Where Would Notre Dame Turn if Brian Kelly Bolts for the NFL after 2013?

Amy DaughtersFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2013

Apr 20, 2013; Notre Dame, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly waits to lead his team onto the field for the Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

What if what Brian Kelly called his “dream job” in 2009 was in reality just a stepping-stone to the NFL?

Yes, what if Kelly’s discussions with the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2013 BCS title game were more than just a knee-jerk reaction to Notre Dame’s devastating loss to Alabama?

Suddenly one of the peachiest jobs in college football would be open.

So, who is on Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick’s short list if contract negotiations with Kelly in 2013 morph into a search to replace him in 2014?

Here’s a look at who Swarbrick might have in mind if the guy who was billed as the great reviver of the Notre Dame football program suddenly flies the golden-domed coup.

Urban Meyer

Another top coach who has been vocal about his desire for the Notre Dame job, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer claimed South Bend was his version of a football-fantasy island in 2008.

What makes Meyer’s sincerity questionable is that he already thwarted Notre Dame’s advances at least once, back in 2004 when he opted for the Florida job rather than the “dream” one in South Bend.

All that said, if Meyer could roam from the friendly shores of Gainesville, there is no reason—Ohio boy or not—that he wouldn’t leave Columbus in the dust.

Yes, what if the Big Ten isn’t a big enough stage, what if his medical problems become an issue again and what if the call of Notre Dame just proves too tempting as his career progresses?

Though there are plenty of questions, it seems sure that Notre Dame would welcome Meyer with open arms if he was available.

Bill O’Brien

The big question surrounding Bill O’Brien is how long he will stay at Penn State.

Will he stay long enough to see the program through the penalties imposed by the NCAA for infractions before his arrival, or will he bolt to a place where wins can mean something now?

Even though the Penn State job is still one of the top destinations in the country, for now it’s tainted with scandal and limitations.

Combine this with Notre Dame being an even more desirable old-guard program, and you could see O’Brien making a change.

Though O’Brien has never been on staff at Notre Dame, he was slated to be George O’Leary’s offensive coordinator when O’Leary got the head job in 2001. This connection was short-lived, as O’Leary’s tenure with the Irish was over before it began due to allegations of misrepresentations on his resume.

You have to wonder if that situation would have played out differently if O’Leary had become the head guy at Notre Dame.

Tom Clements

Tom Clements is the offensive coordinator at Green Bay, and it just so happens that he played quarterback for the Irish from 1972 to 1974.

As a collegian, Clements was a leader of the 1973 national championship team and finished fourth in the 1974 Heisman voting behind winner Archie Griffin (Ohio State), Anthony Davis (tailback from USC) and Joe Washington (halfback from Oklahoma).

Other than spending 1992 to 1995 as a quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame, Clements' coaching experience has all come in the NFL ranks.

Clements joined the Packers' staff as the quarterbacks coach in 2006 and was promoted to the offensive coordinator role in February of 2012.

Clements has loads of pedigree from a coaching standpoint, and though he definitely wouldn’t be seen as a blockbuster, high-profile hire, he could be an interesting “under the radar” option for the Irish.

Skip Holtz

Though hiring Lou Holtz’s boy as the head coach at Notre Dame sounds almost ludicrous, Holtz the Younger has way more on his resume than just being “Daddy’s Boy.”

Skip Holtz played wide receiver at Notre Dame in 1986 and from there went directly to Florida State as a graduate assistant under Bobby Bowden from 1987 to 1988.

Holtz coached wide receivers at Notre Dame from 1990 to 1991 and was promoted to offensive coordinator from 1992 to 1993, all under his father.

These weren’t lean years, either. The Irish went 21-2-1 while the younger Holtz ran the offense.

This led to his first head job at UConn, where Holtz led the Huskies to their first nine-plus win season in program history with a 10-3 finish in 1998.

Holtz was the head man at East Carolina from 2005 to 2008 and led a Pirate program that had won three games from 2003 to 2004 to nine-win seasons in 2008 and 2009.

Holtz’s next move, to fledgling South Florida, produced only a 16-21 record and led to his current role at Louisiana Tech, where he took over for Sonny Dykes in 2013.

What needs to be said about Holtz is that he’s managed to win at a string of difficult coaching stops with nowhere near the talent and resources he’d have at Notre Dame.

That’s the truth, even if he is his father's son.

Jim Tressel

The first major flaw in claiming that former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel could be the next head guy at Notre Dame is his “show-cause” penalty.

This roadblock, issued back in 2011, means that Tressel wouldn’t be free to coach again until December of 2016.

But, if anyone could get the NCAA to reduce Tressel’s sentence, or loophole it, it could be a Notre Dame program in dire need of a solid coach.

And though a lengthy discussion about Tressel’s part in the Ohio State sanctions could take place, it’s difficult to argue that the “Vest” isn’t one of the best coaches in the last couple of decades.

Tressel led the Buckeyes to a 229-79-2 record from 2001 to 2010. This included seven Big Ten titles, the 2002 BCS championship and seven BCS appearances.

Before that, Tressel led FCS Youngstown State to four national titles.

Tressel may be the best coach sitting out of the game, and his conservative, Midwest approach would fit well with Notre Dame.

So would a boatload of wins and titles.


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