In a regular season defined by absurd statistics that illustrated Notre Dame's defensive dominance, the final chapter authored by the 2012 Irish reads like a Greek Tragedy.
Monday night in Miami, Notre Dame's defense was on the receiving end of BCS Championship Game records for points allowed, largest deficit of the first quarter, largest deficit before scoring, largest deficit at the final gun, most touchdowns surrendered, longest touchdown drive (97 yards) against, and, relevant to the team's fan base -- the most disappointing single-game performance of three-year Brian Kelly era, or at least since the team hardly mattered or appeared to prepare for the Naval Academy in 2010.
"We were beaten today by a better football team," said Kelly post-game. "I don't know if they were 21 points, 28, 35, but they beat us today, and we've got another step that w have to take in the development of our program, and it'll be left up to those that have been led by these seniors, and that'll be the challenge moving forward."
Alabama was easily four touchdowns better than Notre Dame Monday night. It might not have been during the ebb and flow of a football season, and it might not be next time the teams meet, but it was when it mattered, and credit for that reality goes to four-time national championship head coach Nick Saban.
Both teams have championship talent, though Alabama doubtless has more. Both teams were battle-tested and proven commodities entering the contest, though only the Crimson Tide at the game's highest level.
Notre Dame was not ill-prepared. Saban's Crimson Tide, however, were expertly so -- locked and loaded and equipped position-wide to exploit Irish weaknesses after a month of film study and practice.
Kelly and his Irish were the nation's best in the 2012 regular season.
There's no doubt Alabama is the champion, from the head man through player No. 85.
Code Word: Agent
Next time a coach is asked about another position, any other position, be it jumping from a Big East school to Notre Dame, or from Notre Dame to the NFL, or from the Miami Dolphins to the Alabama Crimson Tide, fans would do well to look for this two-word indicator of deception: "My agent." In Kelly's case, it was "his representation."
If an agent, or any other third-party exists in a subject's response, it means plausible deniability exists. The initial question asked of Kelly on media day wondered if his "representation" had been contacted by anyone in the NFL.
"Any of those things that occur relative to contact, there's a strict protocol for that," said Kelly. "They have to contact my representation and then they've got to follow through that. If that did occur, then all that stuff is secondary to this football game."
In other words, yes, and an interview following the national championship game was possible, but not before.
"This is the biggest game that I've ever been involved in, so my focus is 100 percent on this football game. All that other stuff, that happens when you're winning football games. I've been through this a lot in my career. It's flattering if there is interest, which I don't know that there is, but again, that is such a secondary topic for me right now. It's all about this game."
And after the game, the secondary topic became primary.
Reading between the lines is essential when a coach is asked to tell the truth on a public stage. Had Kelly answered in the affirmative, "Yes, I've been contacted," it would have been a distraction to his team. (Just think, had his team been distracted, it might have been 43-14 instead…)
Had he simply said "no" it likely would have been a lie, or half-truth.
Instead, there was a gray area. Plausible deniability in a tough public position.
(Imagine planning an upwardly mobile interview, then being asked about said interview at your company's annual meeting as you take the stage to accept an award -- full disclosure might not be your chosen path, either.)
Regardless, there's no harm in anyone interviewing for a higher paying position in his or her field. Kelly has the added benefit of zero repercussion from his current employer for doing so. It's well-known that his previous staff members at prior coaching stops, did not.
If a coach is extended in his contract after back-to-back eight-win seasons such as Kelly was last year, there's a better chance of a Notre Dame linebacker tackling Eddie Lacy in a a dark room than there is that same coach won't parlay a 12-win, national runner-up season into further riches and security.
Most reading would do the same.
I believed Kelly when he offered a coach's/politician's version of the truth in his initial response. His interview reflects that answer, and I suspect most fans are peeved more at the timing -- with Nick Saban's freshly administered coat of domination still dripping from Kelly's flight plan.
I likewise believed Kelly when he was asked "how difficult it woukd be to leave Notre Dame..." and he offered: "I haven't thought about that scenario, because that's not an option."
It's highly unlikely he'll leave before one more shot with this roster -- I'd guess the 2015-16 off-season will bring a new set of opportunities. And his Eagles interview and any others thereafter will be forgiven by fans roughly 10 seconds after Kelly confirms he'll remain in South Bend.
Hasty departure, on the other hand? Well, you can merely ask his former employer what that felt like.