Sport Jets' Robert Saleh says he feels 'awful' about how viral story painted Brian Kelly
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College football has seen plenty of messy coaching exits, but few can match what Brian Kelly hath wrought in.
Kellyallowed news to break of his decision to leave one of the biggest programs in the sport without informing any of his assistant coaches, many of whom were on the recruiting trail. Then he sent out a group text to his stunned players confirming the news, followed by a 7 a.m. address the following morning in which he spoke for less than four minutes and left without taking any questions. And now it looks like his exit alone
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It goes without saying Notre Dame fans,, are upset. So upset that past tales of Kelly, such as his similarly quick exit from Cincinnati, have begun to resurface. Including one that goes all the way back to when he was head coach at Central Michigan.
The Brian Kelly graduate assistant story
The story came from a two-year-old profile by ESPN's Rob Demovsky on Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur. At the time, LaFleur and New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh were both lowly graduate assistants under Kelly.
As Saleh told it to Demovsky, Kelly invited him and LaFleur to a party at his house. When the pair arrived, they learned they were not there as guests, but to work. So the two reportedly spent the night shoveling snow and parking cars. The experience apparently led to a mutual promise that they would never treat people the way they were treated by Kelly that night, as Saleh explained.
Rex Ryan-Robert Saleh Feud Already Over
Rex Ryan's extremely harsh critique of Robert Saleh's first season at the helm of the New York Jets made a news cycle out of itself last week. Ryan slammed Sale h's performance in the first half of the season on ESPN radio and demanded nobody mention his name alongside Saleh's when discussing Jets head coaches. Saleh responded with a fairly cool head but his brother did not, suggesting Ryan stick to "eating cheeseburgers.
Here's one tweet with a screengrab of the story, which went viral on Tuesday:
Matt Lafleur and Robert Saleh (Graduate Assistants at the time) thought they were invited to a party at then Central Michigan head coach Brian Kelly's house.
Kelly made them shovel snow all night instead.
Brian Kelly is not a good person.— Trevor Woods (@WoodsFootball)
Video: Eisen on Kelly: 'He wants to win championships' (NBC Sports)
It goes without saying that most people are going to read that story and see Kelly in a bad light, a man who squeezed hours of free labor out of two of his least powerful subordinates.
Saleh, however, claimed to reporters on Wednesday that the story was meant to be less a complaint about Kelly's party planning and more a lighthearted story about paying your dues as a young coach.
HC Robert Saleh clarified the story about snow shoveling for , ‘that whole thing was taken out of context’ + ‘I have always been one of his biggest fans’:
Rex Ryan reconciles with Jets coach Robert Saleh: 'I was blown away by the guy'
Washignton Football Team head coach Ron Rivera discusses the challenges Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton presents to Washington Football Team.— Paul Andrew Esden Jr (@BoyGreen25)
Saleh's full explanation:
"I feel terrible because that whole thing was taken out of context. When you're coming up in this profession, part of that article was to tell a funny story of Matt and I as GAs. Every single coach in this profession, there is a right of passage when you’re a GA and a [quality control coach]. That was a funny story and not an indictment on how Brian treated us.
"Brian is a phenomenal man. He really is. It was just one of those deals that was supposed to be a funny story that people took in a negative light. Maybe shame on me, I should have worded it better.
"There's a reason why Matt went back and worked for him, there's a reason why I tried to go back and work for him. He’s a really good man. He treats people the right way. I know people are probably upset with him now. There’s never a right way to do things of that nature ... I’m always one of his biggest fans. I feel awful that it was taken in that light."
While Saleh conceded he should have worded the story better, Demovsky took issue with the idea that the whole thing was taken out of context.
He didn’t have a problem w/it 2 1/2 years ago when the story ran. The anecdote was EXACTLY how he told it.
A friend of his & LaFleur’s even pranked Saleh pretending to be Kelly’s lawyer threatening to sue.
Here’s the story. I’m going back to my bye week— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky)
Saleh is currently in his first year as Jets head coach after more than a decade in the NFL as a defensive assistant coach. He spent one season with Central Michigan in 2004 before taking a job at Georgia. LaFleur spent another season with Kelly before moving onto Northern Michigan and Ashland, then the NFL.
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