I’ll give you this much: Brian Kelly is a great coach.
He turned Grand Valley State into a Division-II powerhouse, winning two National Championships.
Then he made Central Michigan, a team that managed just 12 wins in its previous four seasons under coach Mike DeBord (yes, the same one), a respectable program. After a turmoil-filled first year, Kelly posted winning records in his final two seasons and took the Chippewas to the Motor City Bowl in 2006, where they won.
And his first season at Cincinnati has been impressive as well. He’s led the Bearcats to their first nine-win season since 1953, winning games at Rutgers and South Florida along the way.
Kelly is known as a phenomenal Xs-and-Os guy and an impressive coach in general. He’s proven that much, and former players and coaches have sung his praises.
But he’s not the right guy for Michigan.
He has no attachment to the program. Kelly grew up and went to school in Massachusetts. He’s never played or coached in Ann Arbor. As such, Kelly doesn’t have the understanding of Michigan tradition that other qualified candidates do (see: Les Miles).
Kelly doesn’t necessarily want to coach the Wolverines. I mean, sure, he’d jump at the opportunity, but only because it’s a better job than the one he has. Compare that to other candidates who have openly said they are defined by Michigan and that it would be a dream come true to return (see: Les Miles).
If he did get the job, Kelly wouldn’t stay for long. As someone who is known to have his eyes on the NFL, he’d leave at the first good offer he gets. For a program that’s had just three coaches in the last 40 years, a short-term fix shouldn’t excite Athletic Director Bill Martin. Other candidates have had their eyes on the Michigan since the day they started coaching and would be happy to coach here for as long as they could (see: Les Miles).
Martin said that he’d like his next coach to be a Lloyd Carr clone. While there aren’t many coaches out there who could emulate Carr’s class and loyalty, Kelly is far from it. He lied to his players, coaching staff and fans at the end of 2006, issuing a statement that he was staying at Central Michigan and looking forward to the Motor City Bowl after he didn’t get the Michigan State or Iowa State head coaching jobs. But just three days after the Chippewas’ final regular-season game, Kelly accepted the Cincinnati job and didn’t even stay to coach the bowl.
Other coaches have remained loyal to their team even with their dream job available, even coming close to tears toward the end of the season when saying how much they loved their team (OK, maybe just Les Miles).
Kelly is a great coach, and he’ll almost surely continue his success at Cincinnati and at all his future jobs. But Michigan demands more from its head football coach, and Kelly can’t give the Wolverines what they need.
– Bromwich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.