Could there be a more precarious perch upon which to sit than that of head coach of a FBS football program? Some, the great ones, are enshrined in their school’s pantheon before they’ve taken their final curtain call. Others are treated with all the care of an America’s Got Talent wannabe. In this installment of Know Thyself…, we look at our head coach, Brian Kelly.
THE IRISH: BRIAN KELLY
Entering his fourth season at the helm of the Fighting Irish, Kelly enters a new campaign with a roster filled with elite talent, almost all of which is now of his own hand. Last season, a season in which the Irish started with a question-mark at quarterback and outside AP’s Top 25, saw Kelly garner just about every coaching award for which he was elligible. This season sees him moving his team forward, though still answering questions about the past.
In a recent interview with Dan Wetzl, Coach Kelly responded to challenges as disparate, and uniquely Notre Dame, as ResLife and flirtation with the NFL. Still, his record over three full seasons is begining to move him into a position of prominence within Notre Dame’s storied history: with Lou Holtz, one of only two coaches to win twelve games in a season; with Dan Devine, one of only two coaches to win eight or more games in his first three seasons; highest post-season ranking since Holtz’s 1993 season.
Still, he won’t be living this down for quite some time:
THE ENEMY: DAVID SHAW
Lacking the gaudy win numbers and longevity of a Bob Stoops, Stanford’s David Shaw is, along with Brady Hoke, one of the young head coaches our program will have to deal with for years to come. Shaw, a 1995 graduate of the school he now leads, has built upon the success he inherited and has The Tree primed to avenge its stinging loss at Notre Dame last season.
Shaw is the 2012 and 2011 PAC-12 Conference Coach of the Year and was a runner-up for the Bear Bryant Award last season. Like Kelly, he won 12 games last year, on his way to taking the PAC-12 title and a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. Heading into the 2013 season, his Cardinal sits in fourth place, on the shoulders of a terrifically talented defense and a very capable defense that will look to wear down all comers.
Still, for all his greatness, his reaction to the gut-wrenching loss (for Stanford) at Notre Dame last season, in which he blamed phantom whistles and a shooter on the grassy knoll, was not entirely gracious. That being said, there’s no arguing with the man’s knowledge of the game and, I don’t think, that he is going to be a thorn in our side for many seasons to come.
Can you imagine, say, five more years of these: