Brian Kelly deserves plenty of praise for the job he has done at Notre Dame, even though the Fighting Irish fell short in the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama by a final score of 42-14. Now that the season is over, questions will begin to arise about his future.
In the three years prior to Kelly's arrival in South Bend, the Irish won 16 games. In the three years since his hiring, the prominent program has tallied 28 wins and a trip to the biggest game of them all. That's a major turnaround in a short time period.
The 51-year-old coach was able to get recruits to buy into Notre Dame again. Having a prestigious program with a long, successful history certainly helped, but Kelly has taken the Irish back to an elite level on the recruiting trail.
More importantly, he was able to turn those talented prospects into productive players. In many respects, getting the recruits to show up on campus is the easy part. Turning them into one cohesive unit capable of challenging for a national title is difficult.
Kelly pulled it off in less than one full four-year cycle. While that has earned him the respect of Notre Dame fans, it has also caught the eye of teams at the next level.
Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports reported prior to the title game that NFL teams were starting to consider Kelly as an option with a handful of coaching jobs open.
On the surface, there's no reason for Kelly to leave Notre Dame. He said as much during the lead-up to the big game, according to ESPN.
The program is in great shape, he's spent his entire coaching career at the collegiate level and he is coming off a terrific campaign, despite the Irish falling short in the end.
He isn't going to find an NFL job with the same type of stable, promising outlook. Plus, if he were to make the jump there would be an incredible amount of pressure on his shoulders because expectations would immediately rise.
That said, the opposite argument would be that his coaching stock will never be higher. If Kelly has a desire to coach in the NFL, now might be his best chance to take the chance and go for it, if teams do indeed come calling.
Ultimately, it still seems like staying at Notre Dame is Kelly's best option. The progress made over the past three seasons has earned him some leeway with Irish fans. That wouldn't be the case if he decided to accept an NFL job.
He would have liked for this season to end differently, but the future is still bright in South Bend.
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