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What Is Success for Brian Kelly at LSU?

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Let’s get the expectations out in the open

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LSU Introduces Brian Kelly as Head Football Coach
What did I get myself into?
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

There’s been a lot of talk recently about what would constitute success for the Brian Kelly era at LSU. Of course, it’s been coming from, for lack of a better term, enemy territory.

Over at The Athletic (and again, they aren’t a sponsor or anything, but you really should shell out for a subscription), Notre Dame beat write Matt Fortuna wrote that Brian Kelly needs to win a national title at LSU for the move to be a success.

Kelly’s been asking for more institutional support and an upgrade in facilities for years, only to tire of empty promises and assurances. He got the answer he wanted in Baton Rouge. Fortuna closes out his column with this line, making his feelings perfectly clear:

There are no excuses for Kelly now. He went to LSU to do what he feels he couldn’t at Notre Dame. And if he falls short of winning it all in the SEC, after all of this, it won’t be just Notre Dame laughing at his antics.

It will be all of college football.

Ooo… burn.

Look, I don’t give the tiniest crap what the Notre Dame fanbase thinks of LSU. LSU is now the national program with its sights on winning the national title year in, year out, while Notre Dame contents itself with its near misses by telling themselves how they do it the right way or some such nonsense. Which is essentially a complete 180 from my childhood.

If it was just Notre Dame being salty about the winningest coach in school history (yeah, I’m surprised too) bolting for an SEC program that is not Alabama, then we could leave the bat on our shoulder and not swing at the pitch in the dirt.

It’s only natural to be upset when your coach leaves, and you get mad at his new home. I get it. Hell, I’ve done it. We all have given Bama the Nick Saban side eye. So it’s a perfectly understandable emotion that we ourselves have had to work through.

The multiple national titles certainly helped.

But now Ed Orgeron has entered the fray. And Ed didn’t just opine that his successor needs to win a national title, but that he needs to do so in three years, or else he will be a failure.

There’s really no other way to respond to this except by saying… STFU, Ed.

Ed Orgeron walked into a mostly stacked roster, and due to his status as the interim coach, was able to bring in a great recruiting class his first year, providing the foundation for the 2019 championship team.

By contrast, Brian Kelly is taking over a team in disarray, a roster utterly gutted by attrition and frankly, incompetent mismanagement by the previous staff, and oh yeah, coming off the two worst seasons at LSU in this century.

If Brian Kelly fails to win a title in three years, it will not be a reflection on Brian Kelly, it is a reflection on the mess that Ed Orgeron left for him. The fact that Brian Kelly signed 30 commits, and 15 of them, literally HALF, are transfers speaks to the dire condition of the roster. Kelly is plugging holes in a sinking ship.

Ed Orgeron, of all people, does not get to complain about the patch job when he was the one he ran the ship into the iceberg. Really, thanks for the title. It was awesome. 2019 was a special season that I will always treasure. But Ed needs to keep a low profile right now because the current mess is almost entirely of his own doing.

Now, with that said, even though Notre Dame partisans and Ed Orgeron are simply throwing shade out of anger and jealousy, it doesn’t mean they are wrong. This is LSU, and big expectations are now part of the deal. It ain’t 1979 anymore. Just playing USC close won’t cut it.

Of course Brian Kelly has to win a national title to be considered a success. The last three coaches did so, and the last two were exiled to Football Siberia at the end of their tenures, such is their reputations. If Kelly cannot match that, particularly after the openly campaigned for better facilities at Notre Dame, then of course it will be a failure.

And yes, outsiders will absolutely delight in that failure. Hell, I know I would. Brian Kelly is a hell of a coach, but he’s not exactly warm and cuddly. I didn’t like Brian Kelly at Notre Dame, though a big part of that was the whole Notre Dame part of it. Still, there’s going to be people lining up to dunk on Kelly if he fails. He’s an easy guy to root against.

This is LSU. We don’t duck from challenges, we confront them head on. Let other timid programs be afraid of the truth: Brian Kelly has to win a national title at LSU to be considered a success.

But come on, let’s at least give him four years to do it.