Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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16 JANUARY 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY ANDREW MENTOCK S even months ago, Brian Kelly made good on a promise and took his then offensive coordi- nator, Chip Long, to Augusta National, home of the Master's tour- nament. Long is an avid golfer, so what could be better than teeing off at perhaps the most exclusive club in the United States? As much as anything, this seemed to be a thank you from the head coach for a job well done after Notre Dame went 12-1 and made the 2018 College Football Playoff. After two seasons together, Kelly and Long's relationship appeared to be simpatico. While at Notre Dame, Kelly had never maintained the same offen- sive coordinator for more than three seasons, but it seemed possible that Long, who appreciated the flexibility he was given by Kelly to coach and spend time with his young children, could exceed that unofficial term limit. On Dec. 11, however, that sup- position was proven wrong. Kelly decided the Notre Dame offense needed new leadership, and Long was out. It's still relatively ambiguous as to what happened between Long and Kelly that led to the sudden and swift ousting of a well regarded and, by most accounts, successful offensive coordinator. Generally, golf buddies stick together, but Kelly once again made it clear at a press conference Dec. 14 that he's not afraid to make the hard, yet necessary, decisions. "I'm not going to do what's in my best interests," Kelly said. "I've al- ready made a tough decision. I've had to make other tough decisions. I made them a few years ago. I had to let go of guys that stood up in my wedding. I'm not afraid to make tough choices. "I'm going to make decisions that are in the best interests of Notre Dame's football program and give us the best chance to win a national championship." What is clear about Kelly's deci- sion to move on from Long is that it had little to do with production on offense. In the three years un- der Long's leadership, Notre Dame had three of the top five scoring of- fenses — (first, 37.1 points per game in 2019), (second, 34.2 in 2017), (fifth, 31.4 in 2018) — since Kelly took over the program prior to the 2010 season. Long accomplished this feat, in part, by establishing a running game that the offense was often missing during Kelly's first seven seasons at the helm. "Anytime that you're scoring points at the level that we were, you're pleased in that respect," Kelly said. "There were some other things that, certainly, I wasn't as pleased with. But overall, this is not an of- fense that lagged in the back half of HARD DECISIONS Head coach Brian Kelly made the tough choice to move on from offensive coordinator Chip Long Despite guiding three of the most prolific scoring offenses for Notre Dame in the past 10 seasons, Long was let go as offensive coordinator Dec. 11. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER

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