Is Matt Rhule Nebraska football’s Brian Kelly?

LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly addresses the media at the 2023 SEC Football Kickoff Media Days at the Nashville Grand Hyatt on Broadway, Monday, July 17, 2023.
LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly addresses the media at the 2023 SEC Football Kickoff Media Days at the Nashville Grand Hyatt on Broadway, Monday, July 17, 2023. /

An analyst recently compared Nebraska football head coach Matt Rhule to LSU’s Brian Kelly, and there’s more than one reason why it makes sense.

Comparing a team’s current coach to well-known, successful coaches is an age-old tradition for college football. Remember when Scott Frost was often compared to Tom Osborne?

The Matt Rhule comparison to Brian Kelly seems rather off the wall. Until you really think about everything the two men might have in common. Analyst Josh Pate believes it’s a very apt comparison for a number of different reasons.

Pate laid out why Rhule is the next Kelly in one of the latest episodes of his podcast:

"“I don’t do hot takes on this show. Ever. But I got one for you. But I firmly believe this. I think Matt Rhule is our next Brian Kelly. I think Matt Rhule is the next guy that starts having consistent winning seasons, at a program not in the South. I think his skillset transcends any region of this country. I think that it could be that we’re about to see him string together some really good years, really productive years at Nebraska, I think he’s going to get a real taste for recruiting via NIL and the portal, that seems kinda like what Brian Kelly’s doing right now … he’s really good in front of people, he’s really good at dealing with people.”"

Pate went on to say that when he says he’s good at dealing with people, he doesn’t mean just coaches and players. He means parents and boosters and donors.

In short, Pate said that Rhule is the whole package of a college football head coach. Sounds good right? There is one downside to Matt Rhule being Brian Kelly. And you’ve probably already realized if you’ve followed college football at all over the last decade.

“Now,” Pate concluded. “Here’s the multimillion-dollar question.  If I’m right about that, that’s Part 1. Part 2 is, does he do that at Nebraska, or does he springboard?”

Nebraska football’s Brian Kelly

I personally am not a Brian Kelly fan. I think he’s as insincere as any head football coach out there today. So in that regard, I don’t love the comparison to a Nebraska football coach that I have come to like in a short period of time. But I also understand that my opinion of Kelly isn’t shared by anyone.

The comparison for the new Nebraska football coach could be worse. Rhule’s big claim to fame is taking a mid-major program in Temple and building it up. Then taking over a floundering Power 5 program in Baylor and righting the ship. And now he’s taking a former major Power 5 titan and trying to take them back to its former greatness.

Kelly took over Central Michigan and Cincinnati and made them better than when he got there. Then took Notre Dame back to the top of the mountain and now is trying to do the same for LSU. If Matt Rhule can have the kind of run for the Nebraska football program that Kelly had at Notre Dame (minus some rather shady doings) then Husker fans would be happy. Even if Rhule didn’t finish his career in Lincoln.