Why Would Brian Kelly Leave Notre Dame?

By douggriffiths
Brian Kelly Notre Dame
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Kelly is interested in being an NFL head coach.


Why not?

Maybe he’s tempted by the money an NFL organization is bound to throw his way. Currently he’s making $2.5 million at Notre Dame, a figure that will increase if he stays in South Bend.

Jim Harbaugh left Stanford to coach the San Francisco 49ers. Now he’s raking in an estimated $5 million per year on a five-year deal. Coaching the Cardinal, Harbaugh made $1.1 million in 2010, making him the Pac-10’s second-lowest paid head football coach.

Maybe Kelly has always dreamt of being an NFL coach and figures he might as well strike while he’s a hot commodity.

Maybe Kelly is somewhat discouraged after his Fighting Irish got walloped in the BCS National Championship Game by Alabama. After all, Notre Dame had its best defense since 1966, the nation’s best defensive player and finest tight end in America yet was no match for the mighty SEC.

Even though Manti Te’o and Tyler Eifert are departing, Notre Dame’s future appears bright, very bright. In a few weeks, the Fighting Irish are expected to ink the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, but even that may not be enough to keep Kelly put.

Does he believe the gap between the SEC‘s elite and the rest of college football is as wide as the Grand Canyon like some of us?

Kelly didn’t seem to prior to the national title tilt. “I think from my perspective I’ve got the best job in the country, NFL, college, high school, whatever,” he said.

Something changed or maybe Kelly’s the best poker player around. Maybe Kelly knows just about everything went his team’s way this season en route to a 12-0 regular season.

The Fighting Irish seemed to get all the breaks from possible game-changing penalties not being called (two No. 2s on the field at the same time when Pitt missed a very makeable field goal in overtime) to facing teams with key injuries (Stanford star receiver Ty Montgomery and USC quarterback Matt Barkley come to mind).

Notre Dame didn’t have any significant injuries during the regular season to deal with either. Plus, the Fighting Irish ended up playing what turned out to be a very favorable schedule.

Even with the ball bouncing Kelly’s team’s way what seemed to be all the time, once the Fighting Irish collided with the Crimson Tide, they were manhandled.

Oh and by the way, Alabama isn’t going anywhere. Expect the Tide to continue its dynasty, which Kelly knows.

After all, he’s a smart football man, who has won everywhere he’s been so you know he’s thinking if he leaps to the NFL, his winning ways will continue.

Interestingly enough Notre Dame hasn’t seen a head coach leave voluntarily since World War II ended. Kelly may be on the verge though.

Maybe Kelly wants to return to his East Coast roots and that’s why the Philadelphia Eagles are on his radar. He was born in Everett, Mass., and played linebacker at Assumption (Mass.) College.

Leaving after just three years at Notre Dame wouldn’t be out of the norm for Kelly. He has a pattern of short stays at his FBS stops. Of course, that’s a tribute to his successes at those destinations.

Since leaving Grand Valley State after 13 seasons, Kelly was at Central Michigan for three years before moving to Cincinnati where he was for four seasons before Notre Dame came calling.

All those stops provided their own challenges, just as an NFL job would. Might Kelly want to be one of those few former college coaches that could say he succeeded in the NFL?

Perhaps Kelly is at a juncture where he needs that NFL challenge after embracing and in a lot of ways conquering the challenge of getting Notre Dame relevant again.

Who knows what Kelly’s actual driving forces are, but no doubt the NFL has his attention. Whether he’s intrigued enough to depart college football’s most highly coveted job remains to be seen. That answer should come very soon.

Doug Griffiths is a columnist/writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @ISLgriffiths.

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