Brian Kelly hasn't won a game yet as the coach at Notre Dame. Same with Lane Kiffin here at 'SC. But in listening to the mainstream media, you'd think that Kelly is some magical wizard guaranteed to resurrect a depleted Irish football program, while Kiffin has largely no shot at returning a sanctioned USC back to the top of the Pac-10. But as with many things in life, it is not always as extreme as it seems. Kelly probably isn't going to return Notre Dame to the days of Rockne in the immediate future, and Kiffin probably isn't the anti-christ either. I know I'm not always right but I do feel pretty confident in both of these assertions.
In a sense, it's understandable as to why so many seem certain that Kelly brings the Irish back to respectability once again. For one, he's likely their best coach since Lou Holtz left the program, and it's hard to argue against his track record. Per Brian Bennett of ESPN.com:
Kelly took Division II Grand Valley State to the playoffs in his first year as a head coach and ended up winning two national titles. At Central Michigan, he guided a program that had won 12 total games in the four seasons before his arrival to a winning record in Year 2, followed by a 9-4, MAC championship season in Year 3. And at Cincinnati, he led the Bearcats to a 10-win campaign his first season before winning back-to-back Big East titles.
The commonly accepted belief right now is that Notre Dame finally has their coach, and is now poised for a modern day renaissance with Kelly at the helm. Mack Brown's illustrated this belief earlier this offseason.
"He's won everywhere he's been, so there's no reason to think he can't win," Brown told Pat Forde a few weeks back. "I think he's a great choice [for Notre Dame]."
But I think with many things in sports, it's probably more complicated than "Kelly's won at Central Michigan and Cincinnati so therefore he simply has to win at Notre Dame." There are other factors involved. Past success does not necessarily guarantee success in the future. If you're questioning this philosophy just ask Dan Hawkins.
More after the jump.
In case you need a refresher, Hawkins served as the head coach at Boise State from 2001-2005, replacing Dirk Koetter, and compiled an impressive 53-11 mark in five seasons at the helm, including a near undefeated season in 2004. But when Hawkins left for Colorado following the 2005 season, winning didn't exactly followed him to Boulder.
In four largely unsuccessful seasons at CU, Hawkins has failed to post a single-season record above .500 and his record stands at 16-33. Granted, he's strangely still at the helm of the Pac-12 bound Buffaloes, but 2010 is thought to be the farewell tour for Hawkins.
But the point remains, as illustrated here, success at one program does not always translate to success at another. In the world of college football, each program has its own intricacies and brings it's own set of challenges. It isn't the NFL, where one job is roughly the same as another. No matter where you're coaching, it's a different situation. Some places, the alumni are more demanding than most, stringent academic requirements pose their own issues, the conference and schedule can be vastly different, and location can drastically impact recruiting.
In short, the varying circumstances for programs enable some coaches to post more Ws at one place than at others. It's happened with Hawkins at Colorado, Dennis Erickson at Arizona State, and even Tyrone Willingham at Washington earlier in the decade.
As a result, I think it's more fair to hold off on the Brian Kelly rescuing Notre Dame stories. Could it happen? Absolutely. Is it a lock to happen? That's where I think people are getting carried away.
Because there are some red flags surrounding Brian Kelly. Granted, there aren't an overwhelming number of them, but enough, where they need to at least be discussed. And if you're going to pick one thing to nitpick when it comes to Kelly's prior experience, it might as well be the running game.
As a commenter pointed out on WeAreSC.com last week, Kelly's rushing offenses during his thee years at Cincinnati ranked 62nd, 95th and 69th, respectively. Granted, they scored a ton of points, but gimmicky spread passing attacks are far more suited to the Big East and the MAC. Against BCS teams like Florida, Cincy ran into some difficulty.
During his run at Central Michigan, it was a similar situation, where his rush offenses finished 46th, 64th and 40th, nationally, despite the fact that he took over a team that had 22nd ranked rushing attack the year before his arrival.
If Notre Dame is going to win anything under Kelly, it's going to have to be able to run the ball. Based on Kelly's previous stints in the Queen City and Mt. Pleasant, I think it's premature to know whether he can shore up the ground game. It hasn't really happened before. Will it happen now? Maybe. But for now, let's stop calling Kelly Notre Dame's savior, and just see how he does in his first season with the Irish.