Report quashes rumors about Buccaneers' interest in pursuing Notre Dame's Brian Kelly

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Brian Kelly’s out-of-nowhere, mutual flirtation with the Philadelphia Eagles in January of 2013 remains the reason why it’s hard to immediately scoff at even the softest NFL rumors involving the Notre Dame head football coach.

This time, the team rumored to be interested in Kelly, took care of that business within hours of the initial report.

Tampa Bay Times reporter Rick Stroud, citing Tampa Bay Buccaneers team sources, reported the 57-year-old is not a candidate for its head coaching opening.

For the record, Kelly’s youngest son, Kenzel, chimed in on Twitter with laughing-with-tears emojis at the initial report filed by David Haugh, co-host of the Mully & Haugh radio show on 670, The Score, in Chicago.

— Kenzel Kelly (@Kenzel_kelly) January 2, 2019

Tampa Bay fired head coach Dirk Koetter on Monday following a 5-11 record in 2018 and a three-year mark of 19-29.

Haugh’s report called Kelly a “coach of interest” by the Bucs, but added it was unclear if Kelly had any interest in pursuing the job.

Stroud’s report makes the latter irrelevant.

He wrote that Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht would conduct the interview process to find Koetter’s successor and utilize a search firm, Korn-Ferry, for background checks. Licht, per Stroud, said the search firm would not be deciding which coach to hire.

Licht was reported to be in Kansas City on Wednesday to interview Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

While the initial report suggested Bucs ownership may be willing to go as high as $10 million per year in salary for the team’s next head coach, Stroud reported it would be unlikely that would have been a figure thrown Kelly’s way.

Kelly completed his ninth season at Notre Dame on Saturday with his No. 3 Irish falling to No. 2 Clemson, 30-3, in the Cotton Bowl/College Football Playoff semifinal at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

He is under contract through the 2021 season, and if he does indeed coach that season, he’ll be the first Irish head football coach ever to head the program at 60 years old. As it stands, he’s the second-oldest coach ever at ND.

On the field, Kelly is 81-35 heading into season 10. That does not include 21 wins and a loss vacated due to NCAA sanctions.

Kelly criticized himself for the way he handled the Eagles situation, just days after Notre Dame lost to Alabama, 42-14, in the BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 7, 2013.

In an interview with the South Bend Tribune in March of 2013, Kelly said if an NFL team pursued him down the road, there would be no period of limbo as there was with the Eagles.

"There can't be a courtship,” he said. “There is no courtship. I either go and take an NFL job or I coach at Notre Dame forever. This time, I did listen, because it was more I wanted to learn a little bit more about the NFL because I never had that opportunity.

"But if I get into that situation again and (don't hang up) on an NFL team when they call, I'd better take the job. That's how I see it. And I have no interest in doing that. But there won't be a situation where, 'Hey, coach Kelly's talking to the 49ers.' They should fire me here if that happens."

The Irish open the 2019 season Sept. 2 at Louisville.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly answers questions during the Cotton Bowl media day Dec. 27 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.