Notre Dame's Kelly taking Eagles, NFL interest to brink

If Brian Kelly and his camp are using an NFL flirtation as a bargaining ploy, they may be pushing it to the absolute brink.

The Notre Dame coach interviewed with the Eagles on Tuesday and has a second meeting with the team set for this weekend, according to a published report. Meanwhile, Kelly continued to confer with NFL people about what it's like to coach at that level, a league source said early Saturday.

Kelly was on vacation the past few days -- though it was not believed to be a European jaunt, as multiple outlets have reported -- and the New York Daily News reported that "the Eagles and Kelly have agreed to revisit talks when he returns this weekend."

Comcast SportsNet Chicago reported that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie's private jet is in Chicago, though no specific reason was given. But the NFL Network's Albert Breer may have quashed the notion of a Kelly meeting by reporting the Eagles will interview Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on Saturday in Atlanta.

The conversations with NFL folks have been set up via Kelly's camp and began before his interview with the Eagles last week, but a league source told the Tribune they continued into the weekend. It doesn't preclude Kelly's return to Notre Dame at all, but it suggests more than a passing fancy with the idea of coaching at the next level.

There has been precious little in the way of enlightenment from South Bend, Ind., during Kelly's apparent dalliance. And all of it indeed may be a way to strong-arm Notre Dame into meeting the demands of a head coach just a few days removed from a championship game appearance -- a disastrous championship game appearance, but a shot at a title nonetheless.

Athletic director Jack Swarbrick sent word through a spokesman that he would have no comment. There are people close to Kelly who had not been updated about the situation a few days into it, and there are team members who as of Friday night who had not received any communication at all from staffers on the subject.

One person familiar with the Eagles' view of the first interview says there was "strong mutual interest" between the two parties, and the Tribune's David Haugh reported Thursday that Kelly previously had reached out to an NFL coach to see how professional jobs differ from college gigs.

None of that precludes a return to Notre Dame with a new contract and more money for Kelly and his assistants, which for most of the week seemed the most likely scenario -- and still may be -- though the reported second meeting with the Eagles is an intriguing complication.

Notre Dame begins classes on Tuesday and the Irish were believed to have a team meeting of some kind set for Monday. That seemingly would put an imperative on Kelly to make a decision and get a deal done, with either side, within 24 or 48 hours.

The Eagles, meanwhile, had more interviews set with more head coaching candidates into next week. That doesn't preempt a spate of cancellations, of course, if they found their man in Kelly.

Twitter @ChiTribHamilton

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