Monday, Brian Kelly publicly put a chink in his former quarterback’s draft stock.
Notre Dame HC @CoachBrianKelly: DeShone Kizer should still be in college. Needs more time to grow on & off field. He isn't complete yet.— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) April 3, 2017
Notre Dame HC @CoachBrianKelly: DeShone Kizer has a strong arm and is physically gifted. I think he has all the tools but needs time.— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) April 3, 2017
Kizer’s a potential first-round talent, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Kizer got picked on Day 1 of the NFL draft. He’s believed to be near the top of the QB board with Mitchell Trubisky and Deshaun Watson. There are a few teams that could be pretty interested in him, according to our survey of 74 different mock drafts.
You can file this under comments that should be held in private, at the very least.
After Kizer’s pro day, Kelly said essentially an expanded version of the statement up top, praising Kizer’s physical tools.
It is not uncommon for NFL teams to reach out to coaches to talk about former players. Kelly’s about as close as you’ll get to an authority on Kizer beyond family and friends. But satellite radio probably isn’t the best way to bring up Kizer’s maturity.
Whether the comments are honest or not isn’t the issue. The comments are counterproductive. That’s not to say Kelly should lie; the question is why even bring it up in the first place? What does Kelly gain by saying Kizer needs to grow up off the field?
If you were the parent of a kid who is considering Notre Dame, the way Kelly’s speaking about a former athlete isn’t exactly an endearing thing. For rival recruiters, throw this on the list of things with which to negatively recruit against the Fighting Irish.
Kelly is certainly not the first coach to make the mistake of criticizing a recently departed star, however.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher had an awkward situation about comments he reportedly made to the GM of the Bills at the time about former QB EJ Manuel. Fisher reportedly did not disparage Manuel’s character, but that Manuel was limited as a prospect. The Bills still took Manuel as the first QB in that draft.
UCLA’s Jim Mora went on record, saying former QB Brett Hundley was ready for the NFL, but wasn’t ready to start immediately. He also publicly said former LB Myles Jack was taking a pretty big risk leaving early.
When Pete Carroll was at USC, he wasn’t pleased about Mark Sanchez leaving early. Sanchez sold high after one year as a starter and an incredible Rose Bowl victory.
There’s a difference with what Kelly says because he branches, if only a little bit, into the personal.
This kind of thing usually comes across as coaches wanting their talented QBs to stay for another year, so programs can continue profiting off unpaid athletes. It’s not like a coach’s comment is going to convince a QB to return, though, and coaches have said these things about players who were seniors anyway.
But unlike Carroll and Fisher, who confined their criticisms to on-the-field stuff, Kelly made public comments about Kizer’s maturity. Should an incident happen to Kizer on or off the field in the NFL, these Kelly comments will be pointed to in a “see, he told you so” manner.
Kelly also has track record of doing this sort of thing.
It was an embarrassing way to end a season in which the Irish were far more talented than their record indicates. Kelly is not above blaming others for stuff, and that includes his quarterbacks. Take this instance from a press conference in 2014:
A reporter pointed out the interceptions weren’t all Golson’s fault — one bounced off a receiver’s hands — and Kelly responded by asking, “Why aren’t they all on Golson?”
Earlier this offseason, Kelly actually did shoulder blame for the 2016 season’s poor results.
"There are no bad football teams," Kelly said Monday, when the school introduced seven new assistant coaches. "There's just poorly led football teams. I led this team poorly."
But now he’s back to heaping some shade, this time on a former player.