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Sometimes, coaches aren't satisfied with their top 10 team after getting taken to overtime by an unranked team. And sometimes, they're so unsatisfied they call for the entire team to be executed.
This was the situation Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly found himself in following his team's overtime win over Florida State on Sunday. There were plenty of highs for his team — the play of transfer quarterback Jack Coan in particular — but also plenty of things to clean up.
Kelly was apparently unhappy enough with the latter that he used his postgame interview on ESPN to casually ponder whether his team should be executed for its performance.
Brian Kelly “I’m in favor of execution, Maybe our entire team needs to be executed after tonight” pic.twitter.com/NAglEAgBQ6
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) September 6, 2021
“I’m in favor of execution, Maybe our entire team needs to be executed after tonight," Kelly said.
That is definitely not the kind of interview you see everyday.
Before some lowly Notre Dame football staffer starts looking for where you can find affordable guillotines (somehow not even available on Amazon), there is a rather important bit of context to mention here. Kelly probably wasn't saying he wants his entire team to die.
He just flubbed a line.
What Brian Kelly was actually trying to say
If there was a group that immediately understood what had happened during Kelly's interview, it was NFL observers from the 1970s.
That is a group who would be familiar with John McKay, the original coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who was famous for his quips. One such quip, of which there is no surviving video, went a little something like this:
"What do you think of your team's execution?"
"I'm in favor of it."
That line is what Kelly had in mind as he delivered a very sweaty interview with ESPN's Katie George. He was just missing the setup, a notoriously important component of a one-liner, and decided to forge on ahead with his own.
Kelly confirmed this was the case in his postgame news conference with other reporters, though he questionably claimed the joke didn't land because of its audience's lack of humor rather than his own, well, execution.
“I was stealing one of his old quotes and being funny. I guess nobody likes to be funny anymore. So yeah, if you want to take me to town on that, please do.” (I will stress that Kelly was as loose/lighthearted as possible while saying all of this at the podium.)
— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) September 6, 2021
That backstory didn't stop a certain Wikipedia editor from going to work, though.
*checks Brian Kelly's Wikipedia page, sees update* pic.twitter.com/dLXCtpZZx6
— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) September 6, 2021
Notre Dame's rivals at USC, McKay's employer before the Buccaneers, got in their own dig.
— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) September 6, 2021
Some observers also didn't think the joke was a good idea, even if it was successfully delivered, considering Kelly has had a student die at one of his practices at Notre Dame.
Thankfully, the reference has been successfully deployed in more deft hands, such as those of Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle.