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In defense of... ugh... Ken O'Keefe

You're hot, you're super fucking pissed. We're all real emotional. But you're barking up the wrong tree!

--Mr. White

First, it is not altogether unfair to heap scorn and blame at the feet of Ken O'Keefe for the disastrous state of the Iowa offense this year. Let's be clear about that.

What I do hear quite frequently are things like, "O'Keefe must go now," "put in the spread," "He's the biggest problem," etc. etc. And yes, while he's certainly an easy and obvious target, I hesitate to deem him the biggest stumbling block to Iowa success.

First, in regard to installing a spread offense: Are you fucking nuts?

There is no indication whatsoever that the receivers can run spread routes effectively. We're already complaining about the lack of timing and execution by the receivers, right? That's exactly what the spread is predicated upon! You couldn't possibly make things harder on these kids. The entire offense has about two and a half game-ready receivers right now: James Cleveland, Trey Stross, and DJK counts for about a half. If you turn around this week and toss them into a system where four receivers have to run precise routes, it'll be a bloodbath.

Maybe we can "open things up" during the off-season. Maybe. But switching offenses isn't as easy as freaking NCAA or Madden. There are new sets of routes, new blocking assignments, new formations, new damned near everything. If you really want to see institutionalized ineptitude, you'll be rooting for Iowa to come out in a spread formation this Saturday.

In regards to the "fire O'Keefe or fire Ferentz" nonsense, Reese Morgan is probably a bigger sideline liability than KOK. At least O'Keefe was doing his job well when things were going well. Reese Morgan's been with Iowa for 8 years, but after three solid years as recruiting coordinator and coaching tight ends (see Clark, Dallas), he moved to coaching the offensive line after the 2002 season, when Joe Philbin left. It seems now that this team misses Philbin (now the offensive coordinator for the 4-1 Green Bay Packers) more than we ever would have imagined. It certainly seems likely that he was every bit as responsible for the development and sustained success of the offensive line as S&C coach Chris Doyle was.

Indeed, the drop-off in line play seems be nearly synchronous with the departure of the linemen that spent at least two years coached by Philbin. Observe the draft positions of Philbin guys and Morgan guys, defined as spending most of their college career under the coach:

Joe Philbin

Steinbach - 2nd round
Nelson - 2nd round
Sobieski - 5th round
Gallery - 1st round
Porter - undrafted
McMahon - 6th round

Reese Morgan

Elgin - 7th round
Ferentz - undrafted
Yanda - 3rd round (nice catch, anonymous)
Jones - undrafted

Obviously, there's no point in listing draft positions of dropouts and career backups, but consider that of the current linemen, only Seth Olsen and Rafael Eubanks look like potential draftees, and neither seem particularly dominant. That's, how you say, not so good.

Look, Reese Morgan is a good guy, and he was a great tight end coach. Dallas Clark's an obvious example, but Erik Jensen and Ryan Majerus were bona fide starters themselves. How easy it was to have tackles with receiver-eligible jerseys on the ends, taking up linebackers' play action responsibilities on third and short.

But that's not Morgan's job anymore. Offensive line coach is, and the line's been offensive in a different way for a couple years now. Worse, it doesn't look like it's getting any better, and that matters a whole lot more to the future success of the football team than any stylistic concerns we've got about play-calling or "using the whole field."