Although Kelly announced over the weekend he’s staying at Notre Dame after flirting with the NFL, Fighting Irish fans now know going forward this is a subject that’s not going away.
Kelly was intrigued by the Philadelphia Eagles’ head coaching position, so much so that he interviewed for the vacancy immediately following his team’s blowout loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game.
“I had an incredible opportunity to speak with one of the premier organizations in sports about becoming their head coach,” Kelly said.
The Eagles targeted Kelly and reports are that he was indeed offered the the head coaching job. However, like Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and Oregon’s Chip Kelly, in the end the Fighting Irish boss said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Don’t think the Eagles will be the last NFL team to come calling for Kelly either. They won’t.
If he continues winning like he has – 28-11 in three seasons in South Bend – suitors will be lining up at his door.
“Like every kid who has ever put on a pair of football cleats, I have had thoughts about being a part of the NFL,” he said.
Now knowing Kelly’s affection for the NFL, Fighting Irish fans are left wondering if his dream of being in the NFL will eventually outweigh what some believe should be the ultimate destination for a coach … being Notre Dame’s head football coach.
Kelly admitted that discussions with those closest to him led him to back to Notre Dame.
“This decision was motivated purely by my love for Notre Dame and the entire Fighting Irish community, the young men I have the great fortune to coach, and my desire to continue to build the best football program in the country,” he said.
“We still have a lot of work to do and my staff and I are excited about the challenges ahead.”
Kelly must now try to mend his reputation with the Irish faithful. They’re not taking too kindly to a coach that just days prior to interviewing for the Eagles’ position, called Notre Dame his dream job and said leaving “wasn’t an option.”
They question why after leading the Fighting Irish to their most successful season in a quarter of a century, Kelly would look elsewhere.
For the time being at least Kelly, who has won as many games as any Notre Dame coach has in his first three years, knows a raise in his salary and a restructured contract is in his very near future. After rebuilding Notre Dame into a national power in so little time, Kelly deserves a boost in pay from his $2.5 million a year salary.
Now that he’s made the Fighting Irish program relevant again nationally the billions of Notre Dame fans will now expect more 12-win seasons rather than eight-win campaigns Kelly’s first two Irish teams had.
Notre Dame will enter the 2013 season as a preseason top-10 team, but Kelly will have his work cut out returning the Fighting Irish to a BCS bowl, especially with the departures of players like Manti Te’o, Tyler Eifert and now Cierre Wood.
As big of a challenge Kelly faces filling voids left by those star players, saying no to the NFL again, might be even more challenging.
Doug Griffiths is a columnist/writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @ISLgriffiths.