump from college to the NFL.

But now? Not so much.

“I really don’t see it that way anymore,” the Notre Dame coach said on Tiki and Tierney. “My vocation for the last 27 years has been developing 18-to-21-year-olds – and I love doing that. You lose that when you go to the NFL. The other thing is, I don’t need control, but the head coach gets to sign the contract, he gets to recruit the players and he gets to make all the decisions that center around his football team. It’s a bit decentralized in the NFL. The head coach doesn’t have that kind of authority (outside of) Bill Belichick and a couple of coaches in the league. So when you look at it that way, I think I’ve got the best job being in college at the University of Notre Dame.”

Kelly is 69-34 (.670) in eight seasons in South Bend. In 2012, he led the Irish to the national title game, which they lost to Nick Saban and Alabama. Notre Dame has finished 10-3 in two of the last three seasons with a 4-8 campaign sandwiched in between.

As Kelly has learned, not every rebuild at Notre Dame is easy.

“I think our challenge is really very difficult – and it has to be because it has to stand up to those teams that are playing 13 games with a conference championship,” he said. “We’ve got to have a rigorous schedule. I think that is so important. When you lose and turn over your football team, you don’t have time to ease into the kind of schedule we play. . . . To me, the lows were the 4-8 (season in 2016), and that was on me in terms of not providing leadership for a young football team. We lost seven games in the fourth quarter. I just did a poor job of developing those younger players. 

“So I think more than anything else at Notre Dame, the kids are going to get their degree, they’re going to move on and you got to play young players,” Kelly continued. “I’ve done a better job of understanding how important it is to get these kids prepared to play right away.”

Notre Dame opens the season at home against Michigan on Sept. 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Wolverines, with new quarterback Shea Patterson, are expected to compete for a Big Ten championship.

“It gets the guys’ attention in the offseason months knowing they’re not playing a I-AA opponent,” Kelly said of his squad. They’re playing Michigan right out of the gate. I know it’s a challenging schedule, but it’s what you sign up for at Notre Dame. Our kids, they welcome that challenge. Michigan is a very good football team. They’ve got an established veteran quarterback now. But for our guys, it’s what they have come to expect when they’re at Notre Dame.”

The Irish must replace a pair of stud offensive linemen – Quenton Nelson, who was drafted sixth overall to the Colts, and Mike McGlinchey, who went ninth overall to the Niners – but return quarterbacks Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book.

Wimbush played most of last season but sometimes struggled when Notre Dame was in obvious passing situations.

“We really needed both quarterbacks last year,” Kelly said. “With Brandon starting for the first time, the scrutiny of the position at Notre Dame, there was a lot of noise and I think he learned a lot about how he has to be mentally prepared to play each and every week with that kind of scrutiny. But I think more importantly, mechanically he had to get better. We didn’t throw the ball the way we needed to, and I think he took a lot of that to heart and worked on his mechanics in the offseason. Now he gives us that guy that can run the football, throw it and really puts a lot of pressure on defenses.”

Book, meanwhile, led Notre Dame to a Citrus Bowl win against LSU, finding Miles Boykin for a 55-yard score with less than two minutes to go to give the Irish a 21-17 victory.

“I think in college football, if you’ve got two quarterbacks, you’re sitting there in a pretty good situation,” Kelly said. “I’m not really worried about the controversy as much as developing them and getting them better each and every week.”

Other noteworthy home game for Notre Dame include Stanford (Sept. 29) and Florida State (Nov. 10). The Irish play at Northwestern (Nov. 3) and at USC (Nov. 24).

Kelly was also asked about former quarterback DeShone Kizer, who threw 11 touchdowns and 22 interceptions with the Browns last season. Kizer, a second-round pick in 2017, is now in Green Bay.

“It’s a full time job, and I think he really learned the rigors of being in the work place,” Kelly said of Kizer’s rookie season. “As the quarterback, you got to be the first one in the building and the last one to leave. Being thrust into that kind of situation was difficult or him, but I think he’s better for it. He’s learned a lot. He’ll be better because of it.”