ND fans lose if Kelly sticks to less-candor policy

AP photoNotre Dame head coach Brian Kelly runs drills during spring football practice at the Loftus Sports Center. 

Often for better, but sometimes for worse, Brian Kelly's candor and honesty have always been used both for him and against him in the media storm that forever follows any Notre Dame head football coach.

Instead of hiding behind a curtain of cliché and coachspeak, Kelly typically flies unfiltered when discussing his program and players, a frankness that often brings criticism and consequence.

That's all about to change.

In a recent interview with Ralph Russo of the Associated Press, Kelly said that brute honesty has not been the best policy while coaching the Irish, and moving forward, fans and media should expect the windows to his program to be shaded and his words closely guarded.

Kelly indicated that he will adopt a more censored approach when delivering inside information, similar to how coaches Nick Saban at Alabama and Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots handle their public affairs.

"I can't be honest with assessments of players to the media," Kelly explained in the AP interview, "because it's portrayed as throwing guys under the bus, being disloyal to a player."

Much of Kelly's about-face to sharing news and offering opinions began a few weeks ago before the latest NFL Draft when the coach said in an interview with NFL Network that former Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer should have delayed his draft entry and stayed in school one more year to improve as a player and graduate as a student.

The context of Kelly's honest and simple assessment of Kizer — all of which made perfect sense — was gathered, twisted, interpreted, spun and regurgitated by almost every sports media outlet in the country, many of which suggested that Kelly's comments ultimately dropped Kizer from a first-round pick to a second-round selection.

"They don't know the relationship with the player," Kelly continued, taking exception to the media's handling of public comments he makes about his players and program. "Based upon what happened last year and the fallout that occurred from other media sources, it doesn't do the university any good — it doesn't do our program any good — for me to be forthright when it comes to those kinds of assessments of our players."

Given Kelly's history of letting his emotions and mouth sometimes drive the moment more than his control and restraint, adopting a more censored approach to news updates may be more difficult than advertised.

But if Kelly is able to sterilize his message, as he promises he will, the fans will be the biggest losers.

Like it or not, Brian Kelly is comfortable in his own skin. He has always been strong enough to speak his mind, bold enough to publicly challenge his staff and players, and confident enough to dismiss outside "noise," until now.

He screams and cusses 'til he's red in the face when players make mistakes, he throws headsets and sideline tantrums when expectations and execution fall short, and then he provides an honest assessment of exactly what went right and wrong, win or lose.

And isn't that what we all want?

"We're very demanding and (the players) expect me to be honest with them on a day-to-day basis," Kelly explained. "They would say, 'That's Coach Kelly being Coach Kelly.'"

In this age of instantaneous media, the idea of Kelly taking a more guarded approach is probably a wise one as to not have his message sliced and shaped for the purpose of shock value and Internet clicks.

See, just using Kelly's own words below in selective context demonstrates how easily it is to spin a story.

Both of the following quotes are pulled from the same Brian Kelly response to a question about Kizer's NFL Draft readiness.

"You're going to have a great young man and a great quarterback. The skills are out there, you can see them. You just go to his workout and you can see."

"Whoever takes DeShone Kizer, he's not a finished product. … He's just not complete yet."

The point is, if whatever you say can and will be used against you, then why say anything at all?

If it sticks, Kelly's new censored approach to future news distribution will make for diluted press coverage and constrict the flow of relevant team info.

But with a judgment season and a fresh spin cycle set to open in the fall, who can blame Coach Kelly for limiting the news cycle in the spring?

 

Todd Burlage is a freelance columnist covering Notre Dame sports.

(2) comments

RickVerde

There is no such thing as unbiased media, it simply does not exist anymore. Look what the liberal media is trying to do to Trump, trying, and failing miserably, with the exception of those who wanted to send the most corrupt woman in the history of this country to the White House. My advice to Kelly, skip the press, focus on turning ND into something other than a second rate team.

strtdude

Another losing season. What's he going to say. academic standards too high? He better be less candor. At least he can walk off a millionaire rather than an honest man.

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