Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly pushes back on criticisms of Bears tight end Cole Kmet

Brian Kelly pushes back on criticisms of Bears tight end Cole Kmet

Brian Kelly knows what a successful NFL tight end looks like before he makes it as a pro. At Cincinnati, Kelly coached Travis Kelce. At Notre Dame, he coached Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Eifert. 

And the guy the Bears just picked. 

“I've had a number of tight ends that are doing exceedingly well and have been All-Pros in the NFL,” Kelly said. “Cole Kmet will be in line with all those guys.”

RELATED: 10 Bears Things: Why one scout calls Cole Kmet 'The Natural'

Since Kelly arrived in South Bend in 2020, Kmet is the seventh Irish tight end to be drafted. Not all have been successes (Troy Niklas, a second-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals, flamed out of the NFL after four seasons), but Eifert and Rudolph have each made Pro Bowls in their careers. 

And Kelce, of course, is the among the best tight ends in the NFL and happens to have played for then-Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy a few years ago. Any line drawn between Kelce and Kmet feels incredibly tantalizing, right? 

Kelly’s answer about Kmet in relation to those guys came from a question about a searingly hot take delivered by ESPN’s Mike Tannenbaum on the network’s radio broadcast of the NFL Draft on Friday night. If you missed it, here’s what the ex-Jets GM said:

“I think this is a shockingly poor pick. They have eight million tight ends and they have so many other needs. This blows me away. This is the worst pick of the draft. Are you kidding me? They overpaid Jimmy Graham, they overdrafted Adam Shaheen. Of all the other things they need to do, why with their first pick are they adding a guy who can't run? This is mind-boggling me to me. What does this solve?”

Beyond the lazy, overplayed trope about the Bears having a zillion tight ends (it could not matter less in late April!), his comments about Kmet’s speed were interesting given that Kmet ran a 4.7-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. For a 6-foot-6, 262 pound guy, it's hard to see that as being anything but fast. I’m not sure how Tannenbaum arrived at “he can’t run” based on that and, you know, the film. 

But it did lead to an absolutely perfect response from Kelly, who’s spent decades honing his skill at giving dismissively sarcastic answers in press conferences.

“I guess Mike Tannenbaum knows more than all of the NFL teams that have evaluated him,” Kelly said. “I coached him. So I don't remember Mike being at any of our practices as he ran down the middle of the field. He's got plenty of speed. He'll be able to utilize it against safeties and nickel matchups. So speed will not be the issue with Cole Kmet. He'll be able to use that speed.” 

You might want to trust the guy who coached Kelce, Eifert and Rudolph on this one. Just saying. 

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: How much credit should Mike Glennon get?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How much credit should Mike Glennon get?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times) and KC Johnson (Chicago Tribune) join David Kaplan on the panel. The Bears hung with the Falcons in the season opener, so how much credit should Mike Glennon get for keeping it close? The Cubs get swept by the Brewers at home. Is Kap still relaxed?

Plus the guys react to Brian Kelly’s post-loss press conference, Baker Mayfield’s flag-planting and K.C. has the latest on the Dwyane Wade buyout-watch.

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below. 

Is Brian Kelly out at Notre Dame if new QB Brandon Wimbush’s rocket arm doesn’t deliver for Irish in 2017?

Is Brian Kelly out at Notre Dame if new QB Brandon Wimbush’s rocket arm doesn’t deliver for Irish in 2017?

A 4-8 season in 2016 has put Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly firmly on the hot seat as he heads into his eighth season with the Fighting Irish.

In response to a tumultuous season, Kelly made major changes to his staff this past offseason by hiring new coordinators on both sides of the ball.

Mike Elko, who previously led Wake Forest to an FBS Top-40 total defense ranking, was hired by Kelly to be Notre Dame's defensive coordinator, and Chip Long — former offensive coordinator at Memphis — will now be in charge of the Fighting Irish offense.

However, the biggest change and arguably the No. 1 factor in Kelly's long-term future in South Bend, will be the person under center in 2017.

Barring an unforeseen circumstance, junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush — a former Rivals four-star recruit — will lead Notre Dame out of the tunnel in Week 1 vs. Temple.

Wimbush has only thrown five passes during his time at Notre Dame, but showed what kind of talent he has with a 58-yard rushing touchdown as a freshman in 2015.

Wimbush was one of the focal points of a recent Rivals story regarding quarterbacks who will be facing pressure in 2017

Earlier this week, Rivals Recruiting Director Mike Farrell gave his scouting report on the Notre Dame quarterback.


I’m a big fan of Wimbush but that hasn’t always been the case. It’s not that I didn’t like him when I first scouted him before his high school career took off, but what I saw way back when was a kid who had a rocket arm and zero touch. But throughout his high school career he improved every time I saw him, showed much more than just a strong arm and flashed impressive poise for his age.

I’ve seen very limited action when it comes to Wimbush in college as he hasn’t played often and his spring game performance had ups and downs, but I believe in this kid’s ability. He can extend the play, has that great arm and just needs to get comfortable in the Notre Dame offense and make sure he doesn’t try to use that cannon to fit the ball into tight spots. I can see him having some growing pains this season, but as he gets more comfortable and learns to take what the defense gives him while keeping defenses off balance with his athletic ability, I think he’ll finish strong.

Will Wimbush's rocket arm be enough to save Kelly from the hot seat?

That's still to be determined.