With the way Notre Dame has turned things around this season and put itself in the national title conversation, the perception of head coach Brian Kelly has quickly changed.
You aren't hearing "Fire coach Kelly" chants anymore. Nobody is picking on him for turning green on the sidelines. And the college football world seems to have accepted him as a respectable head coach.
After all, he has done a tremendous job of coaching this year’s team and is accomplishing things that nobody expected from the Irish in 2012.
But is Coach Kelly a top-five coach in the country right now?
The answer is no, but he certainly has the ability to change that answer as early as next season.
Coaches like Nick Saban, Les Miles, Chip Kelly, Urban Meyer and Chris Petersen all have more success than Kelly at the moment, and they have had consistent success over a longer period of time. That also doesn't even include Frank Beamer or Bob Stoops, guys who turn their teams into a contender each and every season.
Looking at Coach Kelly's track record, he usually needs a little bit of time to get his program off of the ground. Other than the immediate progress at Cincinnati, which included an experienced quarterback and subpar schedule, it has taken Kelly a year or two to get the ball rolling.
When coaching Central Michigan, Kelly's team finished his first year with only four victories. In year three, the Chippewas improved to nine victories and Kelly took the team to its first bowl game in 12 years. The win total skyrocketed at Cincinnati, as it started with 10 victories in year one and then turned into an undefeated season in Kelly's third year.
Notre Dame wasn't exactly thrilled after two consecutive 8-5 starts and having to settle for crappy bowl games like the Champ Sports Bowl. But then, that year three came around and the Irish are now back on top, hoping to celebrate a national championship berth at the end of the year.
Nevertheless, even with this year’s accomplishments, Coach Kelly has never won a national championship. He also hasn't had the chance to build a resume like the other guys, as he usually leaves a program after three years.
However, there is no leaving South Bend anytime soon, especially with him recently receiving a contract extension that is good until 2016.
Kelly is here to stay. And if his fourth and fifth years are anything like his third seasons have been, Notre Dame is in great hands and will no longer be so surprised by contending for national titles.
With the head coach finally having his quarterback in Everett Golson, the success may only continue from here. It also helps having a recruiting class that is currently ranked second in the country, according to Scout.
But even with all of the happiness this year and the terrific job of juggling quarterbacks, Kelly still has a ways to go.
I think everybody can agree that Saban is the best in college football. He has won three national championships, currently has his team in the Top Five of the BCS rankings and it seems like every player he coaches ends up in the NFL.
Meyer recruits out of his mind every single year and has never had a losing record in his coaching career. He has also won two national championships and is leading his new Ohio State Buckeyes to an undefeated season.
Miles may be as goofy as they come, but he has won 80 percent of his games with LSU, he's won a national championship and he has also won two SEC titles.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly went from being an offensive coordinator for an FCS school (New Hampshire) to running one of the most explosive offenses the sport has ever seen at Oregon. He has turned the Ducks into a national powerhouse, and the overwhelming success with the program may soon earn him a gig at the next level.
Petersen at Boise State or Bill Snyder at Kansas State are also worth mentioning—guys who don't get the top recruits, but get the most out of what they have.
Kelly has had success at the smaller levels, but he will have to develop some type of consistency to be thrown into the conversation with the big boys. He isn't quite there yet, but as early as next season, we can start throwing his name in the argument if the success continues.
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