SOUTH BEND, Ind. — “Trust the process” was a term coined by the Philadelphia 76ers, mostly because of Joel Embid. The phrase has become a staple of sports talk, used to define any team that is going through a rebuild.
Notre Dame is one of those teams — kind of. Their use of the word “process” was different than Philadelphia’s. Fighting Irish players weren’t using the term as a way to tell fans to be patient through tough times. Instead, they used the phrase to talk about the certain things that needed to be done in order to win on a consistent basis.
There are a lot of eye rolls — mostly from yours truly — that happen when the word “process” is said in South Bend. While the word is said at nauseum, there’s one thing you can’t deny: the “process” has worked. Notre Dame is 12-0 and on their way to the College Football Playoff for the first time in program history.
Brian Kelly has led the “process” charge, as the head coach has engrained the process into his players since their Citrus Bowl victory to end the 2017 season. Kelly commended his players for sticking to the process after they were officially selected for the CFP Sunday.
“They took a process that requires delayed gratification in a world where everybody wants it right now,” Kelly said. “They put aside a lot of those things that require immediate gratification and said, ‘I’ll wait for that.’ That’s a sense of gratitude, a sense of accomplishment and a sense of completion, for me, that we have a group that’s special that can do that.”
Ian Book has taken his coach’s message to heart. The starting quarterback has regurgitated the “process” words of his coach all season. It was one of the first things he talked about Sunday.
“Just taking it day-by-day, sticking to our process. I don’t think anything has to change dramatically,” Book said when asked about the upcoming Cotton Bowl preparation. “That’s the main thing that this team has done such a good job of doing. Just taking it day-by-day and not thinking too far ahead.”
Any time an Irish player has a chance to talk about “the process,” they do. It’s almost became a running gag amongst the media members covering the team that everything is a part of “the process.”
Book throws an incompletion? Trust the process. Justin Yoon misses a field goal? Definitely a part of the process. Drue Tranquill misses a tackle? Don’t worry, it’s all a part of the process.
After hearing about the process all season, I asked various Notre Dame players a few weeks ago what “the process” was. Safety Alohi Gilman said accountability and cohesiveness as a team has helped his process. Wide receiver Chris Finke credited his positive attitude for contributing to his version of the process.
Miles Boykin may have summed it up best, though, when he was asked about it.
“The process means something different to everyone else — you can teach it, but you have to learn it. To be honest, I think it’s taken us two years to learn it,” the senior wide receiver said ahead of the Florida State game. “I think once you learn it, though, it’s not something that you can forget.”
And that’s what “the process” truly is. While it means one thing to Gilman, it means something else to Finke. Boykin said his process is about sticking to his daily routine, which is different from what his two teammates said.
It may not be what Joel Embid intended when he coined the phrase, but the Irish have “trusted the process.” And now, it has them on the doorstep of winning their first National Championship since 1988.
Austin Hough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 325. Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinHoughTGN