How Brian Kelly and Notre Dame Distracted Attention from the QB Battle

Keith Arnold@@KeithArnoldNotre Dame Lead WriterFebruary 23, 2015

Nov 29, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson (5) watches from the bench in the fourth quarter against the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC won 49-14. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Usually just about every off-field headline to come out of Notre Dame is a huge cause for concern.  

But while the news hasn't stopped flowing from South Bend since signing day, it's actually been a great help to the health of the Irish football team. 

No, not because the reported changes on the coaching staff will make Notre Dame a better football team. (It's just too soon to tell.) But because the coaching carousel spinning its way through South Bend has kept the attention off quarterbacks Everett Golson and Malik Zaire. 

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 30:  Malik Zaire #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs with the ball on the game winning drive in the fourth quarter against the LSU Tigers in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at LP Field on December 30, 2014 in N
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The seemingly combustible quarterback battle reached dangerous levels in the days following the Music City Bowl victory. After Zaire played a leading role in the 31-28 victory over LSU, the rumor mill starting spinning—with Golson being lumped among the high-profile transfer candidates potentially looking for a new home. 

Nowhere did that rumor spread faster than among Notre Dame fans. As we've seen all too often over the past years, Irish fans were doing their best to create just another self-fulfilling prophecy, news spreading through the echo chamber that had Golson all but on his way out the door, assuring another chaotic offseason. 

But all of that has been forgotten, with fans glued to the comings and goings on the Irish coaching staff. And worries about replacing Matt LaFleur or Tony Alford are much easier to quell than a starting quarterback. After all, the love letters are already being drafted to Mike Sanford and Autry Denson. 

Nov 8, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson (5) talks with head coach Brian Kelly in the huddle against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Arizona State defeated Notre Dame 55-31. Mandatory Credit: Mar

No news from Notre Dame has been made official. So if Brian Kelly is responsible for the leisure pace of the announcements, then the Irish head coach is pulling a page from a political playbook that'd make even Francis Underwood proud. 

Spring football has also been delayed, now kicking off on March 18. That'll give Kelly time to coach his coaches, and the new faces on staff time to meet the players they'll be working with. 

That means starting from scratch in the quarterback room. With Sanford reportedly entering the picture, it adds another dimension to a quarterback battle already filled with intrigue. 

If you were placing bets on Golson or Zaire, all the changes in South Bend would take this off the board in Vegas. 

Dec 30, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Malik Zaire (8) celebrates with teammates after winning against the LSU Tigers in the Music City Bowl at LP Field. Notre Dame won 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA

How will Sanford's philosophies mesh with his new boss's? What does the success against LSU mean for the long-term future of the offense? Can Kelly talk both quarterbacks into believing in a two-quarterback system? 

There is still so much to watch and wonder about when it comes to the upcoming battle between Golson and Zaire. And beyond that, Golson still needs to earn his degree in May before he can even officially explore his options. 

All the discussion and noise surrounding the most important position on a football team is enough to distract even the most focused team. So while the slowest-moving confirmation of a coaching staff continues to crawl forward, it's a welcome diversion this time of year.  

And maybe that's exactly how Brian Kelly wants it.