An old joke landed Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly in hot water Sunday after the Fighting Irish pulled out a 41-38 overtime win over Florida State in Tallahassee.
Despite winning the game, ninth-ranked Notre Dame struggled to put away the Seminoles and was outscored 18-0 in the final 13:42 of the game, according to ESPN.
That is what appeared to be on Kelly’s mind when he riffed on an old joke in the postgame interview.
“I’m in favor of execution,” he said, deadpan. “Maybe our entire team needs to be executed after tonight. We just didn’t execute very well.”
Some on social media were aghast.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly after his team's OT win vs FSU:
"I'm in favor of execution. Maybe our entire team needs to be executed tonight."
— Eric Champnella (@champnella) September 6, 2021
Postgame, Brian Kelly really, truly botched the attempt at repeating the famous John McKay line on execution. Unfortunate. Avoidable. Clumsy. #NotreDame
— David Haugh (@DavidHaugh) September 6, 2021
I think he should resign by lunch tomorrow honestly
— Wild Bill 🍻 #BeatWCU 1-0 (@Wild_Bill_OU) September 6, 2021
“It’s an old John McKay quote,” the Notre Dame coach said during his postgame news conference as a reporter followed the scent of outrage and demanded to know what Kelly was thinking.
“I was kidding. It was tongue-in-cheek. It wasn’t funny? … I was talking and, you know, making a joke about it. It was taken serious? Are you people crazy?” he said.
John McKay was a legend at the University of Southern California, where over 16 years he won four national championships.
But when he moved the NFL in 1976, his Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 0-14.
With that as the background, when McKay was asked about his team’s execution, he had a ready reply.
“I’m in favor of it,” he quipped.
Brian Kelly was attempting to quote the late John McKay…1976 was a different time, man pic.twitter.com/b7bWYlWLpK
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) September 6, 2021
Kelly said he may have misread the lay of the land by trying to inject humor into a society that has little use for it.
“It’s a John McKay quote that he used after a game,” he said.
“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, you know, take me to town on that, please do.”
Some observers got the joke right away.
Anyone who didn’t understand what he meant immediately needs their football card revoked
— Patrick Walsh (@PatWalsh728) September 6, 2021
Brian Kelly was making a joke. Relax.
— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) September 6, 2021
“To anyone who has any problem whatsoever with what Brian Kelly said after the game: Immediately log off and find a hobby. Make some new friends,” college football analyst Danny Kanell tweeted.