Life of Brian: Kelly aims to get Notre Dame back on track

Perhaps you’ve heard this anecdote before. . .

Gould Headshot square

A new baseball manager is hired. He opens his desk drawer and finds a set of envelopes left behind by his predecessor.

The top one says: ``Open during first losing streak.’’

So he opens it during his first losing streak and it says, ``Blame me.’’

When the team struggles again, the new manager pulls out the envelope that says, ``Open during second losing streak.’’

It says: ``Blame the players.’’

When his team goes in the tank again, he reaches for the envelope marked, ``Open during third losing streak.’’[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

It says: ``Prepare three envelopes.’’

I thought of this when Brian Kelly issued all of those pre-season mea culpas, which were conveniently laced with it wasn’t all my fault.

The difference here is, it almost feels like Kelly is preparing his own envelopes.

In the most infamous quote, Kelly told the Bleacher Report’s Matt Hayes that he spent too much time fund-raising and not enough time coaching. And ``It F---ed up last year’s team.’’

I was thinking, If you removed one little t from the first word of that quote, it all would have made so much more sense.

Nevertheless, while the fund-raising/distraction gambit is a reasonable but self-serving analysis, it’s also a safety valve that drags his boss, athletic director Jack Swarbrick, into the mud of a 4-8 season.

``I was the absent professor,’’ Kelly said. ``I wasn’t paying attention to the details that we needed.’’

There’s no doubt in my mind that Kelly has rolled up his sleeves intent on coaching up a big turnaround this fall. He already has overhauled his coaching staff and, most importantly, handed down some iron-fisted media-coverage rules.

It could work. ND always has talent. With the right off-season of simmering workouts, there’s no reason the Irish can’t return to the double-digit wins that that their fans believe is their birthright.

And yet, this seems to be such an uneasy marriage between Kelly and Notre Dame.

You would think that Kelly, heading into his eighth season, would accept that as ND coach, he’s always going to be under an unblinking spotlight. That’s part of the deal under the Golden Dome.

But it hasn’t happened.

Remember the whiny rebuttal when the NCAA announced last November that ND must vacate its 21 wins in 2012 and 2013 because of academic misconduct?

That came during a very uncomfortable autumn in which Kelly’s curious post-game and mid-week comments only seemed to make the mounting losses worse.

Losing, of course, is never easy to swallow.

I just wonder how Kelly and his Irish will react to all of this.

This is not a team that begins the season 0-0. It’s carrying a lot of 4-8 baggage.

And I wonder if Kelly, for all of his competitive fire, is growing weary of all the extra-curriculars that come with the territory for the Notre Dame football coach.

I know ND loyalists who are beyond weary of Kelly.

The wild card, of course, is the six-year contract extension that Kelly signed in January, 2016. That leaves five more years, if you’re keeping score at home. And raises the question of: What’s the deal with Notre Dame handing out contract extensions like Halloween candy?

If it seems like the Irish just finished paying off Charlie Weis, that’s because. . . they did.

Maybe Kelly will coach ’em up. Maybe his talented roster has acquired a tougher hide due to the anguish of 2016.

As I look at the ND schedule, I can see myriad scenarios. Georgia and USC loom most ominously. Miami and Stanford are perilous trips. And pesky upset-minded schools are always a risk for ND.

But there are no Alabamas or Ohio States on the Irish schedule. (Yes, I still want to see USC labor under the burden of expectations.)

In other words, we really don’t know what to expect from Kelly and the Irish. Chances are, it’ll be something in between greatness and disaster.

But we really don’t know.

While Kelly’s contract extension mitigates against a change, the Irish have gone there before. Often, actually.

And so, it’s probably not a bad idea to keep those envelopes prepared. [/membership]