In this multi-part series of articles, I will discuss the effect of Kirk Ferentz on Iowa football. I will talk about the good and the bad of Ferentz. I also will talk about the future of Iowa with Ferentz at the helm and if Iowa is better or worse with him as the coach in the future.
The previous articles can be found here:
I just want to say before anyone jumps down my throat that I completely back Ferentz. I just want to show all sides of the Ferentz argument fairly by raising the criticism of fans in this argument about Ferentz.
As good as a head coach Kirk Ferentz has been for Iowa football, there has been a lot of deserved criticism towards him, especially in the past couple of seasons.
Ferentz started his coaching career at Iowa with an outstanding 81-55 in his first 11 seasons, with an even more astonishing 77-36 from 2001-2009.
After the 2009 season, Iowa athletic director Gary Barta signed Ferentz to a massive extension that will keep him at Iowa until 2020. Since signing that humongous contract after the 2009 season, Kirk Ferentz’s record is only 27-24.
While there are many reasons why his record has been so poor in the past couple of seasons, (the aforementioned attrition in the last article being a key one), some of his teams haven’t lacked talent. In 2010, Iowa was loaded. They returned the core of the 2009 team that won the Orange bowl.
Plain and simple, in the majority of the games, Ferentz was outcoached. Against Wisconsin, facing fourth down in Iowa’s territory late in the fourth quarter, Wisconsin successfully called a fake punt. It was an obvious fake situation but Iowa wasn’t ready for it. Ferentz wasn’t even expecting it even though everyone in the stadium could have seen it coming. Then at the end of the game Ferentz should have used a timeout to save time but he sat on it, preventing Iowa from having one last heave into the endzone. Iowa lost that game by one point.
Then against Minnesota in 2011, another special team gaffe happened as Minnesota pulled off an onside kick that Iowa wasn’t properly prepared for. Minnesota recovered it and drove down the field for a win. It was those late drives that killed Iowa that has killed Iowa the past 4 seasons. They won the first three quarters but they would let the opposing team drive down the field in fourth quarter for the win. That happened in four of Iowa’s five losses in 2010.
A new trend happened the 2011 season, Ferentz’s lack of adaptability. After coming back from three scores down against Pittsburgh early in the season, it was clear that quarterback James Vandenberg and the Iowa offense was better suited for the no huddle offense. After trying it to some success against Louisiana-Monroe, Iowa’s offense faltered against Penn State. After that struggle, Ferentz refused to go no huddle anymore, and Iowa went back to their predictable offense. That stubbornness may have caused more than one loss that season.
Then when Iowa brought a new offensive coordinator in gun slinging Greg Davis, everyone thought Iowa was going to completely change the offensive system. Turns out, it was the same Iowa offense mixed in with a couple of short passes. The result was an absolute mess. Iowa had the worst season offensively in all of Ferentz’s seasons at Iowa. The defense wasn’t as bad, but it was still not the same as before. Iowa ended up 4-8 that season, the worst season for Ferentz since 2000.
Iowa that season lost to a bad Central Michigan team. The main culprit again was a special teams mistake. They once again were not properly prepared for an onside kick and failed to recover. I will repeat what I said earlier to show how bad that season was for the Hawkeyes: Iowa lost to Central Michigan.
After the season was over, there were talks about Iowa possibly firing Ferentz. That’s when it really came out that Ferentz possibly has the worst contract in the NCAA. That’s not an exaggeration. One of the first things that comes up when you google Ferentz is “Kirk Ferentz’s contract.” It’s because it has become a national joke.
He is one of the highest paid head coaches in the NCAA coming in at number nine. The ninth highest paid head coach should not have a 27-24 record in the past four seasons. A lot of fans deservedly think that Iowa should win more with what Iowa is paying Ferentz which makes it one of the main reasons why the contract is so bad.
The other reason is the buyout. If Iowa fired Ferentz after the 4-8 season, Iowa would have had to shell out a cool 75% to him. That would have been $18,846,249, or almost $220,000 per month until January 2020. If Iowa fired him at the end of that season the athletic department would have had to pay him over $2,600,000 a year. He would’ve still been the highest paid person in the state of Iowa by $1.4 million, even though he wouldn’t be employed anywhere. So if Iowa terminated Ferentz’s contract, they would have to continue to pay him on top of another contract for a new head coach. Yeah, that’s why Ferentz didn’t get the axe then.
Last season though was a turn in the right direction. The team looked different, it seemed like Ferentz had way more passion this year. He was much more fired up on the sideline, something he didn’t show too much of the 2012 season. The offense looked much better and the defense was downright suffocating. The new faces on the coaching staff look eager to improve the team. Now Ferentz has added multiple new positions for the recruiting staff, finally getting with the times. He is showing he can, in fact, adapt.
With the seemingly bright future ahead, he has quieted most of the critics for now. If Iowa does do badly this season with this gift of a schedule, the critics will come back at full volume and Iowa will be tempted to terminate the contract. It’s going to be very interesting as this may be a make it or break it season for Ferentz. My hope, along with most Iowa fans, is to witness an amazing season for the Hawkeyes with Ferentz leading the team.