Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly’s Game Plan Indicts Spartan Offensive Coaches: OUCH!

Hondo S. Carpenter

Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly’s Game Plan Indicts Spartan Offensive Coaches: OUCH!

It wasn’t easy to watch the Spartans 17-13 loss to the Irish on Saturday, and there are many angles that will be revisited for a very long time. The angle that blew me away most came from the Irish head coach Brian Kelly. I have known Brian a long time and you either love him or hate him, and he doesn’t really care. If anything he is true to who he is.

Kelly, though widely loved or hated, is considered by both his detractors and supporters as one of college football’s premier offensive coaching minds. So when he stepped to the podium to comment after the game, he said something that in all of my years covering football I had not only NEVER heard, I would have bet my home and all my possessions that he would NEVER say.

It was stunning. It was amazing, and it was the biggest indictment of the MSU offensive leadership and scheme imaginable. The Spartans were moving the ball on the ground. The Spartans needed points and Kelly said this:

“I was telling my athletic director, I wanted to throw the ball so bad on those last few drives. But we felt like we wanted to put our defense back on the field and not give Michigan State, because they've been so opportunistic defensively, an opportunity to win the football game on defense.”

Kelly was WELL AWARE that the Spartans were moving the ball successfully on the ground and that they needed points AND HE STILL wanted his DEFENSE on the field instead of his OFFENSE. Think about that folks. An offensive coach wanted his DEFENSE on the field in the fourth quarter when the opposing team needed points and was moving the ball with SUCCESS.

I was stunned. So where several around me.

One member of the Notre Dame staff acknowledged that MSU was running the ball with success but felt, “They would get impatient and get away from it or make a mistake to negate it, and that is what happened.”

Stunning. If you are an offensive coach getting a pay check from Michigan State that should embarrass you, and if you haven’t already started, it should inspire some real inner soul searching about the quality of coach you are. If you are the head coach and they already aren’t, you have to make it clear that every member of the staff on that side of the ball is auditioning to be employed on your staff next year.

If MSU is going to make changes to the two headed OC system they currently have or the coaches’ duties and responsibilities, now is the time. Beginning the bye week, this is the most ideal spot on the schedule to make such a big change. I asked Dantonio on Sunday night if he was thinking that way he was pretty frank.

“I think we always reevaluate everything after every specific game, but at the same time I don't want to be the person that makes knee‑jerk reactions and makes decisions based on something that happened, for example, yesterday. I don't want to make a decision today on that nature. We have to look long‑term, how it affects this football team, and deal with it in that way.”

He went on, “…We also have a chance to practice. I think it's important that our players just sort of reestablish themselves, reevaluate themselves, we'll reevaluate our coaches, what we're doing. But everybody needs to take a look and sort of put their foot on the ground, drive back forward, regroup, get ready to play Iowa. It's the opening of the Big Ten season. That's exciting.”

There isn’t one member of the MSU offensive coaching staff that is a bad person. Every one of them is a fine man, great father, and good person. Sadly in today’s culture, you have to point those things out anytime you are being critical, but it is true of each coach. This is not an evaluation of them as men, this is an evaluation of them as coaches.

One of the most respected offensive minds in the nation, who led his team to the national title game last year, just said that he wanted YOU to have the ball in the fourth quarter needing points while YOU were having success. PERIOD.

In the words of my producer Bryce (who is much younger) DROP THE MIC AND WALK OFF STAGE.          

That hurts.

That stings

That stinks.

Sadly, that is true.

Mark Dantonio grades every player and their performance after every game. Was it a National Title performance? A Big Ten Title performance? Well here is mine of the offensive staff:

Against every division one team you have faced this year your job performance has not been at a MAC level. Your head coach stands and faces the music and takes the blame that is what he does. That is why so many coaches want to coach for him and why if he chose to replace you, he would have no issue.

I am NOT advocating going Texas orWisconsin with mid-season firings. I am advocating big changes if the people paid to fix it don’t. 

No one thought Connor Cook looked like Joe Montana 2.0 in the sacred house of Knute Rockne on Saturday. What we did see was a kid getting his first road start that hung 13 on the board (should have been more, no doubt) and was doing something. You’ve pointed out his inaccuracies before, and I agree. But what about the abysmal play calling, AND NOT JUST IN THIS GAME?

Does no adult paid six figures of yearly income get benched for play calling so offensive that I would consider taking a shower with the lights on to get the vision out of my mind? Who is held responsible that in year five of his career at MSU, Andrew Maxwell still makes the same mistakes? Do coaches ever get asked? 

Tell me who took a great risk taker and Elite 11 high school quarterback, had him for five years and as a fifth year senior when his team needs a fourth and twenty he is running out of bounds eight yards down the field on essentially the last play of the game?

Has this program developed so poorly at the QB position that you have to eventually follow the evidence of blame to the coaches’ offices? Why do our QBs have to go see QB gurus? Shouldn’t the gurus of development be here and cashing checks signed by Mark Hollis?

I’m not sure, but I haven’t heard too much about defensive players heading out to the left coast to get better? I know this; MSU has four very talented QBs that a lot of big time schools wanted. FOUR. The fact that there was even a thought to playing a true freshman tells me that somebody has FAILED epically in developing the other three.

The MSU offense has to get better. Starting at the top.

Mark Dantonio is a man of character. He has stood and taken questions about his offense and each time taken the blame. I am sorry. I do not believe he has made all the calls he has taken blame for, but that will come in another article. What I do know is that Sunday night when asked about going back to Andrew Maxwell he said this, “I stamped my approval on the decision.”

Remember that with Dantonio, it is often about what he doesn’t say and how he says things. He said, “I stamped my approval on the decision.” That was a critical statement by the Spartans Commander in Chief. CRITICAL. Someone else broached the idea first. I want to know who. 

I love to see players held accountable, but it starts at the top. Dantonio does hold himself and his players accountable; it is now time for his offensive leadership to feel it.

Connor Cook had real emotion, fighting tears as he wondered where his coach’s faith in him was at the end of the game. He was emotional. I don’t want to hear the conspiracy theories that he was hurt, Coach D said he wasn’t and his emotion in the locker room was real as he looked for answers to a benching timed when he didn’t deserve it.

If you want to make a QB change you do it early in the second half, not as the game comes to an end.

All you had to do was stick to the run and you leave Notre Dame Stadium victorious. Notre Dame was willing to give you the ball because they were so confident you would go away from what was working. 4-0. Would you be a perfect offense? No, but you would have left with a perfect record intact with the nation’s best D and some magic still in the tank.

Notre Dame KNEW you would go away from what works! I am not a nuclear physicist or a brain surgeon, but that tells me you have no clue what you are doing or you are too fancy for your britches.

I am not part of the play Damion Terry now crowd, because why waste a year of his eligibility when the problems in the coaches box are so much bigger than those in the QBs helmet. What genius of the coaching staff thought NOT to play a true freshman QB because he may not be ready, but thought that was perfectly acceptable letting a true freshman WR throw a pass was? Are you kidding me?

If you want a trick play with a WR pass, I am good with that. Bennie Fowler’s been around a couple of those during his career. Not in that spot, but I like it. And not with a TRUE FRESHMAN. Does anyone remember that Tony Lippett was a great QB in high school and when Shoelaces was the QB at UM, he outperformed him all week running the MSU scout team?

The world has not come to an end yet, and Coach D is 100% accurate that this team is 3-1 and still undefeated in the Big Ten. This team still has every goal to play for and a legitimate/real chance to do it. IF, in the words of a past MSU Coach, “The Coaches are screwing it up,” stops.

The MSU play calling, position grouping, player rotation, and other offensive choices have been offensive. This offense looks discombobulated. It looks to have no rhyme or reason, and a game plan that is less creative than aPlayStation game that pops up three plays to pick. Is the plan to look confused? Out coached? Your offensive line owned real estate at the point of attack. OWNED it. Lost in the abysmal leadership of the offense has been a good job by Coach Staten.

What happened to pound green pound? It is easy to sit back and be critical. I get that, but this is about planning and coaching and developing. What stinks is that the Spartans lost at Notre Dame because of the offensive leadership. Cook was not great, but didn't cost MSU the game. The officials were not great, but not the reason MSU lost.

My eight year old son said to me Sunday morning something that he did not intend to be critical. It was said only to be positive. “Daddy I thought that the offensive coaches plan to not have a plan almost worked. Notre Dame didn’t know what we were doing because we tried to trick them acting like we didn’t know what we wanted to do.” OUCH!

Ouch again, and from an eight year old. Stunning and painful from the head coach of Notre Dame. My son didn’t quote Brian Kelly, but let Kelly’s words resonate again, “…we felt like we wanted to put our defense back on the field and not give Michigan State, because they've been so opportunistic defensively, an opportunity to win…” Sounds the same to me. OUCH!

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