In what has become a common theme in the last month, Brian Kelly broke off his affair with the NFL just before things started getting hot and heavy.
Notre Dame announced Saturday night that Kelly had spurned the Philadelphia Eagles' advances in favor of continuing to coach in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus. The Fighting Irish's head honcho joined Oregon's Chip Kelly and Penn State's Bill O'Brien in rebuffing the pros in the last few weeks. (Doug Marrone is a different story.)
Less than a week after the Domers played for the national championship, ND athletics director Jack Swarbrick sounded pretty pleased about Kelly's decision:
“I was always confident that Brian would continue to lead our football program, I am very happy to have that confirmed and share Brian's excitement about what lies ahead for our program.”
Privately, you have to wonder if Swarbrick is singing a different tune.
Coaches batting their eyelashes at other jobs is nothing new. In fact, the default response anymore when someone's name comes up in media reports for an open job is that it's a leverage play. This feels different.
Kelly met to interview with the Eagles not once, but twice. Moreover, he prolonged the drama past the end of the dead period for recruiting. While other coaches were making one of their final pushes to land the next crop of high school studs, Kelly was getting wined and dined by Jeffrey Lurie. Think it's just a coincidence that heralded linebacker recruit Alex Anzalone flipped his commitment from ND to Florida this week, just days before he was scheduled to enroll in South Bend?
Even though he'll get a raise for both himself and his coaching staff, nothing about how Kelly handled this felt like a casual flirtation or money grab. You can bet competitors will be hammering that point out on the recruiting trail. And as Dr. Saturday's Frank Schwab points out, ND Fan isn't the kind to accept being portrayed as a coach's stepping stone or personal ATM.
Kelly just led the Irish back to the national title game after decades of wandering the desert. He undoubtedly had plenty of goodwill built up with the ND brass. Next time the NFL comes calling, he shouldn't count on having any left.