Depending on whom you read or talk to, Brian Kelly may want out of Notre Dame. The Irish job is a lucrative but taxing one, along the lines of Texas or Alabama, except you can’t get nearly as many kids into Notre Dame. Even though Kelly’s the most successful coach the program has had since Lou Holtz left 20 years ago, by many accounts, Kelly is fed up.
Kelly has pondered leaving the Irish at least twice. Days after Kelly led the Irish to the National title game in 2013, he interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles. Ultimately, they hired Chip Kelly. According to Dan Wolken, Kelly spoke with USC last year before the school eventually settled on Clay Helton. Weeks later … Notre Dame gave Brian Kelly a 6-year extension.
At 55 years old, Kelly surely knows his window of getting to the NFL is shrinking. There are only five coaches over the age of 60 in the NFL, and four of them have been to a Super Bowl (Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, John Fox and Jim Caldwell; the other is Bruce Arians).
As luck would have it, there could be a few NFL openings in December or January:
New York Jets: The Irish are huge in New York. Brian Kelly would be a splashy hire, an offensive-minded guy for a franchise that seems to always hire defensive-minded guys. If you’re wondering about booting Todd Bowles already, come on: I’m all for continuity, but the Jets are about to start a massive rebuild. Complete teardown. They’re going to gut the place. Kelly probably wouldn’t want anything to do with that.
Buffalo Bills: The Bills have exceeded expectations this year, so Rex Ryan probably won’t get fired. But we’re talking about a franchise that hasn’t gotten to the playoffs since the 1999 season. Ryan’s got to deliver in December.
Chicago Bears: John Fox is only in his second season, but has anything he’s done felt inspiring? The Bears really need to make a name hire, because right now, the Cubs own the city, the Blackhawks are up there, and the Bulls (thanks to a hot start,; they’ve cooled a bit since) too. The Bears are totally irrelevant. Who is the face of the franchise? It can’t be Jay Cutler, who almost certainty won’t be back.
Cleveland Browns: Everyone says Hue Jackson is safe. But my goodness, they’re winless and remember, this is a franchise that didn’t like Wentz or Goff, passed multiple times on Dak Prescott (I know, everyone did) but ended up with Cody Kessler. Oh, and they cut Taylor Gabriel of the Falcons, who has been tearing it up.
Indianapolis Colts: Please miss the playoffs. Please miss the playoffs. I know Chuck Pagano got an extension, but not making the playoffs this year has to do it for him (and Grigson) right?
LA Rams: Jeff Fisher can’t possibly get an extension, no matter what happens the rest of the way. Let’s be honest, the schedule is brutal, and they’d be lucky to get to 7-9. Even though, how do you keep Fisher at 7-9? Jared Goff would be thrilled for an offensive guy.
But the job that makes the most sense to me? The Cincinnati Bengals.
Surely Bengals brass watched Brian Kelly at The University of Cincinnati less than a decade ago have two very good years before going to Notre Dame and taking the Irish to the title game with a redshirt freshman QB. Kelly’s had his share of off-the-field problems at Notre Dame, and they’ve been a disaster this year, losing four of eight games by a field goal or less. (It should be noted: Kelly had seven players drafted in the 1st round of the draft).
The Bengals offense has had bright offensive minds in Jay Gruden and Hue Jackson, and both moved on. Want that offense – which has struggled this year – to get back to Top 10 levels?
Make a run at Brian Kelly.