Iowa Football

Iowa football mailbag: Kirk Ferentz has always been evasive on the topic of offense

The moratorium on 'next coach' remains, 10 wins are still on the table, people

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Let’s jump right into the #oniowapod mailbag this week.




Questions about the offense are totally fair and warranted. It’s the thing that has held Iowa back from a special, special season in 2019.

I just can’t put another pic of Brian Ferentz on top of the #oniowapod mailbag column.


I range between “dead horse” and “yeah, let’s what until the offseason” on the “change this @#$&!@* offense” topic. Really trying not to cop out here, but nothing is changing, not right now. I hope everyone gets that.

Ever maybe? For this week’s bag of mail (not actual mail), I went through the archive to see what Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said about the offense when he was hired in December 1998.

As you might imagine, he didn’t say a whole lot.

Ferentz left his offensive line position under Hayden Fry at Iowa in 1989 for the head coaching job at Maine, an FCS program. He didn’t touch that offense.

“When I went to Maine, we changed our defensive package up there but I elected to keep the offensive system the same as it was,” he said.

The Black Bears went 3-8 for a couple of years before Ferentz changed the offense.

At Iowa, for the first time since Maine, he was in charge. The ideas were going to be his or collectively built by the staff he initially hired in 1999.

“My idea when I came in here was, I’m going to please one guy on some things,” he said, “and that’s me.”

Ferentz went to work with then-offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe, but there also was some Fry influence on the staff, with former running backs coach Carl Jackson and quarterbacks coach Chuck Long.

”We wanted to come up with the Iowa offense — our Iowa offense,” he said.

Ferentz played the subterfuge game then, too. He did work with Bill Belichick. Lots of news conferences before the 1999 season ended up being reporters asking about the offense and Ferentz playing coy.


“I don’t know what direction we’re going to go,” he said, “but hopefully it will be a sound one, one that utilizes our players as best we can.”

There was talk of a “west coast” offense.

“There’s not a lot of original ideas out there,” Ferentz said.

Basically, this was never set up to be an offensive laboratory. I don’t see that changing now.

I believe it’s about what Iowa can sustain with the players it’s able to recruit and develop on a regular basis. But that’s my assumption.

The Big Ten changed when Rich Rodriguez brought spread offense to Michigan. It changed forever when Urban Meyer brought spread offense to Ohio State and won a natty.

I feel like something has to change. Not sure what yet, let’s put in a pin in that for January. There hasn’t been enough winning to justify standing pat. Period.

Whenever I think Ferentz has to “give it up” on what he wants to see out of the offense, he seems to double down on secrecy, which is a football coach thing.

I really think cold or evasive answers on the topic in the postseason are going to be received like “That’s football” in 2014.



It’s Chris Klieman, but I knew who you were tweeting about, Will. By the way, he’s a Waterloo Columbus grad, Northern Iowa grad and former Loras College head coach.

I’m going to continue the moratorium on the next coaching regime. Who knows when it’s happening. There are three games left in 2019. The Hawkeyes could still win 10 games. Could. The fact that’s still a possibility in mid-November just doesn’t vibe with discussion on the next coach.

NYC is totally right. One way or another, this is winding down. I’ve always thought after this year, but that’s just my thought. KF seems into it. Three games left, 10 wins still possible, I’m tabling this topic until after the bowl.



You have to stop running inside the house, Andrew. You keep breaking all of mom’s “Precious Moments.”


Can’t argue.


That Iowa’s offense is variable and offensive line recruiting and development need to get better for this to work at all.

This is like the “QB regression” argument. Yeah, QBs have regressed in their senior seasons at Iowa. Why? I think if you go case-by-case and do the homework, you’d find variability in the reasons why (for example, Drew Tate had oblique and thumb injuries in 2006).

But hey, if Jonny wants to say Greg Davis is better than Brian Ferentz at OC, have at it. I’ve written here the jury still is out.



Let me fix this for you, “Why can’t Iowa be Wisconsin?”

Wisconsin has found an offensive system that it’s been able to stoke and reshape and sustain for almost 30 years. It’s not foolproof, but Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez brought this offense to Wisconsin in 1990. It’s become more sophisticated, but it’s still giant dudes blocking for a great running back.

That’s what you need to win the Big Ten West on such a consistent basis. Teams have to come to you, have to beat you at your own game.

This is a great point, Jason, and I’m glad you brought it up. I’ve written in the past that the lack of sustained runs of title contention would be a thing. The 2002-04 run was historic, with two Big Ten co-championships, which are now extinct with the B1G title game. Also, Fry went to two Rose Bowls with an 8-3 record. That’s never happening again.

You had 2009 and 2015 for high-level fun. Last season had it until it didn’t. Sustaining high-level success is elusive for B1G programs on Iowa’s level (look what happened to defending B1G West champ Northwestern this year) but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.



Let’s not put “offensive line” and “flames” in the same sentence this year. I’m not sure where the fire extinguisher is.


When are you going to retire? I’m not saying it’s time, but I think we’d all like to know, right?


Interesting question.

Yes, I do believe Phil is being reasonable. Where I think fans can quibble (or more than quibble) is what do the eight or nine wins look like? Pending Saturday’s result, this year hasn’t included a win against a ranked team. Neither did last year. So, what do the eight or nine look like? Is beating Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa State enough? Probably not.

But Wisconsin has put a dent in the “eight or nine wins are cool for the Iowa head football coach.” Iowa fans want the run in the B1G West that Wisconsin has had and they should want that. Unless, you know, you want to concede an unbroken line of division titles and title game appearances to the Badgers. I’m not sure anyone would be down with that.

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