There’s an old adage I’m sure most of you are familiar with: doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result, is the definition of insanity. Those words have never rung more true than this Monday morning. For some reason, after spending my life to this point rooting for the Iowa Hawkeyes - the majority of which has been under current head coach Kirk Ferentz - I continue to expect to show up to Kinnick Stadium or turn on the television on a fall Saturday and see something different. And again I sit here on Monday morning feeling disappointment and disgust.
Why? Insanity, I guess. And I’m clearly not the only one. There are, I’m sure, thousands and thousands of Hawkeye fans who woke up yesterday and today with a similar feeling. It’s a part of who we are as Iowa fans at this point. Win, get your hopes up, get disappointed. Rinse. Repeat.
But the phenomenon isn’t limited to fans, it seems to have infected both the Iowa players and coaching staff. All season we’ve watched this team struggle offensively. We’ve seen them face 8 and 9 men in the box and we’ve seen them attempt to run into the teeth of that stacked box. We’ve watched receivers (and tight ends) drop passes and the quarterback, despite looking very good for a true sophomore in his first season starting, have some big time head-scratching moments. We’ve watched the offensive line struggle to create holes in the running game and get torched off the edge for big sacks in the worst of situations.
And at the end of it all, we hear everyone in the program tell us they were so close if they had just done a better job of executing. They had the perfect play called, they just didn’t execute the blocks. They threw the perfect pass, they just didn’t execute the catch. They had the defense beat, they just didn’t execute the throw. They had the right coverage called, they just didn’t execute that coverage.
I’m calling bullshit. Bullshit on all of it. OK, sure, there are mistakes. There are lots of mistakes. That’s life with 18-22 year old kids you are counting on to execute. Are we supposed to believe that is somehow unique to this team in this year? Absolutely not. What to other teams with other coaches do? They change the fucking plan to minimize those mistakes. They coach the hell out of their guys on the things they are struggling to execute and if they don’t trust them to execute certain things, they sure as shit don’t keep cramming that round peg into a square damn hole.
Offensive line struggling to keep your QB clean? Maybe throw some quick hitters to negate the need for time. They’re bringing extra guys? Try a screen! Your offensive line isn’t creating holes to run through? Mix up when you are running by throwing on first and second downs and how you are running by utilizing different formations and pull some blockers to change the flow of defenders. They’ve thrown to the same guy, on the same route, SIX CONSECUTIVE PLAYS for completions (and 7 of 8 for over 100 yards and 2 TDs)? Maybe you try and shade a safety to help over the top or move your potential first round draft pick CB to man up on that guy.
But instead, we see the same stuff over and over and over, apparently expecting different results. It is the definition of insanity.
But as a fan, perhaps the most frustrating thing is the complete and utter lack of accountability from anyone other than the players themselves. Look, I’m an admitted Kirk Ferentz apologist. I’m pretty vocally on the record as saying I think Brian Ferentz is an upgrade over Greg Davis and could be a very good offensive coordinator. I’ve gone so far as to say I’m OK with the idea of Brian being groomed for the head coaching job when Kirk eventually hangs up the ol’ whistle (or gum, or whatever applies for him). But is it so much to ask the guys getting paid the millions (in the case of the head man) or the hundreds of thousands (in the case of everyone else) of dollars to step up and accept ANY shred of accountability for the struggles?
While guys like Nate Stanley and Josey Jewell are talking about their mistakes and lack of execution (THEY ARE ALL BRAIN WASHED), this is what we get from the head man in the post game:
Needless to say, it was a very disappointing, frustrating game for our team. Early when we got challenged out there we weren't able to execute the way you need to execute. And that's just the bottom line. So we didn't get it done.
Q: But, how do you explain how great the offense looked a couple weeks ago against Ohio State vs. how terrible they’ve looked the last two games?
We weren't up for the challenge. We weren't equal to it. And part of that was our execution, or lack thereof. And the things that we did or didn't do really seemed to kind of snowball or it was a domino effect if you will. Get a good play, get a penalty, what have you. Don't throw it well enough, don't protect well enough. When we do, we drop it, that type of thing.
Q: What led to the six sacks today?
A: Probably a combination of things. They're a high pressure outfit. We knew that, just under 40 percent with pressure. So that's a challenge in itself. But a couple of them were just mental errors where we cut guys loose, a couple more guys getting beat. And that part you can live with. But the mental errors, we're not going to win football games where you just cut a guy loose. And we did that a couple of times today.
Honestly, I can’t bring myself to read anymore of the responses. The execution bit is such a cop out. You know who else has their guys make mistakes? Every team in America. Every. Single. One. But they do what they can to put their team in a position to win and minimize those errors. Literally every play in the playbook, save the QB kneel and the clock play, are designed to score. If executed to perfection, the offense would score on every single play. And on defense? If every player executed their assignment to perfection every single play, no offense would gain a single yard. That’s the way the things are designed. But kids make mistakes. It’s on the coaches to teach them how to minimize those mistakes and put them in position to have their mistakes overcome.
But this staff doesn’t want to take any accountability for those coaching needs. Instead, they keep running out the same, tired gameplan and hoping for a different result. It’s insanity. And until they take some of that accountability, nothing will change. If they can’t acknowledge that it’s on them to teach players to a point where they aren’t failing to execute every single week, they aren’t going to work on it. If they can’t acknowledge that if the execution is hurting them it’s on them to come up with a gameplan that minimizes the risk of poor execution, they won’t change anything.
If the coaching staff can’t take some accountability, we’ll be stuck with more tired excuses of poor execution and more insanity. More games with six sacks. More games with fewer than 100 yards rushing. More games where we save the wind for the 4th quarter when we should be planning to milk the clock. More games where we opt to go for one early in the game, only to go for two at the end and completely shift the psychology of the players. More games where we see our punter average less than 30 yards per punt without being pulled for the scholarship punter waiting on the sidelines. More games where we don’t see any of the things we were promised offensively a mere three months ago - no Akrum Wadley on the field with James Butler, no Wadley split out wide and in space, no tight ends flexed to space out defenders, no passing on first and second down to set up the run, none of it. And I will literally go insane watching it.
Iowa notoriously has a 24 hour rule where players and coaches are allowed to dwell on a game - win or lose - for 24 hours and then flush it entirely. Maybe it’s time that rule gets flushed? Maybe it’s time this staff takes a long hard look in the mirror and lets the misery of the last two games burn in their stomach for 6 days before they take the field again. Maybe then they’d take some accountability. Maybe then we’d stop hearing about poor execution and start hearing about changes being made. Maybe we’d see an offense worth watching. Maybe we’d see a win. Maybe.
Or maybe we’ll see the same thing we’ve seen all year (save that one glorious Saturday afternoon in November where the Hawkeyes did the unthinkable). Probably. But it sure would be nice to see some accountability, stop hearing about execution and save all of us from the insanity.
Happy Monday. It’s a short week this week. Get out there and execute. Take some accountability for what you’re about to do this long weekend. Try not to go insane on Friday. Gobble. Gobble.