Brian Kelly On The Present And Future At Offensive Coordinator
Notre Dame is just two weeks away from its Camping World Bowl matchup against Iowa State, but the majority of the discussion during today’s post-practice press conference was on the team’s offensive coordinator situation.
Head coach Brian Kelly kicked the press conference off with the first official word on the departure of Chip Long.
“I’m sure you guys want to know about the staff. As you probably know, the worst kept secret here at Notre Dame, and I guess now the country is that I made a change on the staff on the offensive side of the ball which I felt was in the best interest of our program,” Kelly stated. “Subsequently, we’ve organized as a staff to reflect those changes.”
Kelly would not specify why he made the change, but he did say it wasn’t about the on-field product.
“Anytime you’re scoring points at the level we were, you’re pleased in that respect,” Kelly explained. “There were some other things that, certainly, I wasn’t as pleased with. But overall, this is not an offense that lagged in the back half in many categories. It was in the top half or top third of many.”
Kelly noted that running backs coach Lance Taylor would handle the run game coordination and quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees would handle the pass game coordination. Kelly was non-committal on who would call plays in the Dec. 28th contest against Iowa State.
There is one coach on staff who will not be calling plays.
“I’m not calling plays, I will not call plays,” Kelly said in response to a question about him stepping back into that role. “I’ve moved past that role. I will certainly be much more involved in the organization of the offense and clearly making sure that our room is where I want it to be, and I think it is. I will assist, I will be there to lean on and consult with, but this will be a collaborative approach.”
So where does Notre Dame go from here? Rumors of Rees taking over the offense next season have been lingering since the early parts of November. They grew stronger once Long’s departure leaked, with every program source I’ve spoken with making it clear they would be surprised if it was anyone but Rees.
Kelly took a far different stance, at least publicly.
“I have not made any decisions on will there be a new offensive coordinator from the inside, will I bring somebody from the outside,” Kelly explained. “I have some thoughts as to what it should look like, but no decisions have been made. There’s a lot of interest in the position as you can imagine. This is a great job, so I think you can imagine the kind of interest that has come across my desk relative to wanting to be the offensive coordinator here.
“I’ve got a great staff as well, but no decision has been made,” he continued. “I know there’s a lot of speculation that one of the coaches has already been named; that’s unfounded. That’s simply not true. We’re going to do a thorough evaluation and search and find what I would consider the best coach that fits Notre Dame.”
It would seem Kelly is pushing back on the narrative that Rees is the presumed choice. If Kelly is being genuine here that would be positive news for Notre Dame.
Kelly also noted that the position of his next offensive coordinator is just as open.
“I could hire an offensive line coach, I could hire a tight end coach, I could hire a quarterback coach,” Kelly explained. “I’m going to hire the best coach that I believe fits what we have currently. That’s not to say I want to move any of the coaches that I have on staff. I think I have good football coaches.
“… I’m going to do what’s in the best interest of this football program, not me,” he continued. “I’m not going to do what’s in my best interests. I’ve already made a tough decision. I’ve had to make other tough decisions. I made them a few years ago. I had to let go of guys that stood up in my wedding. I’m not afraid to make tough choices. I’m going to make decisions that are in the best interests of Notre Dame’s football program and gives us the best chance to win a national championship. I can’t articulate it any better.”
That final statement was refreshing, as Kelly has spent considerable time over the last month tamping down championship talk, which I’ll have more on in the coming days. Tomorrow I will provide my thoughts on Kelly’s comments and where he should go next.