I've been saying this for a year. This is just the right week to write it. If Notre Dame ends up cutting ties with Brian Kelly - and never mind the NCAA's vacating two years' worth of wins, doesn't 4-7 make it time? - and if Notre Dame decides its next coach should be a guy working at 10th and Diamond in Philadelphia, my reaction would be . . .
. . . Good hire.
I'll go further: If I were in charge in South Bend, I would make this move, hire Matt Rhule.
The man's good enough to get an offer from a school he couldn't turn down.
If I were an Irish fan, I would rather have Rhule as the man in charge than Kelly, seven days of the week, not just Saturdays. Easier to root for, more engaging to listen to - he's able to get players to buy in and, just as important, he's used to heavy lifting. If you think his Owls haven't earned what they have gotten the last couple of years, you haven't been paying attention. If you think Rhule would be in over his head in South Bend, nope, no chance. He'd be a breath of fresh air.
I didn't have this same feeling, by the way, when Miami hired Al Golden. Full respect for the heavy lifting Golden did at Temple, but I wasn't sure it would carry over to the big time.
Rhule wouldn't be the right geographic fit for other jobs - for, say, a place like Texas - but he has the personality to handle the Irish spotlight, the ability to analyze and, just as important, articulate that analysis. At a place like Notre Dame, where so many fans still believe in all the trappings that come with the place, Rhule would make it easier to keep buying in, which would make his hire a smart business move.
I'm not even saying Rhule is the greatest X and 0 tactician out there. He has his critics. He just knows how he wants to deploy his guys and has hired smart coordinators to get that done.
"Matt Rhule did the impossible," St. Joseph's hoops coach Phil Martelli said to me last winter. "He made the city of Philadelphia care about . . ."
I can't remember if Martelli said college football or Temple football. But it's the same thing in this city, at the FBS level. The outside interest isn't the same this season, not with a 3-3 start, but the job is just as impressive, 8-3 going into Saturday's regular-season finale against East Carolina, a second straight trip to the American Athletic Conference title game at stake.
If anything, this year's Temple season is more impressive than last, assuming the Owls finish the job Saturday night at the Linc. The AAC is the sixth-best league in the country. If the Owls reach the title game two straight years, call it nothing short of astounding. (Maybe I've seen too much in the darkest days, but those memories never leave you.)
Evidence shows Rhule would not leave Temple for just any job. The school should not give him a raise any time some Power 5 school comes calling, even if Rhule takes the call. I think it would take one of the biggest-boy schools, a place you couldn't turn down. Sure, Rhule used interest from Missouri last year to leverage a raise. Smart move. But if he'd wanted to go to Missouri, he would have gone to Missouri.
In case you hadn't noticed, Notre Dame is a really difficult job. I'd argue Kelly was the most qualified and equipped coach to go to South Bend since Lou Holtz. He is not in over his head as others have been. He's a tough guy to root for from the outside, but I doubt he worries about that.
Notre Dame apparently lives with the unlovability of its coach with a certain expectation that rises far above 4-7, even with a schedule that had plenty of winnable games.
I came up with these thoughts, by the way, before the NCAA dropped the hammer Tuesday, ordering Notre Dame to vacate all victories from 2012 and 2013 because a student trainer did academic work for players. Even if Kelly is right in some narrow sense that he has no culpability in a situation where he had no knowledge and no chance to have any knowledge, the head football needs to have a better answer than "Zero. None. Absolutely none," when asked about that culpability. I'd expect the university president and athletic director to have a better answer, too.
Originally, I wasn't sure about Rhule. People whom I respected and who knew him, swore by him. But when Steve Addazio (somehow) got the Boston College job off a 4-7 2012 season at Temple, I thought Temple should try for a more proven guy. I had only two on my list, Dave Clawson at Bowling Green, Mike MacIntyre at San Jose. At other times in those guys' careers they probably would have gone to Temple. This time? They were ready for the Power 5, didn't need another move outside it. MacIntyre is getting it done at Colorado, currently ranked ninth in the country, and Clawson is winning more than most would at Wake Forest.
The guy who seemed like a consolation prize turned out to be the best thing that's happened to Temple football.
He wouldn't be lucky to get the Irish job. It would be the other way around.