That may be true. What also may be true is that success and failure fall directly on his plan and not on factors that were out of his control in the nascent stages of program-building. If a team finally is shaped as its coach desires, should more be expected of it?
Here are five reasons to believe Kelly and Co. can remain on course starting Saturday against Navy, and another five that make you wonder what his team is getting into.
The offensive line: There's no better way to ease the nerves of a first-time starting quarterback than to limit the pressure he sees, and a unit laden with fourth- and fifth-year veterans boasting 65 career starts can do that.
Tyler Eifert: The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Mackey Award favorite can't be covered, really, as he's too fleet for linebackers and some safeties and too big for most cornerbacks. He is the ideal bail-out option for a quarterback on third down and in the red zone.
The defensive line: Some dynamic pass-rushing ability departed along with Aaron Lynch. But sophomore Stephon Tuitt was just as touted and is more versatile. He, along with Louis Nix and Kapron Lewis-Moore, can keep the Irish stout at the point of attack and let the linebackers make plays.
The staff shuffle: Some of the offensive staff overhaul was out of Notre Dame's control, but various departures may have been additions by subtraction, chemistry-wise. Kelly, new offensive coordinator Chuck Martin and the others will be on the same page without insidious disagreements. It just has to be the correct page.
Everett Golson: Notre Dame's quarterback has a big arm and can move. That, theoretically and refreshingly, offers the option for rollouts and deep looks to keep defenses guessing as opposed to just teeing off on the guy in the pocket.
Everett Golson: The Irish are counting on a quarterback with zero experience to avoid the mistakes from a more seasoned player that undermined 2011. Or at least the Irish are counting on themselves to better weather the mistakes. It's quite a bet.
Cornerback: How the Irish manage to play aggressive defense with two first-time starters at cornerback — including a true freshman recruited as a tailback — will require serious coaching gymnastics. It could be an incredibly limiting predicament.
Wide receiver: Other than Eifert, whom can Golson count on? Veterans who haven't been impact players for years, or young players with no experience? It's not just finding guys to catch the ball; the offense needs wideouts with run-after-catch explosiveness so every drive isn't a station-to-station slog.
Edge pass rush: This wasn't a quarterback-clobbering crew even with Lynch, especially late in the 2011 regular season, and Prince Shembo, Ben Councell and Ishaq Williams are somewhat to wholly unproven as disruptors coming off the edge.
The schedule: Not every game is a colossal test, but flat-out breathers are hard to find. It will be difficult to avoid a swing-game slip-up or two in this grind.