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Column: Is ND's Kelly latest rent-a-coach?

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 10, 2013 at 5:54 pm •  Published: January 10, 2013

Coaches bailing out on their teams is nothing new. Neither is saying one thing and doing the opposite. It's practically an occupational hazard.

In the past few weeks, more than a half-dozen pulled that surprise on their teams between the end of the regular season and before the bowl game that was supposed to be their reward. In other sports, a few have departed right after winning a championship. Even so, Notre Dame's Brian Kelly may have taken insincerity to a new level.

Kelly apparently sat for an interview Tuesday with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. That was roughly a year after Notre Dame signed him to a two-year extension and promised to begin discussing a raise and yet another extension. And just four days after Kelly called his "the best job in the country" and added, "Leaving is not an option. I don't even think about it."

Now fast forward to the early hours of Tuesday morning, moments after Alabama crushed Notre Dame 42-14 in the BCS championship game, and an exchange between Kelly and a reporter in the interview room. The questioner asked Kelly "how optimistic" he was about making big strides in the Irish passing game, since both sophomore receiver DaVaris Daniels and freshman quarterback Everett Golson were coming back with plenty of valuable experience under their belts.

Kelly pretended to panic.

He began his answer, "Well, if Everett would come back for another year," and then turned to face Golson. For a second, it was hard to tell whether Kelly was still acting.

"Are you coming back?" he asked.

"Yeah," Golson said after a brief silence, playing along. "I'm coming back."

Kelly's role as a straight man doesn't seem quite as funny today as it did at the moment. Especially since he answered a handful of questions on either side of that routine with statements like "now it's pretty clear what we need to do to get over the top" and "as we move forward" and "we're all going to learn" and so on. Because just a few hours later, while talking to the Eagles, it's a safe bet that Kelly used the word "I'' a lot more than he did "we."

Of course, Kelly is free to explore job opportunities, same as anybody else. He might genuinely be interested in testing his skills at the highest level of the game, or simply looking for leverage when he sits down soon after his vacation this week to talk about a new contract. Yet neither Kelly nor athletic director Jack Swarbrick needed reminding what happened after Notre Dame, responding to rumors that then-first year coach Charlie Weis was being contacted about a return to the NFL, doubled Weis' original five-year deal. But only one of them is interested in making sure the school doesn't make a mistake that expensive again.

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