Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is upset.
His understanding was that there is a difference between the etiquette used at dinner parties and the etiquette used on the gridiron. Apparently his players were not informed.
Kelly took several moments during Saturday's 31-13 Irish victory over Boston College to remind some of his players that their food throwing, cleaver wielding, and china smashing was not to his liking. The camera found Kelly's burner running hot as he offered his not-so-veiled criticisms following a play not to his liking.
The previous week's loss to Stanford also captured similar boiling-over moments leading to questions of whether this kind of public call-out is necessary, much less constructive.
The short answer: Let 'em have it, coach.
Kelly is in the midst of exorcising a dangerous specter that has taken root deep in Notre Dame's football psyche, the notion that mistakes are okay. The players need to know that at the very highest levels of college football, the levels at which they and their coach aspire to play, mistakes are the difference between winning and losing.
Until the mindset of acceptance is purged, Kelly needs to use every technique in the book to drive that point home.
Notre Dame was fortunate that the Eagles offense couldn't get out of its own way on Saturday. The three-drive stretch in which the Irish surrendered a long touchdown pass, lost a fumble, and then lost a fumble again could have been disastrous. Mistakes like those are likely to be crop up again in bigger games and be much more costly.
In a Sunday teleconference, Kelly told UND.com, "In every situation when I am talking to a player, I am clearly articulating why I'm talking to him about a particular situation, and demanding that intensity and that mental and physical toughness that our team has quite frankly lacked. That's what we're building."
At its core, Kelly's yelling is about accountability.
Each player must be responsible for his own perfection, to demonstrate physical and mental discipline. Yes, all players make mistakes, but mistakes have consequences. Just ask the last three Irish head coaches. One blown assignment, one trip over the feet are the tiny details that comprise narrow margin between victory and defeat.
Kelly does need to be careful that his yelling doesn't become the a story with a life of its own. Good feedback must be given quickly after the mistake, but the cameras are hungry for shots of an irate coach.
If the press begin to plant that seed of Kelly as an overbearing coach in their questions, it could easily become a distraction for both players and coach alike.
It also remains to be seen whether his yelling is effective. The Irish continue to be plagued by the same mistakes that hurt them in earlier games, most notably in the turnover department. If those problems continue through the end of this season and into the next, Kelly risks the reputation of becoming a Weis-ian blowhard who is all bark and no bite.
For now, he should be given the chance to stretch his vocal chords and rattle some cages on the team. After sleepwalking through the last several seasons, the Notre Dame football team could use an ear-splitting jolt.
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