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Decision made, now Kizer and Zaire must co-exist

Devin Studstill

Notre Dame NCAA college football quarterback Malik Zaire (9) passes during Notre Dame Football Media Day Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016, at LaBar Practice Field on the Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Ind. (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP)


Brian Kelly made the difficult decision. Now Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer need to figure out how to navigate it.

That’s the challenge for Notre Dame’s two quarterbacks, both certain they’re going to play against Texas, but uncertain how things will go from there. And if you were looking for an interesting second chapter after one of the more surprising media day revelations in recent memory, how two alpha dogs find a way to co-exist is certainly up there.

Sure, Brian Kelly has juggled quarterbacks before. But even his quarterbacks know it’s never been a duo quite like this.

“I believe that this situation is a little bit different than any one he’s ever been in, but I’m curious to see how he figures it out,” Kizer said on Wednesday. “But as long as I trust in what he’s doing and I execute what I’m doing when I’m out there and I’m keeping our team in mind when I’m out there, I think we’re going to be alright.”

That type of diplomacy wasn’t exactly hard to come by, though it was clear neither quarterback believed they deserved to share billing as the Irish’s leading man. Now when both were so sure they had won a job. Not when both have so much self confidence that they’re able to lead this team to its ultimate goal.

Through gritted teeth and emotion that’s always no farther than his sleeve, Zaire answered questions about his head coach’s latest big decision with a lens that clearly kept in full view his eventful last three-plus years.

“I know that if I’m anywhere else, I don’t think the decision should be that hard,” Zaire told CSN Chicago’s JJ Stankevitz. “But I think being at Notre Dame, nothing’s ever easy. That’s why I chose here.

“There’s a lot of opportunity still here for me, but at the end of the day, I’ve got to treat it like a pro. I’ve got to do what I still need to do and remember that it’s about winning games. That’s what I’ve always been about.”

Kelly clearly stepped out on a ledge when he went the unorthodox route of making the non-decision decision, picking two quarterbacks when conventional wisdom speaks so clearly against that. But while he has Mike Denbrock and Mike Sanford to lean on when it comes to game-planning and logistics, it’ll be the head coaches job to keep both quarterbacks fully invested.

“I’m sure they are disappointed,” Kelly said. “What’s in their best interest is that they are the starter. What’s in our best interest is that both of them help us win and help us beat Texas.

“That’s in the best interest of Notre Dame football, and I make decisions as the head football coach as to what is in the best interest of Notre Dame football.”

John Walters and I talk about all things Media Day in our latest podcast.