Friday at 4: A never-published, Notre Dame and Brian Kelly April Fool’s Day column
The cult-favorite sitcom “Community” had it right. The calendar should go directly from March 32 to April 2. Nothing good comes from April Fool’s Day, which is why a concept of a satire column was never published in these parts during Brian Kelly’s final years at Notre Dame.
But Kelly is in Baton Rouge now, and pointed criticism of his loudest naysayers should no longer lead to the same aggravation. To be clear, the satire was never published not out of avoidance of that aggravation. Rather, that aggravation would have overshadowed the intended point.
The column would have been simple. Two possibilities were pondered. Either …
“The sky is blue,” Brian Kelly said, or “The world is round,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said.
Obviously, the latter possibility could have angered some real-life lunatics, while the counterarguments of a green sky may have included some Notre Dame-related references, so that angle was more likely.
It long felt Kelly could have said the sky is blue and many Irish fans would have found ways to argue with him. Some may have argued the sky is actually white, but the nitrogen molecules emphasize the blue within the white light. Many others would have insisted Kelly was too full of himself to recognize the existence of clouds. Some Notre Dame diehards would have rambled about the blue-gray sky of Irish lore.
Anything to argue with the former Notre Dame coach, a task now even more popular thanks to his abrupt departure for LSU before the 2021 Irish season was even finished.
Arguing with Kelly did not stem from his success, or lack thereof, on the field, and it did not mesh with his demeanor his last few seasons in South Bend. Calling him disingenuous is easy in retrospect, but his press conference presence was one increasingly at ease during Notre Dame’s five straight years of double-digit wins. (Unless it pertained to injury updates. With those, Kelly’s persistent optimism was disingenuous in real-time, intentionally or not.)
For some, it was just stylish to disagree with him, even if he had called the sky blue.
The trend may have reached its peak when Kelly said he did not think former Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer was ready for the NFL leading into the 2017 draft after Kizer declared for the pros with two years of collegiate eligibility remaining. Overlooked by those appalled by Kelly’s honesty regarding Kizer was also his high praise of his two-year starter.
“For those that have the opportunity to draft him and give him an opportunity to grow and learn, I think he’s got the best skillset of the quarterbacks coming out,” Kelly said. “... The reality of it is he needs more football. He needs more time to grow in so many areas, not just on the field but off the field.”
As Kizer’s draft stock fell from a supposed top-pick contender (never exactly reality) to late first-rounder to mid-second-round pick, Notre Dame fans faulted Kelly’s public honesty. Many insisted that was the origin of Kizer’s drop, ignoring that NFL front offices have access to film. Brian Kelly had called the sky blue, and it was more in line with their life philosophies to argue it was green than to look up.
“That’s just another opportunity for me to acknowledge that yes, I do need to grow,” Kizer said. “Yes, when I am meeting with these coaches on the potential teams that I play on, I need to understand that I need to buy into their coaching to become successful, to fill in those gaps, to truly become a pro that I need to become.”
Currently, a free agent who spent the 2021 season largely unsigned, Kizer’s career clearly did not pan out as he hoped. There is no way to know if it would have gone differently if he had returned to South Bend in 2017. It would be logically inconsistent to now say Kelly was right in his critique.
The consistent logic is, Kelly was right when he said it. Kizer fell not because Kelly said it, but because Kelly was right when he said it. The sky is not blue because we say it is. We say the sky is blue because the sky is blue.
Sure, that is a five-year-old argument, but it is trotted out now because it was the one that first spurred the idea of the aforementioned satire column. Kelly’s first comments on Kizer came in late March of 2017. The timing fit.
But its point would not have gotten through irrational loud noises.
Why bring it up now?
One, because April 1 is foolish, pun intended. Two, because it is a lesson worth remembering. No one is always so wrong that they should be dismissed out of hand, and no one is always so right that they should be implicitly trusted sight unseen. For the Irish fanbase, that latter thought may be the one to remember these days.