Press conference updates for Brian Kelly and other coaches are great grist for team reporters. When you’re winning, everything is good. Your coach who storms out of a press conference or singles out a couple of players on a fateful play or tears apart a coordinator at the end of a blowout win is a lovable curmudgeon who doesn’t tolerate people falling short of his high standards. When you’re losing, everything is terrible. Your coach who does those same things, even with much less intensity, is a miserable human being (thanks, Finebaum) who shouldn’t be in charge of a North Dakota Dairy Queen, let alone a major college football program. To a large extent that’s life in the sports world; you’re never as up or as down as they say you are. Coaches know that, players know that, and many fans know that too.
However, we’ve seen a trend this season in the coverage of Brian Kelly’s press conferences being somewhat, shall we say, interpretive in its proffered sound bites, especially via Twitter. The 140-character limit encourages users to post pithy comments, or attempted pithy comments at least, that can sometimes present an extremely different picture of what was said than what you would see in a transcript. The charitable reading is that sometimes the shorter messages come across wrong, but there’s another reading too – that the tweeters want the messages to come across wrong, because fury and outrage drive clicks and eyeballs, which ring the cash register.
In a lot of ways these sounds bites are a Rorschach test for an Irish fan; if you like Kelly you’ll be predisposed to think they’re lacking context, if you don’t like him you’ll be predisposed to think they’re accurate summaries of what he really meant to say. We’re not asking anyone to like Brian Kelly, or seeking to change anyone’s mind. We would just ask that before you go off in a keyboard-pounding rage based on something you saw on Twitter, you try to find out the actual quote and the context of it, as both misrepresentation and cherry-picking are rampant among Notre Dame reporters this year. There are plenty of real things to be outraged about with this team without manufacturing outrage based on something that wasn’t said or didn’t happen.
Let’s Go To The Video Tape! Er… Transcript!
Everyone Knows Short Passes Are Just Like Runs, Right?
Yesterday, Scout’s Pete Sampson tweeted this in the course of his live updates during Kelly’s regular Tuesday press conference:
Brian Kelly asked about ND running the ball better. Answers Irish need a better short passing game.
— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) November 1, 2016
This is red meat to the NDNation crowd – before I left that place for good, I don’t know how many times I read some version of “why can’t that pansy ass get it through his thick skull that short passes are not runs!” The problem is, that’s not remotely what Kelly actually said.
Here is the actual exchange:
Q: What answer do you come up with[regarding scoring runs by opponents] other than the offense is going through too many periods of not putting points on the board?
BK: Yeah, I think that, when you look at those periods, it’s, I think, consistency in running the football, and we’re not consistent in running the football, and that lends itself to having some of those periods of not being consistent offensively. I think, if you’re consistent at running the football, we’re going to be scoring boatloads of points, and that’s why we run hot and cold at times offensively, because we haven’t established the consistency at running the football.
Q: Does that require simply having more running plays, where even if you’re not getting large chunks of ground, that you emphasize that more?
BK: Well, yes and no because, as you know, when you’re in a spread offense, you may not have the option to run the football all the time. You have to be adept at finding ways to throw the ball that equals a run play, and we weren’t very good at that. We’re getting better at that. So that was a concerted effort for us this past week to make certain that we could throw the ball in some short game, quick game, to make up for when the numbers just didn’t add up for us to run the ball consistently.
To sum up… Question: How to avoid those offensive lulls? Answer: We need to run the ball more consistently. Question: Can you do that by calling more running plays? Answer: We can call more running plays, and we also have to be able to hit the short passes that are designed to keep the defense honest.
I’m not sure exactly how that translates into “Brian Kelly asked about ND running the ball better. Answers Irish need a better short passing game.” A cynic might conclude that the tweeter is intentionally drumming up outrage with an interpretation that is designed to anger the fan base. But I’m a glass-half-full guy, so I’ll just conclude that
he’s a grumpy alum who doesn’t like Kelly andtried a little too hard to condense that exchange into 140 characters.
(Pete pointed out that he’s a DePauw alum – I must’ve gotten him mixed up with Prister. Go figure. And I’ll admit that was a bit snarky.)
Such a Cranky SOB
Not a tweet, but along the same lines as the other examples here… Kelly got a little testy with a certain line of questioning in the Stanford postgame press conference. Tom Loy at 247 posted the following, with the title “Kelly wasn’t pleased when asked about change in momentum”:
As the postgame press conference from Notre Dame’s, 17-10, loss to Stanford was coming to a close, head coach Brian Kelly was asked about the point where momentum shifted in favor of the Cardinal. Clearly frustrated by the question, Kelly responded with, “of course,” when asked if there was a moment in the game where he felt it shifted into Stanford’s favor. When asked about the exact moment, Kelly had a different answer.
“I don’t know,” said a clearly frustrated Kelly. “Why don’t you [another reporter] answer the question for them? Are you kidding me? Really?”
The follow-up question, ‘Was it the safety or one of DeShone’s Interceptions?,’ didn’t sit well either.
“Those would be probably two key areas in the game,” said Kelly, sarcastically. “Certainly wasn’t when we were up 10-0.”
Now, as you might imagine, this touched off a round of comments about Kelly’s arrogance and thin skin. Thankfully, 247’s own Nick Ironside chimed into that very comment thread:
This needs some context… He was asked early in the press conference when he thought the game got away from ND. He already seemed a little peeved, so this was his reaction after someone asked the same question a second time.
Certainly sheds a different light on, “Why don’t you answer the question for them? Are you kidding me?” I would be annoyed too if somebody asked me a question that I had already answered, so I don’t see a big problem with this reply. And the original post is from Loy, who many Notre Dame fans accuse of being a “sunshine pumper.”
Don’t Let The Door Hit You
Kelly said he has a great relationship w/ his players and fans that don’t like his demeanor won’t likely be fans of ND football in future.
— Mike Vorel (@mikevorel) October 11, 2016
This is somewhat more innocuous, but still, Vorel’s tweet makes it sound like Kelly held out a fist, palm upwards, and slowly cranked up his middle finger at the fan base. In reality, he was asked a direct question and responded with a more expansive comment.
Here’s how it actually went down:
Q: Obviously, we get a lot of feedback on what people think the coaching situation is or should be, and one recurring theme that keeps coming up in my email box is sideline demeanor. I just wondered, do you feel like your sideline demeanor is an issue? Do you think it’s different than it was in 2012?
BK: I’m just coaching. I’ve got a great relationship with my players. I’m just coaching. I’m being Brian Kelly. If people have a problem with that, then they’re not going to be friends or fans of Notre Dame football. I can’t help that. I don’t feel like I’m crossing a line. I think I’m being who I am. I’m being direct.”
He sounds more Popeye than Joe Pesci here.
The Miserable Human Being Blames His Players
Brian Kelly calls snapping “atrocious” by Sam Mustipher
— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) October 8, 2016
Following the real storm on the field for the NC State game, a Twitter storm absolutely erupted over Sampson’s tweet during his running updates of the postgame press conference. The frenzy reached its peak when SEC apologist/puppet Paul Finebaum went on one of ESPN’s umpteen college football shows and wondered why anyone would want to play for such a “miserable human being.” The problem is, once again, Kelly never called Mustipher out – he said the “ability to manage the snapping of the football” was “atrocious,” and later in the conference expanded on the “management of the snap” to include multiple players and the coaching staff, and Mustipher’s inability to hear the count correctly.
Here’s what Kelly actually said about the snapping problems:
You know, you win together and you lose together, that’s what I told our team. There’s no moral victories that our defense played better. We’re looking for wins. I was very pleased with our physicality, our toughness, our tackling. Just extremely disappointed in the offensive execution and the lack of our ability to manage the snapping of the football, [which] was atrocious as well…
“You win together and you lose together.” Hmm. But wait, there’s more…
Kids were in great spirits, had great energy, and I feel terrible that we let them down. I feel we let them down, in the sense that they were prepared for another noon start. They had great energy, played with great heart on defense… They were excited to play, and you just want to be there for them, you want to make the right call, you want to put them in the right position. You second guess yourself. Maybe we should have been in a three-man wall [on the punt]. You second guess yourself in games like this where your team is ready to play and excited to play…
And Kelly’s locker room comments to the team, as seen in the ICON video:
You were ready to play, you were excited to play, you were energized to play, and I couldn’t find a way to win that game for you. And I apologize. I gotta look hard at how I’m doing it, to figure out a way to get a win for you guys, because you deserve it. You deserved to win today.
Kelly never mentioned Mustipher by name, and he clearly took accountability for the loss both in front of the media and in front of the team. Yet because of that tweet, off the internet ran with “Kelly blames his players” and “Kelly is so arrogant he can’t take any blame himself.”
Mike Golic Jr. asked Sampson a couple of times via Twitter whether Kelly specifically called Mustipher’s play atrocious; Sampson answered the first time with something Golic called “not relevant” and didn’t answer again. A cynic might wonder if Sampson was dodging the question intentionally to avoid having to walk back what he said, but, you know, I’m a glass half-full guy, so…
(Pete let us know via Twitter that he did provide Golic the full context when he got back to the press box.)
What To Make of All This?
Well, I could make a brooch, or a pterodactyl, or… Seriously, though, the main point is to believe none of what you hear and half of what you see. It’s worth taking five minutes to check the transcript of a press conference – most of the ND sites post them pretty quickly, and they’re also usually available in short order at ASAPsports.com – before getting in a tizzy over someone’s 140-character paraphrase.