You know the Brian Kelly era has gotten off to a rocky start when you start wondering whether Charlie Weis would ever consider coming back to Notre Dame. As a defensive coordinator.

No, things have not gone according to plan. The Irish defense is back to its old tricks of letting teams convert on critical third downs. The offense is without its starting quarterback, running back, tight end, and its best defensive lineman Navy won by 18. Tulsa won by one. And just to eliminate any positive vibe, a tragic tower accident cost a student videographer his life and had pundits like Jason Whitlock calling for Kelly’s head.

How’s your season been?

With all that in mind, Kelly may stand a better chance of lasting at Notre Dame than Weis and Ty Willingham, his predecessors. While both those coaches got off to quick starts, Kelly might have a more prolonged and successful tenure in South Bend for one important reason: he didn’t.

The challenge at Notre Dame has as much to do with perception as reality. Under the early tenures of both Weis and Willingham, situations seemed to be immediately improved from previous regimes — both coaches posted respectable three-loss seasons in their first years. The fan base, however, could not help itself. Nor could the media. Three-losses quickly became the absolute lowest standard for success. Despite glaring deficiencies — offense for Willingham; defense for Weis — expectations jumped from Point A straight to BCS, christening both coaches as saviors of the program, long before either had a real chance to cultivate and restore Notre Dame’s winning tradition.

That’s the last eight years of Notre Dame football in a nutshell. For Brian Kelly, this might just mean that he struck while the iron was hot. And by “hot”, I mean too numb to feel the burn.

Unlike Willingham and Weis, Kelly finds himself in the unique position of being head coach while expectations are at an all-time low, whether due to realism, cynicism, or general apathy. Last week’s win over ranked Utah wasn’t taken for granted as it might’ve been in the past. As it stands, it was a rare treat. Notre Dame fans will take anything positive nowadays. Wins are always preferred, but a close loss at USC might get a statue commissioned in Kelly’s honor.

Indeed, it’s Kelly’s greatest asset that many in the Irish community remain skeptical. Instead of having to live up to lofty expectations, he’ll have the chance to make them up as he goes along, hopefully earning respect along the way.

Now… about that defense…

THE MAILBAG

From Chase:

I’d rather watch Notre Dame than this.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyWKlxNAh30&feature=player_embedded

That makes two of us, actually. It’s difficult to judge who’s worse in this spot: The Situation or Bristol Palin. As far as I can tell, this commercial is about as close to a double-negative as you’ll ever see in the advertising business. What happens when a promiscuous reality star and a teen mom get together on television? A spot for… safe sex and abstinence! What planet am I on?

On a side note, Mama Hildenbrandt and Grammy Colarusso have been absolutely ruthless on Bristol Palin this season while watching Dancing With The Stars, which has lent significant credence to the theory that all women hate all women. “She’s the only dancer in the history of the show to have GAINED weight with each passing show,” they told me. I can only imagine their excitement upon learning that, well, they’re sort of right.

From Deryl in Lansing, MI:

Imagine there were 120 companies that all produced widgets. These widgets were the most amazing things ever and were in high demand around our country. Furthermore imagine that the 120 companies created a trust and part of that trust was an agreement to pay all of their employees the exact same wage. All around our country there were people graduating high-school hoping to get hired by one of these companies so that they could get paid to build widgets, but one of these people was suspected to be a masterful widget builder. The CEO of each company wanted this person because they believed he could make widgets better and faster than all of the other people. Let’s call this person “Cam”.

I do not care if Cam decides to ask these companies to bid for his services. If a company decide to ignore the rules of their trust and offer Cam undocumented compensation, that is between them and the other members of the trust. I cannot imagine a more American idea than having someone stand up against this trust and demand to be properly compensate for the value he brings the company.

How can Cam really be the villain here?

Oh! A metaphor! The better question is whether a company would really go after Cam Cam the Widget Man if it knew he had a history of stealing other widgets and/or cheating while making them at another widget company.

The problem of course, is that there is no “trust” here. If Cam Newton wants to be properly compensated, he should keep his nose clean for a few seasons and then hire Drew Rosenhaus after he gets drafted. End of story.

From Tyler in Nashville:

I had a internship at Men’s Health magazine, so one day I packed my car and drove from Mississippi to Allentown. The first night at my new place on Walnut Street, I saw a knife fight between a Giants fan and an Eagles fan that didn’t end well for the Philly guy. I quickly broke my apartment lease, moved to Emmaus and stayed in the Bethlehem bubble by never leaving the sides of fellow interns from Lehigh University. I also had seasonal depression because all of the snow. Not a good six months…

Yup, this is why I podcast.