Brian Kelly is now one of the faces of college football. He has guided the Notre Dame Football program back to the promised land in just three short years. He has mounted a 28-10 record with the program and has the Irish staring at a possible 12th national title.
Kelly has been successful throughout his career, putting together a 198-66-2 record as a head coach. He has been at three different programs, leading each to new heights. With that being said, where does Kelly stack up against Mark Richt and Nick Saban?
In January Kelly will get his chance to show that he can be the better coach when his Irish squad will take on the winner of the SEC Championship game. Before that, history tells the story of comparable excellence.
Both Richt and Saban have become the de facto “Godfathers” of the SEC. They hold the longest and most impressive tenures in the league.
The SEC is the undisputed leader in college football. To be considered an elite coach of that conference says a lot about these two men.
Nick Saban is far and away the best coach in this discussion.
Saban has never had a losing season as a head man, and he has won three national titles in his career with two different schools.
This season, he has a shot at guiding Alabama to a fourth career national championship.
Saban’s all-time coaching record is 157-55-1, and 66-13 at Alabama. Take Saban and put him on the highest podium. He is the elite of the coaching world.
Next in line behind Saban in the coaching lineup would no doubt be Kelly and Richt.
Richt has been a head coach since 2001, when he took over the Georgia Bulldogs program after a mediocre tenure by Jim Donnan. Since taking the job, Richt has gone 117-39. He has never won a national title, but his Bulldogs did win the SEC twice in the past decade.
What separates Richt and Kelly, obviously, is accolades.
Kelly was able to snag two Division II national titles in his final two seasons with Grand Valley State in 2002 and 2003. His team was in the title game in 2001 as well.
Who is the best coach of these three?
Since jumping to FBS, Kelly has produced three conference titles at two different schools.
While those marks have been impressive, Kelly’s conference titles came in the MAC and Big East—two mid-major conferences. Richt has only spent time in the SEC.
While Nick Saban may be on another level, Richt and Kelly are standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the next line of head ball coaches.
If Kelly is able to pull a national title out of this magical Fighting Irish season, he will sail past Richt on the list of top-level coaches.
As it stands, all three of these guys are elite, but Kelly needs to win a few titles in FBS before he takes over as the best in the game.