And before you say anything, allow me to zoom out for a second and provide some context.
The plain and simple truth is, the Brian Kelly era is the first Notre Dame coaching tenure I have been completely plugged into in my lifetime. I was in the Army for the bulk of the Weis era, and the only season I happened to catch (ha, get it, cuz they were bad at catching stuff?) in its entirety was 2007. Not exactly compelling football watching. I was in high school for the Willingham years and if I’m being entirely forthcoming, my interests did not stretch beyond Musical Theater (yes, I’m SO serious about that), and girls. They were not productive years. From 1998-2002, or the Bob Davie years, I lived in Venezuela. Notre Dame football was not accessible to me at the time. Before that, I was less than 10 years old so getting my attention for beyond 15 minutes on a consistent basis would have been the stuff of miracles.
You might, at this point, be thinking to yourself: “Well duh, you stupid casual subway homer idiot video maker guy, see you don’t know about the GLORY days of Notre Dame football. OF COURSE you’re buying on this Brian Kelly mediocrity, you plebeian twit,” or whatever other fancy insults you might conjure up. You totally have the right to feel this way, given that I was actually totally not alive during the years that preceded the last Notre Dame national title. I get it, believe me I do, you totally miss it.
Try, if you would, to see things from my perspective for a minute though. To me, the last example of actual “success” for the Notre Dame football team occurred in 2012, when the team juked, limped, and swerved to what felt like a miraculous 12-0 regular season record. Oh, and then got WRECKED by Bama. In my hometown. Such fond memories. The only other real example of actual success for Notre Dame before the 2012 season was 1988. I was 1. I do not qualify for “I remember the 1988 National Championship” conversations.
Everything between those two seasons, for me, was just a crappy local supermarket fruit salad made up of varying flavors of disappointment, gross texture, and things that are poisonous humans. Year after year, it was an exercise in adjusting the levels of my stress and anger responses to what was happening on the field. Finding new ways to excuse the utter misery that encompassed each passing season, each bonehead decision, each terrible performance, and every inexplicable loss to a notably inferior opponent. There still is one, like, EVERY YEAR.
Now, once again, we as a fanbase find ourselves in a generally similar position as the one I described being in all those years. We have all come down from the high of 2012, and even when seasons marred by potential failure seem to outperform the downtrodden expectations we have all come to know and love, as was the case with 2015, the very next year we are treated to a 4-8 shit show. To most fans, this was and still is enough to cry foul on the whole operation, and call for all the heads to roll. Maybe even taking out ads in papers, I don’t know, just spitballing here. To me, in retrospect, it actually all feels like just what the doctor ordered.
Now let me zoom back in a bit.
For the first time in my limited comprehensive memory, it actually feels like there are actual identifiable landmarks and tangible things to believe in with the path and direction of the football program. For the first time in his tenure, Brian Kelly hired a proven commodity at a major coaching position in Mike Elko. Please don’t give me any Bob Diaco nonsense either (as much as I miss the dizzying gaze of those crystal blues), because that was not a proven commodity. Dude did work, and his defenses ended up being pretty legit before he left to crap his pants at UConn, but a proven commodity he was not. We don’t even need to talk about Mr. Brian Vangofu**yourself over there either. You know he sucked. I know he sucked. Georgia knows he sucked TWICE. But now, there is something to believe in, something to realistically expect. Execution, fundamentals, TACKLING. You know, all the basic things you shouldn’t have to hope for? These are no longer on the Amazon Wish List of things we really want but won’t get because we’re idiots and fell in the red after we bought a dumb vintage car from the 60s we swore we were totally gonna rebuild and ride off into the sunset in. No sir, we paid off old stupid debts, cut up cards, and raised our credit score!! Notre Dame and Brian Kelly literally cut their losses, went full-on overhaul, and brought in a veritable wrecking ball of “straight up gains” across the board within their coaching staff.
Even the offense provides something to believe in. What should have been the glorious hope and elation about the upcoming seasons when Mike Sanford was hired actually feels real this time, just with Chip Long. For the first time in his tenure, Kelly has openly surrendered play calling duties on offense, and Long now has real, actual control over the offensive play calling this upcoming season. Thus far (and I know its spring ball) the signs and the tea leaves point to the idea that expecting a noticeable improvement is within the bounds of reality, and boy am I all aboard on this hype train. Add in the X-factor of Brandon Wimbush and his seemingly endless potential, and I might need a moment here to change my pants.
This is the first time since I’ve really been this closely connected to the program (since Brian Kelly’s hire) that I have looked up and down the depth chart (the D-Line depth gives me the shakes, I won’t even play) and across the coaching staff (TOM F***ING REES YOU GUYS) and have found myself feeling genuine, unadulterated hope and excitement about the upcoming season. I actually believe that anything could happen, because for once I genuinely feel like I don’t know what is coming and somehow still feel good about that feeling. It would be totally rational for me to have every reason on Earth to be hesitant about this team, about Brian Kelly, and about the effectiveness of all the new implementation during the season to come. It is completely understandable if you feel that way. I, for one, am overcome with genuine hope…
…and Rebellions are built on…sorry I just watched that movie for like the 10th time.
Spring ball is just around the corner, so chances are we won’t be getting any solid answers any time soon, but should the team come out on opening day looking like straight up butt, I will gladly eat my words and welcome any reminders of my claims made here in this post. COME AT ME BRO (in about 4-5 months).
Anyway, please feel free to tell me why I am just a big ‘ol idiot. Or why you might agree. Or why you got this far down the page and thought there might be a video or something, whatever you want! Hit us up/school our asses in the comments!