Monday, October 08, 2007

Living Vicariously Through Other Coaches: Brian Kelly

It's sort of a strange feeling for me, because I don't think I've ever been in a position to play the coaching wish list game. Bo lead to Moeller and Moeller's night out lead to Coach Carr and while I knew that Coach Carr would likely leave on his own terms, provided he didn't have a penchant for coffee and Grand Marnier, I did not suspect that I would start thinking about whom I would like to be Michigan's head football coach.

Then the unpleasantness occurred. And then the rumors swirled about this being Coach Carr's final season got louder and louder. And while Michigan was pulling itself up off the mat, I began to think about whom I would like to see coaching Michigan in the future.

I saw the lists of candidates that people had developed, read pros and cons, and just wondered what I really wanted in a coach. But I've pretty much known from Day 1 whom I want to be Michigan's next coach.

Brian Kelly.

It's a lot of faith, perhaps misplaced, but in my mind, it makes sense. Brian Kelly, from what we have seen in his record, takes what may not be the best talent, and finds a way to win. He never had a losing record in Allendale, won five GLIAC championships, and made six NCAA playoff appearances in 13 seasons. He won two D-II national championships at Grand Valley State, he went 118-35-2, a winning percentage to rival that of…Coach Carr.

But Craig, that's Division II, that's not the Big Time! Well, OK, perhaps, but consider that Brian Kelly was recruiting out of the same pool as his competition and was not working with a "name" until very late in his GVSU tenure, he clearly was maximizing the talent he got.

So he moved on to Central Michigan to replace Mike DeBord as the Chips' head coach, and it wasn't exactly smooth sailing, but Kelly took a scandal rife Central program from 4-7 to 6-5 to 9-4 in just three seasons. His four losses last season were to Boston College, Michigan, Kentucky, and Northern Illinois, all teams that went to bowl games, and the latter three on the road. The loss to BC was just a touchdown margin.

Kelly's turnaround in Mount Pleasant got many around the country fired up, he was the rumored lead candidate for Iowa State and Michigan State, but ended up taking over Cincinnati when Mark Dantonio left for EL. He immediately took over the Bearcats, coaching them in their bowl game when Dantonio took his entire staff to Michigan State, and he beat Western Michigan for the second time in a season.

Now he's got the Bearcats rolling to a 6-0 start after Saturday's win at Rutgers. He seems to have Cincy's offense clicking on all cylinders and the defense hasn't allowed more than 23 points this season. He seems to be somewhat low profile in the sense of he doesn't seem to provide much in the way of bulletin board material or headlines. He seems to want to focus on his team and he has a pretty solid track record of handling discipline issues in a swift, fair, and efficient manner.

I'm probably verging into coaching mancrush territory here, because I really don't know that I see the downsides. I suppose we don't really know how good a recruiter he is, we don't know how well he would handle the pressure of being "the man" at a place like Michigan, and we don't know if he can't beat the upper echelon Big East teams like West Virginia or South Florida (wow, that felt weird to type). But it just seems like a guy who knows Michigan as a state, a younger guy who runs an entertaining offense (Kelly is only 46, it would make it easier for him to be a long term solution), and a guy who has a proven track record for winning wherever he's gone seems like a good candidate for Michigan. The fact that he would likely be cheaper than Les Miles or Jeff Tedford and the fact that he might be a more likely candidate to move up to Michigan than Tedford or Miles just seems to make him the better choice in my mind.

I know there are a lot of factors to consider when looking for Michigan's next head coach when the time comes, and I know that there will be a lot of factors that the average fan is not privy to, but I genuinely believe that Brian Kelly would be a great candidate for Michigan's next head coach. Until then, good luck Bearcats!

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