Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Kelly's 5th Year Looking Very Similar To Weis's

I remember Charlie Weis's last season like it was yesterday. Here is the guy who came in and did a lot of great things early. He totally transformed the direction of Brady Quinn's Notre Dame career. He also found a diamond in the rough in Jeff Samardzija. That was good enough to lead the Irish to BCS Bowls in his first two seasons, only to get beaten soundly in both of them. After that the trouble began for Weis. He now had to coach the players he recruited. Jimmy Clausen was the new quarterback and their first year together was a struggle. They won just 3 games that year. The next season was a little better and ended in a Hawaii Bowl triumph.

The momentum from that win carried over to the next season. Early on the Irish looked great. They were sitting at 6-2 and looked primed for another BCS run. Then in came Navy and shocked the Irish. That loss stung and Notre Dame ended with a 4 game slide. Notre Dame elected not to go to a bowl game that season although they were eligible and Weis was gone.

Brian Kelly was hired about a week later. Now here we are 5 years later and just like in his predecessors 5th year, the team is sliding late in the season. It is amazing that this team was once at 7-1 and looked primed for a spot in the first playoff. But once again, a tough game with Navy has resulted in a losing streak. Although Notre Dame did defeat the Midshipmen this time, the game took a lot out of the defense and a 3 game losing streak has followed.

These two teams have a couple of similarities. That is an offense that can score against anybody and a defense that can't stop a junior college team.

Looking at the 5 year stretches for both coaches, you have to wonder if the team is better under Kelly than it was under Weis. Weis actually led Notre Dame to more BCS Bowls than Kelly did. Although Kelly didn't lead them to a BCS Bowl but to THE BCS Title game. But neither coach fared very well in those games. Both coaches had many key contributors on those BCS teams who were recruited by his predecessor.
Special teams were never really good under Weis and may have even regressed under Kelly. Based on those factors, it doesn't look on paper like the team is better under Kelly than it was under Weis.

But even with all that, Kelly will probably survive the late season slide even if they lose to USC and the Bowl game. One reason why is because there really isn't a proven winner who will be available. But the main reason is that Kelly has a better win-loss record than Weis had. In five years, Kelly is so far 44-19 while Weis was 35-27.

That record combined with the fact that Notre Dame has a really young team will be what saves Kelly and gets him his 6th year. I can see how that is fair, but next season is the season that will define Kelly. If he manages only another 7-8 win season, the school has a decision to make. But there is one thing that I do have to question. I keep hearing all the talk about how many freshman are playing. Why is that happening in year 5? That is an excuse for the 1st or even the 2nd year. You would think that in year 5 he would have had enough of his own recruits who are upperclassmen.

Just something to think about.

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