Lesar: What to make of the latest Brian Kelly rumor

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

Making the rounds on social media the past few days has been a five-paragraph click bait from Pro Football Weekly suggesting that Brian Kelly wants out of Notre Dame.

The “staff” report says, “according to our sources” the Irish head football coach’s representatives are “on speed dial with every team” in the NFL trying to find one that might have an interest in Kelly as its next coach.

“Not only are there no takers,” the report said, “there apparently is no one even interested in listening.”

There are several ways in which Irish fans can process such an ambiguous story.

• There’s the conspiracy theory. This has been a tough “dead period” for Notre Dame recruiting already, with a couple defections.

A nationally-circulated report based on anonymous sources implying that Kelly wants out can’t be good for the efforts to retain talent in a turbulent time for Kelly and his staff, which is in a great amount of flux. Why would a guy dreaming about somewhere else go through such a drastic overhaul of his staff?

But what sort of ax would Pro Football Weekly have to grind with Kelly or Notre Dame? Why would a publication like that just throw something out there? Did the publication contact every GM in the league, or was that just a flippant remark?

• Then there’s the school of thought that there might be something to it. This wasn’t the first time there have been whispers that Kelly wouldn’t mind exploring some greener pastures.

Still, in his own words, “You are what your record says you are.” Right now, Kelly is a 4-8 coach. Not many NFL fan bases are going to buy having their ownership bring in a 4-8 coach.

• Don’t forget the Southern Cal fiasco. Before the ink was dry on the words he spoke after the season-ending loss to the Trojans, that he would “absolutely” be back to coach the Irish next season, a couple national writers were sending out tweets saying his representatives were exploring other options – even though no reasonable options seemed to be available at the time.

Some time later, in the wee hours of the morning, Kelly had to issue a do-over of the statement he had just made.

If there’s anything to the old saying, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” well… But then again, he can't call a press conference every time something like this emerges.

• This seems to be more of an issue for athletic director Jack Swarbrick than anyone else.

It’s his job to cut through the smoke to find out for sure if he has a head football coach who is “all in.” If there’s any job in college football that needs that sort of commitment, it’s the head coach at Notre Dame – especially when he’s trying to resurrect the program from the ashes of a 4-8 disaster.

If Kelly really does have one eye on a different situation, it’s time to advise him to pack up and let Swarbrick find someone who wants to be there. There was a time being the head football coach at Notre Dame used to be a destination job.

Bringing the Notre Dame program back from the depths it stumbled into last season is not for the faint of heart. A complete focus on the recovery process must start at the top and trickle all the way down through the staff, players, and everyone else associated with it.

This isn’t a time for the boss to be second-guessing where he wants to be.

The program deserves it.

So do the fans.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly leads his team onto the field for the Notre Dame-Southern Cal NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, Calif. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN