Notre Dame Football: Is Coach Kelly Feeling the Pressure?

By Jeff Merritt

When Brian Kelly took over the head coaching job at Notre Dame replacing Charlie Weis, he presented himself as confident in his ability to coach, and experienced in managing the different aspects of a head coaching job which includes recruiting, dealing with alumni and dealing with the media. In fact, many would contend that it was his ability to deal with the public that most set him apart from his predecessor.

As a spokesperson for the program, Kelly seemed very polished, composed, poised and self assured. His words were measured, calculated, politically correct and indicative of someone who was very much in control of his environment.

That was nearly two years ago. The Brian Kelly of the 2011 season is a very different person. In the last three weeks, Kelly has suffered an embarrassing loss to USC, and has struggled to find the right words to express his feelings about his team’s inability to live up to expectations, and his feelings about the direction of the program.

Following the loss to USC, Kelly called out some members of his team, the Weis era recruits, and compared them unfavorably to his own recruits. This uncharacteristic media and coaching blunder garnered a great deal of attention nationally and its impact may be felt in the play of his team as the season winds down, and it may also effect the success of the current recruiting cycle.
In a similar, but less grievous media lapse, Kelly was quick to respond to a question about his team’s offensive struggles following the Wake Forest game.

Kelly: Is there a negative to everything? We just won a football game on the road. I mean what kind of question is that? What do we want me to say? What’s the answer? We won 24 to 17 against a good football team, and you want to know what’s wrong with the passing game. You know what’s wrong with it? The coach doesn’t call good plays. How’s that? There’s nothing wrong with it. We’re fine. We just won a good game.

While most would agree that the Notre Dame Football program is trending upward under Kelly, questions abound regarding Coach Kelly’s ability to deal with on-going strain of being the head football coach at Notre Dame and all that entails.

If the Irish can provide an impressive conclusion to this season, including an upset of a very good Stanford team, then the pressure may be off of Kelly for a little while, that is, until the Irish nation starts asking for Kelly to deliver a national championship.

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