On the day Brian Kelly takes over in South Bend officially, let's open up the mailbag.
From Vince in Chicago: I saw you Tweet that you like the Brian Kelly hire for Notre Dame, but every time a new coach is hired somewhere isn't it usually cast as some kind of slam dunk hire? Why is this different?
That's a good point. As I've said a few times before, we're all prone these days to the overreaction about how great -- or awful -- something is in our instant, must-be-profound judgments. Maybe Kelly will get the Irish back into the top 10. Maybe not. No one can say for sure.
In terms of legitimate "slam dunk" hires, the only name ever associated with this job that would fit that description is Urban Meyer. His credentials for the job are ideal. That said, I like Kelly's profile. He's a proven college head coach -- he won big in D-II (Grand Valley State), did well at Central Michigan and then elevated what Mark Dantonio started at Cincinnati. He is just an impressive guy and I've heard a lot of glowing reviews from my ESPN colleagues who have dealt with him in a lot of pregame discussions. The fact that he can run a program and has shown the ability to develop talent is huge. Those were big mysteries as far as Charlie Weis was concerned since he'd never been a head coach. Plus, Kelly's been a college guy. He clearly understands the dynamics with 19- and 20-year-old student-athletes. Another big key.
It also helps that, by all accounts, this guy is incredibly media-savvy and has great people skills, which will help with boosters and the image of the program. Ultimately, it hurt Weis (who in fairness, never was exposed to the media in the NFL because most of the coaches he worked for, i.e. Bill Belichick, didn't allow access to assistants) that there were image issues in dealing with the media. That doesn't mean you have to be Mack Brown-level-friendly to be a success at a high-profile place, but if you're not winning, it really, really helps because it can diffuse some of the tension around a place.