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The Penn State Domino Effect

Don't want to discuss it
I think it's time for a change...

If Kirk Ferentz prefers to keep his staffing plans to himself and make his moves deliberately you can understand why. In the cutthroat world of college football recruitment – not of players but of coaches – tipping your hand can compromise getting your guy. Negotiations have to be handled with subtlety and secrecy so as to not embarrass or be embarrassed should they go awry. But there appears to be a more pragmatic reason why Ferentz has not rushed to fill his defensive coordinator and defensive line coach openings. College football has been busy finishing up its season – not bowl season mind you, but the season of coaching changes – and, no coaching change appears to have more potential impact on Iowa than the one recently completed in Happy Valley.

Current New England Patriots offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien, was recently announced the new head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions. While nearly every former Penn State player had endorsed interim coach and defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, the Penn State leadership realized – smartly – that the school needed a fresh start and by hiring O’Brien they have brought onboard a coach who had absolutely no ties to Penn State. He also had no ties to Tom Bradley, and thus all indications are that Tom Bradley will not be retained by O’Brien. Here at BHGP there has been considerable conjecture as to whether Kirk Ferentz would (or should) hire Bradley to take over for Norm Parker were he not to be named head coach at Penn State. Well he wasn’t named.

Tom Bradley is an accomplished and compelling candidate for the Iowa defensive coordinator job. But Tom Bradley is not coming here. I cannot imagine Kirk Ferentz hiring a guy he’s never worked with, a guy he’s never seen in action behind the scenes, and a guy coming directly off one of the most bizarre interim coaching experience in the history of college football. Not to mention that Bradley is likely looking at a head coaching position as his inevitable next move. So hiring Bradley does not create comfort in continuity. The next few seasons are too important to spin the big prize wheel. Ferentz has totally lost all the momentum from the 2009 season and needs a seamless transition. I believe Phil Parker will be the next DC. However, the impact of Penn State’s hiring of Bill O’Brien may nevertheless impact how Ferentz organizes the Iowa coaching staff for the 2012 season.

Once O’Brien was rumored to Penn State the Boston press began speculating on who might replace him with the Patriots. Among the many names discussed the one that caught the attention of Iowa fans was Brian Ferentz. To be sure, many of the more rational and seasoned observers believed Ferentz to be, at 28 years old, too young and in the end Belichick might have agreed as he’s decided to bring back Josh McDaniels. I have no idea what impact Belichick’s decision might have on young Ferentz’s role with New England, but I do think it makes for a natural pause, a moment of reflection for him.

Marc Morehouse wrote about the possibility of Brian Ferentz joining his dad very early on and it is a very worthwhile read, if not for any other reason than this one, to mull over this quote about Ferentz the younger:

And Brian said this to Gazette sports columnist Mike Hlas this fall (Hlog link): "I get to do a lot of great things, be in the big arenas," Ferentz said before the Iowa team his father coaches defeated Indiana at Kinnick Stadium, 45-24. "But I’ll be chasing the feeling I had here the rest of my life."

If you find yourself asking how would NFL offensive coach Brian Ferentz fit on the Iowa staff, a staff that has lost two defensive coaches and not a single offensive coach you would not be alone. Moreover, you may find yourself asking, "how would he fit onto a staff that has not seen a coach fired (to my knowledge) in Kirk Ferentz’s tenure?" There is a simple answer to that.

To make room for Brian Ferentz all Kirk Ferentz would need to do is shuffle the coaching deck.

The Phil Parker Scenario:

· Phil Parker is hired to replace Norm Parker as the new defensive coordinator. In doing so, he retains responsibility of coaching the DBs (just as Norm coached the LBs).

· Eric Johnson who is currently coaching the TEs returns to coaching LBs, in effect replacing the loss of Norm. Remember, EJ coached the LBs in 2008 and 2009.

· Brian Ferentz is hired to coach the TEs, replacing EJ and taking on the same role he had with the New England Patriots. But, one would hope, this hire would mark the beginning of Kirk Ferentz's upgrading of the offense by making for an expanded role for Brian to help with the offensive play-calling.

· The defensive line opening would be unaffected in this scenario.

Clearly, if Kirk Ferentz has his eyes set on a different man for defensive coordinator gig then the scenario above may become a bit more muddled. All this assumes too that Kirk would want to work with his son in the first place and were this to happen Ken O'Keefe might not take warmly to it and such a move could generate tension on the staff, something any good head coach would want to avoid.

The more fundamental question though, that many of you might be asking is, "why would a guy destined to be an NFL Coordinator make a blatantly nepotistic move that could taint his resume by coaching with his dad at the college level? It’s a good question. And it is one I hope he’s asked when he’s introduced here in the next week or so.