Eric Hansen didn’t mince words Wednesday when he learned that Notre Dame assistant head coach Mike Denbrock was considering accepting the offensive coordinator position at Cincinnati.
“If Brian Kelly lets Mike Denbrock slip through his hands, it’s going to be a huge, huge mistake,” the football insider for the South Bend Tribune told Weekday Sportsbeat 96.1 FM / 960 AM listeners.
Hansen said Denbrock would not be given an opportunity to call plays for the Irish offense in 2017 and said the assistant’s hand would be “forced” if Kelly did not “rethink” his position.
It appears the head coach did not relent, as Denbrock reportedly accepted the Bearcats’ offer Thursday.
Hansen surmised that the most immediate impact of Denbrock’s departure may be in recruiting.
“I don’t think Jordan Pouncey will be the last decommit if Mike Denbrock ends up walking out the door,” the sportswriter said. “You’re also trying to recruit Jamire Calvin, Oliver Martin. There’s recent offers to Gavin Holmes and Michael Smith. I don’t know if Notre Dame gets any of those guys if Denbrock isn’t around. I just think Brian Kelly started this offseason with some really, really needed and good changes. And I think this would be a really bad change.”
Hansen said Denbrock’s “measured” demeanor was a good counterbalance to Kelly’s “intense” persona and suggested fans may not have given Denbrock sufficient credit for the offensive numbers posted in 2015 and 2016.
COMMENTS FROM INSIDER
Here are Hansen’s Wednesday comments, which you can listen to here:
“If Brian Kelly lets Mike Denbrock slip through his hands, it’s going to be a huge, huge mistake. There are a lot of things wrong with this 4-8 team. In the small picture, you could try to make a case that the offense was one of those things. And certainly, there’s room for improvement there.
“But under Mike Denbrock’s leadership, Notre Dame had its – by far – best numbers in the Brian Kelly era last year with a first year quarterback who was pressed into emergency duty, a lot of injured players – and some pretty good players that went on to the NFL. In a rebuilding year, they still were a pretty high scoring team. And again, everybody goes back to that hurricane game when they want to dislodge what the defense did in the second eight games of the season. But if you’re going to do that, you need to take the hurricane game out for the offense. And the numbers jump significantly across the board in terms of what Notre Dame’s offense did in the other 11 games this season. Playing against seven top 36 defenses this year, last year they accomplished those very good numbers against nine top 43 defenses including three in the top 10 – No. 1, No. 9 and No. 10. They saw all three of those last year.
“Mike Denbrock is a glue guy. And usually a lot of times when you have glue guys, they are guys that are a little bit farther down the totem pole in terms of responsibility. But he’s a guy that’s very unassuming, very humble and willing to let others have the spotlight when things are going good and the credit. He is a guy that I think, personality wise, balances out Brian Kelly very well. On the sideline and in the meeting room, Brian Kelly’s intensity Mike Denbrock is a little more measured. Not that he can’t be a little more intense as well. He’s also one of Notre Dame’s best recruiters. And I don’t think Jordan Pouncey will be the last decommit if Mike Denbrock ends up walking out the door. You’re also trying to recruit Jamire Calvin, Oliver Martin. There’s recent offers to Gavin Holmes and Michael Smith. I don’t know if Notre Dame gets any of those guys if Denbrock isn’t around. I just think Brian Kelly started this offseason with some really, really needed and good changes. And I think this would be a really bad change.”
NOT A ‘LATERAL MOVE’
“Why would a guy that was calling plays and running the offense at Notre Dame leave for a Group of 5 offensive coordinator job? And the answer, without being too terribly cryptic is: His role would change. I can’t get into complete specifics about how his role would change at this point, but I think it’s safe to assume he would not be calling the plays.”
“Brian Kelly does not want his assistants to make lateral moves. If he’s not calling the plays, then an offensive coordinator job where he’s in charge of the offense and calling plays would not be looked upon as a lateral move in that sense. Because then you are a guy who’s certainly not as attractive on the job market. Look: Mike Denbrock has been a loyal assistant for a lot of coaches over the years. This is his second time at Notre Dame. He’s been here 10 years, seven years this tour of duty. And he’s 52 years old and he’d like to be a head coach some day. I think if he had a certain role at Notre Dame he would be happy fulfilling that. But if you have head coaching aspirations, which a lot of assistant coaches do, you’ve 52 years old. The clock is ticking. And you’re not calling plays. Then how marketable are you. You have to think about yourself and your family. The thing I know about Mike Denbrock is he loves Notre Dame. I don’t think he wants to leave. But if his hand is kind of forced, this may happen.”
NEW YEAR’S SIX BID IN JEOPARDY?
“It will be exponentially harder for Brian Kelly to get to a New Year’s Six bowl in 2017 without Mike Denbrock. Even if he brings in somebody that’s really big time, big name, then everybody’s got to learn a new offense completely. And you’re not going to get that probably get that great offensive mind and that great recruiter in one package, especially when you’re on a short leash with your administration in terms of wins and losses in 2017. I just don’t see that as a reality.”
“You’re throwing the baby out with the bath water. I think this would be a big, big mistake in Brian Kelly’s career. I don’t think he gets to 10 and 2 or better next year without Mike Denbrock on his staff. And I don’t think this recruiting class stays together. I think you have more defections.”