Curiosity more than anything else led Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly to dip his toe in NFL waters earlier this month, he said Tuesday morning.
Irish coach Brian Kelly said his NFL interview was more about "intrigue than interest."
Kelly interviewed with Philadelphia Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie on Jan. 8, the day after his team lost to Alabama in the national championship game. He said their conversation satisfied his intrigue and left him more certain about his future at Notre Dame.
“I want to be a college football coach,” he said.
The Eagles first reached out to Notre Dame shortly after dropping former coach Andy Reid. Kelly said he and athletic director Jack Swarbrick agreed not to discuss a possible sit-down with any NFL teams until after the national title game. Keeping a potential interview from becoming a distraction during the lead up to the showdown with Alabama was not an issue, Kelly said.
Kelly decided to meet with Lurie more as a learning experience than as a potential job interview. After more than two decades coaching in college, he wanted to hear more about the day-to-day operations of a professional team and how they differ from what he does now.
“I just didn’t know anything about it really,” Kelly said. “Quite frankly, I wanted to answer those [questions] so I wouldn’t have to go through this. We’re going to win again next year, and there’s probably going to be teams that are going to have an interest in [me] coaching in the NFL. I want to be able to tell them definitively that I want to coach in college.”
History teaches us that a coach’s convictions are always subject to change, and that’s something that will undoubtedly be used against Kelly and the Irish on the recruiting trail. Kelly, who is currently on the road putting the final touches on his next batch of freshmen, said his meeting with the Eagles allowed him to provide a little clarity when meeting with high school prospects.
“The recruits, I tell them up front that I’m committed to Notre Dame,” he said.
The day after meeting with Lurie in Nashville, Kelly left for a short vacation with his wife. He didn’t watch television or keep up with the news and reaction to his meeting until he returned five days later.
Kelly released a statement on Saturday, Jan. 12, that said he would remain at Notre Dame. The coach said the one mistake he made in the process was waiting so long to address the situation.
“I should have been more sensitive to the fact that there was this time period that had been going on and released a statement much sooner,” he said.
Swarbrick and Kelly both said the brief flirtation was not a ploy by the coach for leverage in negotiating a new contract in South Bend. The pair started talking about a future deal on Dec. 6, Kelly said, three weeks before the Eagles showed interest in him. Kelly said discussions about the future of the program (and his place in it) are ongoing, and that he and Swarbrick are “in lockstep” when it comes to their vision about where Notre Dame football is headed.
- Junior cornerback Bennett Jackson and senior linebacker Dan Fox both had shoulder surgery this month to repair torn labrums. Freshman safety Nicky Baratti also tweeted earlier this month that he, too, had a similar procedure.
Kelly said he expects those players won’t be able to participate in contact drills during spring practice, but they should have no problems returning to full health before the start of next season
Junior safety Austin Collinsworth had labrum surgery last June and is expected to be at full health for spring practice after missing the entire 2012 season.
- Kelly was optimistic about center Matt Hegarty returning to the lineup this spring. Hegarty had surgery to patch a hole in his heart in December after suffering a mini-stroke during practice in November. He is one of three likely candidates to compete for the starting center position next year along with freshman Mark Harrell and sophomore Nick Martin.
- The outlook for tackle Tate Nichols is not as bright. Kelly said Nichols, who has encountered a slew of injuries since arriving in South Bend, may not be able to return to the field.
- Kelly said he sees no major position switches on the horizon. He also said the top three contenders for the two starting inside linebacker positions at this time are sophomore Jarrett Grace and seniors Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox.
No final decisions have been made yet on which players will be granted a fifth year of eligibility. Kelly said those choices will be made after recruiting season comes to a close on Feb. 6.