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Free-For-All Friday: The Boys Are Back in Town

It’s Friday and the boys are back to tackle difficult topics. Like coaches’ music taste, metal bands and who should be Iowa’s next head coach.

Nebraska v Iowa
Should Phil Parker be Iowa’s next head coach?
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

It’s been minute, ya’ll. Like, over a year, minute. But here we are on a Friday with no football game for the Hawkeyes this weekend and basketball season still just out of our reach. With nothing else to fill the void, what better time to re-introduce Free For All Friday?

None. That’s the answer. There’s no better time than now. So here we are.

As a quick refresher, FFF is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a couple of guys just talking random nonsense to each other throughout the week. Do you care? Probably not. Should you care? Definitely not. But we’re a couple Hawkeye fans talking about a lot of things we assume you all think about too, whether that be who should be our next head football coach, which former players would be best to have with you in a street fight, what pair of players wins in an NBA Jam redux or literally whatever. It’s a (mostly) Hawkeye sports free-for-all.

And the boys are back in town, baby!

JP: Hellooooo, Jerry!

Hello Jerry:
All these images in my head, and all I want is your hand instead
I don’t want to sleep by myself
So don’t close the door.
I’m just lying here in my bed ‘cause I can’t forget those words you said
Maybe we just need some help
So don’t close the door.
And I wish I had another word to say my heart’s been cured by you
So let me through

JP: Buddy, you’ve mistaken me for someone who listens to anything other than rap.

Speaking of which, what kind of music do you think each of the Iowa coaches listens to? Kirk has to be an old school country guy, right?

Hello Jerry: No shot Kirk listens to old country music. In fact, I don’t think Kirk listens to any music at all. If anything, his car has been stuck on Newsradio 780 WBBM for the last 20-years and he doesn’t even blink an eye at it now. He loves those soothing voices talking about politics, weather and traffic. It keeps him grounded.

Brian Ferentz on the other hand is probably ripping it up to the best of Korn, Iron Maiden, Megadeath, Hotdog Fingers and Slipknot while breaking mirrors and slamming multiple remotes to his projector in his office while watching game tape.

JP: Fair. I cannot confirm that most of those are real bands, but it seems fair.

How much of Brian’s temper, or perceived temper, is driven from being raised by a man who sees every problem as being caused by execution issues (literally everything that went wrong for those kids growing up was on them) and how much is pent up frustration from his offense not scoring points?

Hello Jerry: One of them was not a real band. Care to guess which one?

Honestly, you kind of just blew my mind on your observation about Brian. At the end of the day we all are a little messed up from our parents. It’s not necessarily their faults either. They tried their very best but life gets in the way. The more and more I grow up the more and more I realize how difficult it is to raise kids, work full time and be “on” all the time. I don’t even have a child yet. I’m sure you can relate in some aspect with your current situation.

But imagine growing up with a dad who is always at the football field or in his office breaking down film. And when he comes home for dinner, he’s critiquing how they eat their peas. That’s theoretically really rough. But, that’s theoretical. Kirk could’ve been one of those guys that leaves it all in the office and goes home and has nightly catches with each and every one of his sons and then played tea party with his daughters. What is not theoretical is his offense not scoring nearly enough points and being the difference in Iowa sitting in the Big Ten West catbird seat and playing to survive.

Since we’re here, a lot of people just assume that nothings going to change against Wisconsin this year. Do you think Brian and Nate with two weeks have it in them to give us Woodshed 2.0?

JP: I’ve heard of Korn, Megadeath and Slip Knot. Hotdog Fingers seems so absurd it has to be real, so I’ll guess Iron Maiden is not real? Side note, and not to derail what is already derailed, but hit me with your go-to workout playlist.

Re the kids thing, yeah, I can’t imagine what it’s like for a football coach or his kids. I work a normal-ish job now and there are days when I legitimately don’t see my children. I’m often out the door for work before at least one of them is awake for the day and if I have anything in the evening they are in bed before I get home. That’s rough.

For a guy like Ferentz, I assume that’s most days. I go to the same Starbucks he hits every day and I can tell you he’s on his way to the office before most kids are up for the day. I assume he isn’t cutting out of the office early to get in his quality time either. Throw in Satrudays at the stadium, Sundays in team meetings and breaking down film and you literally never see the family. That has to be rough on all parties.

Now, as to Wisconsin, I have thoughts. You know I’m a Ferentz (pick one) apologist and defender, more so than even the most optimistic among us (that’d be you, buddy) typically is. So let me say this now to front run all the upcoming hate: it doesn’t matter what BF draws up. It just doesn’t.

Look, I get it. People want the offense to be better and when things don’t go well the people blamed are the ones in charge. Brian hasn’t been perfect this year. I have major frustrations with some of his decisions (namely, insisting on running out of heavy packages, using said packages on obvious running downs like 3rd and short, ever giving the ball to a fullback, using a fullback at all, and on and on), but there is really nothing he can draw up that’s going to decide the outcome against Wisconsin.

That defense is good. Their front it really good. It’s better than Iowa’s offensive line. Scratch that, it’s better than the interior of Iowa’s offensive line. And that’s all that matters. The Hawkeyes need to be able to run the ball to have any success. We all know that. This team is best when it is able to run the ball and when they can’t get to 100 yards on the ground, they lose basically 100% of the time (with the bowl game against Mississippi State last year the lone exception – props to BF for achieving that).

Running the ball is very, very difficult when you can’t block anything in the middle of the line. Passing the ball is equally difficult when you can’t block anything in the middle of the line and the defense knows you can’t run the ball.

Now, there are some things Brian can do and we’ve seen some of those the last few weeks. We’ve seen more gap run blocking and less zone. We’ve seen more runs out of 11 personnel. We’ve seen more delays and draws. We’ve seen backs and tight ends pulled into the middle for pass blocking rather than chipping off the edge. We’ve seen screens and quick slants and on and on.

And yet the offense still only managed 20 points at Northwestern. Granted, they left some things in the bag for sure given the circumstances and that NW defense is solid, but all that tells me there is basically a 0% chance the offense drops a 50 burger on Wisconsin regardless of what Brian calls.

Hello Jerry: But JP, I feel like you contradicted yourself. Iowa WAS more successful because Brian is trying to change it up. I think you said it best “ We’ve seen more gap run blocking and less zone. We’ve seen more runs out of 11 personnel. We’ve seen more delays and draws. We’ve seen backs and tight ends pulled into the middle for pass blocking rather than chipping off the edge. We’ve seen screens and quick slants and on and on.”

On and on and on. Brian’s trying to call stuff around the execution. All of those coaches know what they have up front. They know that it’s an issue and preventing them from being MORE successful. They also know that teams are going to keep pinning their ears back and trying to hit Nate and the runningbacks right in the mouth. And how do you beat that JP? Screens and quick slants into the teeth of the pressure.

That, the tight end release valve (oh hello LaPorta) and a run game. Tyler Goodson needs the ball way, way more than he’s getting it. Honestly, 20+ touches should be a minimum. If defenses are going to over pursue even on Iowa’s run game, you need a back like Goodson who can make a guy or two miss and then be off to the races.

So, is all of that, two weeks of preparation, a senior quarterback who hasn’t beat his home state team, ISM (who cares so SO much about being great) and a defense that is going to do exactly what Northwestern, Illinois and Ohio State defensively enough to slay our older brother?

JP: In short, I don’t think so. We’ve already seen those things and the offense still only managed 20 at Northwestern. Now, if they don’t have the mental mistakes and they execute to perfection as they did against Ohio State, then sure I could see them hanging 30ish on Wisconsin. But I don’t see them executing to perfection again for a decade. It seems much more likely that regardless of the playcalling, the line misses some blocks and Nate gets sacked, backs are tackled for a loss and turnovers are created.

And now I’m sad.

BUT, the white knight that is Phil Parker comes riding in, head held high. He reaches out his strong, grizzled hand to Brian and lifts him onto his horse. Because the offense can get away with being imperfect this year (and most years) with an elite defense. Parker’s crew is top 10 nationally in basically every statistic that matters and that includes scoring. The offense doesn’t need to be great if the defense can just hold Wisconsin under their average, as they’ve done all year long (they’re second nationally in relative scoring defense – that is points allowed vs. opponents’ average ppg – at only 35%) .

The Badgers are racking up more than 35 points per game, but based on what Iowa’s been doing so far, that projects to only 12 points against this Hawkeyes defense. I don’t know if they can pull that off with the absurdity that is the Badger run game (more than 215 ypg on the ground) and the talent of Jonathan Taylor, but if they can get close the offense has a chance.


On a related note, I think we can all agree that Phil Parker is better at his job than Brian Ferentz is at his. Would you want Phil as the next head coach at Iowa? What do you think the defense would look like if he isn’t the coordinator? What would he ideally want out of an offense?

Hello Jerry: Brian Ferentz and Nate Stanley are going to shock the world next week. This is a team of destiny and you can’t prove anything otherwise. LA LA LA LA LA!

In terms of your last question, I’m torn. I can see Brian being a fire starter on the recruiting trail and being a solid CEO type coach who keeps/puts coaches in positions to succeed. I think Brian naturally gets it and I can see him completely swaying recruits to come to Iowa when he’s sitting across from them. And ultimately, that’s super important.

Phil Parker is an elite defensive coordinator and you know what, why not just keep being an elite defensive coordinator at a program that lets you run ship? At $750,000 a year (plus, I would have to imagine, bonuses), is it better to just stay at Iowa and enjoy the fruits of your labor or go to a MAC school for another $100,000?

That’s not to say I don’t think Phil Parker would be great at being a head coach. But as I said, I think he’s elite as a coordinator in this program. He recruits his own guys. He sets them up for success. He has carte blanche to do as he sees fit to keep this unit one of the best in the nation. That might not be the case if he were to decide to move on or takes on more responsibility as an HC.

But that’s just my two cents. What about you?

JP: I…. I think I agree. There are certain guys who are tremendous at their job but wouldn’t be great if you just kept moving them up. I don’t know if Phil would be a great head coach or not, but he’s one of the best in the biz as a DC. And he certainly could have jumped at a HC job by now.

And if he did end up as a head coach, I think he would really struggle letting go of the defense. We kind of see that now with him still being the defensive backs coach. He’s really good at that to the point where nobody is doing it better than him.

As for Brian, you may have hit the nail on the head. There are some things to be desired in terms of calling an offense, but those actually go away if you are the head coach. He brings that youth and fire that Iowa fans seem to want (although clearly not too much given their apparent distaste for Fran’s fire – a topic for another day). He takes the rivalries with Minnesota, Iowa State, Nebraska, etc. as seriously as fans would hope and I don’t know that he would have the same philosophy as Kirk when it comes to letting off the gas against inferior opponents.

Ultimately, you would end up with a new offensive coordinator in that scenario and hopefully you get to retain Parker at DC. That, to me, is the ideal situation. Who that OC would be, that’s for another day…..