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Notre Dame Football

Kelly Sheds Light on Long Exit; Outlines Roles

December 14, 2019

Brian Kelly termed it the “worst-kept secret here at Notre Dame … and now through the country.”

While that secret --- the exit of Chip Long as the Fighting Irish’s offensive coordinator --- became widespread knowledge Wednesday afternoon, Kelly removed any doubt about his role in the parting of ways with Long, Kelly’s offensive coordinator here the past three seasons.

“We had an offensive coordinator here that was extremely successful, and I did what I thought was best for the program,” said Kelly, who emphasized at least four times that he made the move to separate from Long because Kelly deemed it best overall for the program. “It doesn’t mean we default back to hiring somebody just to hire somebody. We’re going to do what’s in the best interest for the program.”

While Kelly emphasized the move as best for the program, he declined to identify why separating from Long, hired by Kelly away from Memphis after the 2016 season, was best for the Fighting Irish.

“I’ll leave that alone right now,” Kelly said of reasons behind the separation. “I think what’s most important is that I did what was in the best interest of the program. To get into any specifics is really not in anybody’s best interest at this time.”

Notre Dame, which has won 32 games since the start of the 2017 season, faces Iowa State December 28 in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando. The Irish practiced Saturday midday, will hit the field again Tuesday and scrimmage next Thursday.

Kelly said roles have been adjusted to reflect running backs coach Lance Taylor has been placed in charge of the ground attack while quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees has assumed the mantle for the passing game.

“Collaboration requires guys to pick up additional roles,” Kelly said. “Lance Taylor will handle the run-game coordinator, Tommy Rees will handle the pass-game and as it relates to play-calling, we’re still sorting that out.”

Sorting that out --- in the present tense and long-term as well, Kelly declared.

“I think all of it’s an evaluation process for me; I have not made any decisions on who will be (offensive coordinator),” Kelly said Saturday afternoon inside the Guglielmino Athletics Complex. “Will there be a new offensive coordinator from inside? Will we bring somebody from the outside? I have some thoughts as to what [the offensive coordinator position] should look like.

“No decisions have been made. Certainly, there is a lot of interest in the position, as you can imagine. This is a great job. I think you can imagine the kind of interest that has come across my desk, relative to wanting to be the offensive coordinator here. I’ve got a great staff as well. But no decision has been made.”

While Kelly did not specifically name Rees, a presumptive favorite for the post and who nearly was hired away by Northwestern earlier this month to helm the Wildcats’ offense, Kelly did emphasize that the offensive coordinator position remains open as of now.

“I know there’s a lot of speculation that one of the coaches has already been named; that’s unfounded. That’s simply not true,” Kelly said. “We’re gonna do a thorough evaluation and search and find what I would consider the best coach who fits Notre Dame. We had an offensive coordinator here that was extremely successful, and I did what I thought was best for the program. So, again, it’s what is best for the program. That doesn’t mean default back to hiring just to hire somebody. We’re going to do what’s for the best interest for the program.”

While Kelly said the logistics of operating the coordinator position are still being sorted out in the interim, he did rule out one potential play-caller for the Irish’s bowl game.

“I’m not calling plays,” Kelly said. “I will not call plays. I will not call plays, no. That’s not my role. I’ve moved past that role.

“I will certainly be much more involved in the organization of the offense. Clearly making sure that our room is where I want it to be. And I think it is. I will assist and I will be there to lean on and consult with, but this will be a collaborative approach. With the lead coming from Lance and coming from Tom.”

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