College coaches pull this card all the time, and it’s never surprising. There’s an argument for giving football players, particularly quarterbacks, a paid developmental league or some stage in between college and the NFL, but Brian Kelly, who led Notre Dame to an absolutely abysmal 4-8 season in 2016, is not in a position to say that QB prospect DeShone Kizer should have stayed at Notre Dame.
Kelly talked about his former player on Sirius XM Radio today. Via NFL.com:
“Well, [Kizer] still should be in college. The circumstances are such that you have to make business decisions and he felt like it was in his best interest,” Kelly said. “I’m going to support him and his decision. But the reality of it is he needs more football, he needs more time to grow in so many areas. Not just on the field, but off the field.”
Sirius XM paraphrased Kelly’s thoughts in two tweets at the time. One read “DeShone Kizer has a strong arm and is physically gifted. I think he has all the tools but needs time.” The second, which was deleted, read: “DeShone Kizer should still be in college. Needs more time to grow on & off field. He isn’t complete yet.” The full quote is less rude than the secondhand version, and yet, there’s no way Kelly sincerely believes one more season at Notre Dame would have helped Kizer. Perhaps Kizer would have gained from a stable, successful program—not the one Kelly was running, though.
Kizer, who played in two seasons with the Fighting Irish, might not make a smooth transition to the NFL. Few quarterbacks do. Once in a while, someone like Andrew Luck or Cam Newton comes along, then people get horny for QBs and assume all of them will be as plug-and-play as these exceptional, unique prospects. Whether Kizer is successful at the highest level of football is besides the point, however, because recent history suggests he would not have improved if he had stayed in South Bend.
For an actual example of how Kelly handled Kizer at Notre Dame, look at the school’s loss to Stanford last October, in which the coach benched Kizer after he threw two picks, then brought him back in after Malik Zaire turned out to be an inferior replacement. That kind of carousel might prepare Kizer for the NFL if he gets picked by the Jets, but it otherwise wouldn’t seem to help the development of a quarterback.
Playing for a man who habitually throws his subordinates under the bus wouldn’t appear to be beneficial, either. Kelly handled a 10-3 loss to N.C. State in a hurricane by calling out center Sam Mustipher’s “atrocious” snapping, and saying this:
Brian Kelly can suck an egg.