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ND's Brian Kelly talks QB Golson, Declan Sullivan's death, Eagles job

Brian Kelly says Everett Golson has the 'wow factor' but wants him to be great. (USATSI)
Brian Kelly says Everett Golson has the 'wow factor' but wants him to be great. (USATSI)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It's 8:21 a.m., way too early for a mix of jazz, '80s wedding-reception music and Anita Baker.

But this is Brian Kelly's office, and hell, he can jam as he pleases. Apparently his tastes are eclectic, from music to office décor.

"What coach do you know that has a surf board in his office?" the Notre Dame coach said, pointing to a blue-and-gold board with an ND emblazoned on the front.

He's told that Oklahoma's Bob Stoops does, indeed, have a surfboard in his office. Might be bigger than his, too.

"Dangit! Stoops has one," said Kelly, clutching his fist to exaggerate faux frustration.

Kelly is a walking espresso on this morning, and he has a few stories to tell, but first things first -- he would like some Jameis Winston in his football life.

Well, he knows Jameis isn't coming to Notre Dame. But Winston helps Kelly make a broader point that a dynamic quarterback can swoop in and change the entire outlook. A dynamic quarterback can lift a team despite perceived lack of experience.

Slotted for that task is probably embattled but talented Everett Golson, though backup Malik Zaire is definitely "pushing him."

While Kelly's at it, he'll also take some Drew Brees. Though Golson has the "wow factor" when making plays outside the pocket, he mainly needs a quarterback to flourish inside one.

Kelly isn't directly comparing Golson -- who was benched four times in 2012 and benched for good in 2013 after reportedly cheating on a test -- to Brees or Winston.

But the expectation is clear: Be great, just like the others.

"It's all about the quarterback," said Kelly, who just finished an early morning meeting with his quarterbacks. "Manage the pocket. He's got to have answers."

Kelly sees the potential and is digging in. He's back to calling plays after a two-year absence. Chuck Martin called them in 2012-13 before taking the Miami (Ohio) job in December. Kelly is reviewing plays he likes from old Kelly playbooks, as far back as the Cincinnati-Notre Dame transition in 2009-10.

He's immersed in teaching the game, which he knows can get camouflaged by the off-field duties of a Notre Dame coach if not careful.

"I got into it because I wanted to have relationships with players," Kelly said. "They can see me involved. I have a really good sense of what I need to do. I'm much more comfortable with that now."

Kelly's career in South Bend has seen just about everything in four-plus years. Here are a few of his stories as told to CBSSports.com.

Four-putting with Tom Brady

Kelly doesn't mean to name-drop, but he just name-dropped -- he played 18 holes at Augusta National with Tom Brady two weeks ago.

You would probably name-drop that, too, so if he did it on purpose, that's totally OK.

Kelly and Brady were in a foursome with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Notre Dame alum Jimmy Dunne, an Augusta member who helped set the whole thing up.

Kelly is afforded an opportunity not outlandish for a Notre Dame coach but still rewarding for a guy who 11 years ago was checking the uniform laundry at Grand Valley State (yes, that was a head coach duty, he says).

As if that four-putt somewhere on Amen Corner wasn't humbling enough for Kelly, who shot 91, Brady asked Kelly if players today understood the difficulty of making an NFL roster. Most of them have "no idea," Kelly realized.

"They are putting in 10 hours a day," Kelly said of NFL players. "Right now, college guys are putting in maybe 10 to 12 hours a week [because of NCAA rules]."

Spending time with Brady reminds Kelly, who has also developed a relationship with Bill Belicheck, of the work ahead for a team he thinks can be silly good but is young in spots.

"It's not really a top-heavy NFL Draft pick team, but this might be our most talented top to bottom," Kelly said.

Kelly is also reminded of his plan: Don't sacrifice the values of Notre Dame.

Kelly's proudest moment as a coach, he says, came when Notre Dame was the country's top-ranked team with the top-ranked APR during the 2012 season.

"That myth that you have to be a so-called football factory is false," Kelly said.

A moment for Declan

Last weekend, Kelly was a speaker at "No Ordinary Evening," a celebration of the life of Declan Sullivan, the former Notre Dame student who tragically died in October 2010 after a tower from which Sullivan filmed an Irish practice fell over during a windy day.

The event supported the Declan Drumm Sullivan Memorial Fund, which has raised more than $1.2 million the past two years for Horizons for Youth. The Kelly Cares Foundation is listed as one of the event's silver sponsors, according to the website.

Declan's death spawned an internal investigation by the school and, at the time, critics called for someone -- perhaps Kelly or AD Jack Swarbrick -- to lose their job, though the Sullivan family never did.

Inside Chicago's Navy Pier, Kelly delivered a message about how special the family is and the grace they've always displayed.

Days later, when asked in his office about his biggest regret on the job, Kelly pauses and seems to realize the answer is easy.

He wished that late October day never happened.

"There are many people that will carry that for the rest of their lives," Kelly said.

Kelly maintains he was not interested in the Eagles job, but more intrigued about NFL coaching. (USATSI)
Kelly maintains he was not interested in the Eagles job, but more intrigued about NFL coaching. (USATSI)

Eagles flap

Kelly maintains his interest in the Eagles early last year was not interest -- it was more intrigue about NFL coaching.

To refresh: Reports of the Eagles' interest in Kelly surfaced shortly after the national title game, but the Kelly family went on a beach vacation, perpetuating the drama for days until he re-committed to Notre Dame on a Saturday night.

Kelly had been in the college game for nearly 25 years and was genuinely curious what an NFL job entailed, he says.

Apparently it entailed serious money. The buzz from early 2013 was that Kelly could have made more than $6 million a year had he worked out a deal with Philadelphia.

Kelly jokes his wife, Paqui, might have had the most interest in the job because she loves the Philadelphia area.

Kelly learned a valuable lesson through that Eagles search -- many are affected by this stuff, even mild contact with a team.

"If I'm intrigued again, I better be ready to take the job," Kelly said.

Kelly makes clear he's not saying he's intrigued again. In fact, he doesn't really sound intrigued at all.

What he found is he prescribes the famed Bill Parcells method of building a team -- buy the groceries and cook the meal. The NFL often doesn't give a coach that luxury when the general manager picks the players.

"I get to recruit the players [here]," Kelly said.


Jeremy Fowler is a national college football insider with CBSSports.com. Fowler joined CBS in 2012 after covering the Minnesota Vikings for the St. Paul Pioneer Press for two seasons and covering the Florida Gators for the Orlando Sentinel for two years. Fowler is also a contributor to the CBS Sports Network.
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