We don't need to tell you that going 4-8 in 2012 was awful. It was one of the worst seasons in modern (post-WW2) Iowa football history. That seems like an extreme statement, given the fact that Iowa has spent less than a ton of years as a bona fide powerhouse in that timeframe, but 4-8 is pretty horrible even by Iowa standards.
Yes, enough of you readers were alive and cognizant of Iowa football in the '60s and '70s that we're never going to claim that this past season was the worst Iowa had seen—y'all know better. 1964-1978 was an incessant cavalcade of futility. But by applying one simple condition, we see how far below standards the 2012 season was.
That standard is this: if you're rebuilding, you get two seasons of leeway before the standards set in. So yeah, Kirk Ferentz went 1-10 in his first year and 3-9 in his next. Hayden Fry was sub-.500 in his first two years at Iowa's helm. Forest Evashevski was sub-.500 in his first year and barely had a winning record in his second year, and he's the best football coach Iowa's ever had.
After we discount those "first two years" types of bad seasons as necessary by-products of regime change (which illustrates the folly of regime chance at non-powerhouse schools), we stil see some problematic seasons. Here's a full list of those seasons and their coaches.
1964: Jerry Burns, 3-6-0
1965: Jerry Burns, 1-9-0
1970: Ray Nagel, 3-6-1
1973: Frank Lauterbur, 0-11
1978: Bob Commings, 2-9
1998: Hayden Fry, 3-8
2012: Kirk Ferentz, 4-8
You'll notice that only Burns shows up on that list more than once. Why? Because nobody else (before Ferentz) survived to see another season in Iowa City. And yes, Burns got the ax after 1965. He got one extra year, and he did not exactly use it to soar to new heights.
In other words, the historical standards of Iowa football dictate that the 2012 season would be enough to get Kirk Ferentz fired. Obviously, with that gigantic buyout in place, that's not going to happen. Not for a long time. And really, we're not even arguing that Ferentz deserves to be fired. For all we know, another 11-win season is right around the corner. We know Ferentz is as capable of those as he is of losing seasons.
It's just that by Iowa's standards, 2012 would have gotten Ferentz ridden out of town. That's not opinion, that's historical fact.
Anyway, Ferentz is going to be around a long time, probably as long as he wants to be in Iowa City. Iowa made the financial commitment to making sure he would never leave, and now... he will never leave.