Having unexpectedly led undefeated Notre Dame back to prominence as the No. 1-ranked team in the country, Irish coach Brian Kelly said during Saturday’s media day interviews that speculation about his interest in NFL jobs is just that. Kelly described Monday night’s BCS National Championship game against Alabama as “the biggest game I’ve ever been involved in” and said his focus is “100 percent” on the task at hand.
While some college coaches, such as Oregon’s Chip Kelly, Syracuse’s Doug Marrone (reportedly hired by Buffalo) and Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, have been identified as potential NFL targets, there has been no confirmation of NFL teams contacting Kelly’s representatives. “If that did occur, then all that stuff is secondary to this football game,” Kelly said. “That happens when you’re winning football games. I’ve been through this a lot in my career.
“It’s flattering if there is interest, which I don’t know if there is, but that is such a secondary topic for me right now. It’s all about this game.”
Asked if he’s ever harbored a desire to coach in the NFL, Kelly said, “No, and I think when I took the job at Notre Dame, I think I said it was a dream job. From my perspective, I’ve got the best job in the country, NFL, college, high school, whatever. I just look at the place that I’m thankful for and the opportunity that I have.”
The pressure to win big has gone wanting at Notre Dame since 1988, when the Irish won their last national championship under coach Lou Holtz. Kelly has succeeded where predecessors Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis failed. Now Kelly has the chance to join the list of Irish coaches who have won national titles, including Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Holtz.
“What we’ve tried to do is take that pressure of unfulfilled expectations to one of: ‘Let’s be who we are,’” Kelly said. “As we get into Monday night, we’re going to play the game the way we’ve played it all year. We’re going to play fast, and we’re going to play aggressive because we don’t carry all those perceived burdens.
“They’re 18- to 21-year-olds. They have no idea what that history means. We do, our fan base certainly does. But what I’ve tried hard to do is let our kids go play the game and not let all of this outside perceived pressure for the entire Notre Dame nation weigh heavily on them.”