Why Notre Dame Will Suffer from Brian Kelly Calling Plays

Sean FryeFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2014

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly looks on against Air Force in the fourth quarter of Notre Dame's 45-20 victory in an NCAA football game at the Air Force Academy, Colo., on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

With former offensive coordinator Chuck Martin gone to be the new head coach of Miami (Ohio), Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly announced last week, per Jerry Hinnen of CBS Sports, that he'll be calling the plays offensively for the Fighting Irish next season. 

“I want to be back involved,” Kelly told Bill King on his On Campus SiriusXM show, according to the South Bend Tribune's Eric Hansen. “I think it’s been for me — I don’t want to say frustrating — but we haven’t had the ideal situation for the quarterback ... I just feel like we have the right quarterback in place. I think that we’re at that point now where the offense is in a position where we’ve got the skill players that we can be much more aggressive offensively.”

Kelly called the plays for Notre Dame during its run to the national championship in 2012-13, so fans know what the team is capable of with its head coach calling the shots. 

But the fact of the matter is that Kelly doesn't have the talent on the defensive side of the ball he did two seasons ago to be able to focus so much on the offense. And that's bad news for Irish fans. 

Kelly already has enough on his plate next year. He'll have to reintegrate Everett Golson into the system, a quarterback who hasn't played a down of college football in a season. 

He's also not just the head coach, but the ambassador to one of the world's preeminent sports programs. Notre Dame football is a household name, so being the head honcho of that team is enough to handle as is. 

Also, it's not like Brian Kelly's offenses at Notre Dame have been ultra-successful with him calling the plays. The highest the Irish ranked in total offense with Kelly calling plays was 35th back in 2011-12. 

Notre Dame Total Offense Ranks with Brian Kelly Calling the Plays
YearTotal Offense Rank

Yes, Kelly called the plays for the Irish team that went 12-0 and appeared in the BCS National Championship. But that team had one of the best defenses in the country, headlined by Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te'o. 

There aren't any projected Heisman finalists on the Irish in the upcoming season. In fact, the Irish don't have many stars at all returning in 2014. The team's leading receiver, TJ Jones, is gone. Cam McDaniel, the team's leading rusher, racked up just over 700 yards last year. Defensively, the team loses Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III. 

Kelly's also putting a new emphasis on developing quarterbacks, an area the Irish have struggled in lately. 

“We want to make sure we’re developing our quarterbacks, because we have young kids,” Kelly said, per the South Bend Tribune's Hansen. 

So, this season, Kelly has to plug Golson back into the offensive system, replace a ton of defensive starters and get used to another new niche of assistant coaches with the departure of his offensive coordinator. 

He's also doubling down on his efforts to make sure his signal-callers perform at an elite level all in addition to handling the day-to-day pressures of being the head coach at one of the most affluent and visible programs in all of college football. 

That means play-calling may be a bit too much to handle for Kelly, which could spell trouble for Notre Dame's chances at another breakout year in 2014.