Folks, I’m pretty peeved at the Ferentz crew. As someone who has attended Kirk Ferentz media conferences in person and writes about them weekly, Kirk’s “I don’t know if you know this, but we won 10 games last year” comment after losing to Illinois on Saturday angered me in ways I haven’t felt since “That’s football.”
We’re dealing with a man...nay, a father and son, who have passed the point of no return to the point of snide and downright disrespect. It’s Iowa football’s bye week, which means the coordinators took to the podium today and met with the media. And boy, it could not come at a more contentious time for our beloved offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. The national spotlight has turned on the program, and not in a positive way! So of course this merited its own post. Let’s dig in. Check out the full transcript here and plenty of snark below.
This was a doozy.
BRIAN FERENTZ: ...I think, obviously right now we’re all disappointed and frustrated by our performance offensively on Saturdays, but I’m proud of the preparation and the effort the guys have put in on a weekly basis, seven days a week. The effort and the preparation has been excellent.
2022 PRACTICE CHAMPS, BABY!
Since there will be no bowl game this year, I think we should hang a “2022 Practice Champs” banner in the practice facility— BHGPunts (@BHGP) October 9, 2022
Q. I could recite the stats and the rankings, but you probably already know them, and it doesn’t really matter anyway. Is there a clear source of where the offensive issues start? Is it positional? Is it schematic? Is it you? Is it the play-calling? Is it your father? Is there one area you think you’re looking at saying this is where the root of all this is?
Let me get this out of the way quickly. As our own Boilerhawk said in the BHGP Slack channel, Iowa fans aren’t allowed to call the media’s questioning soft for at least five years. This was the first damn question asked, and they don’t let up. The media gets a bad rep for its supposed “soft questions” but no punches were pulled today.
BRIAN FERENTZ: I think, unfortunately, we don’t have a root cause. I think we have to look at everything. The reality is, as I just said, we all have ownership in it.
As simple as it sounds, the basic are the basics. If you just think about offensive football our job is to possess, advance, and score the football.
...I look at all 11 spots. I look at the coaching. I look at the scheme. I look at everything, and I say we have to do better in all regards. How do we put our players in better positions to be successful in those opportunities, right?
How do we execute better when we have those opportunities, and how do we make the makeable plays at the end of the day?
Dude, you’re the coach. You’re the one who’s supposed to be setting up your players to “execute better” and “make the makable players.” Why are you acting like this is not in your control?
Q. You had nine months to try to improve this offense after not so good numbers last year. Why do you think it’s since then regressed for all the ways that you have just pointed out?
BRIAN FERENTZ: ...The clear explanation or clear issue, clear root, I wish I could give you one. The reality is we’ve got a lot of issues that we’re working to address right now, and it starts up front, continues outside...
There’s plenty of examples where we can block better, we can run routes better, we can catch the ball better. Okay, we can run the football better at the running back position or we can throw the ball better at the quarterback position.
It’s a culmination of all 11 things that lead to some of those issues. That’s what we’re working hard to address.
The offense just magically regressed for no reason after an offseason spent talking about simplifying everything. Got it.
Don’t get me wrong, the line play hurts this offense more than anything. But to act like it’s just dumbfounding as to why this offense has issues is a stretch.
Q. How do you evaluate yourself as a play caller?
BRIAN FERENTZ: How do I evaluate myself as a play caller? It’s pretty simple. Are we doing the three things that I mentioned at the beginning. Are we possessing, advancing, and scoring the football?
Possessing? Sure, for about 3 plays. Advancing? Not really. Scoring? Definitely not. So...you’re not great at your job, by your own evaluation.
I don’t think we’re doing any of those things very consistently right now, so how I would evaluate myself is I need to improve. I need to work on ways to get better. How do I help the guys do those things? How do I put us in positions to be successful and to advance the football without taking unnecessary risk, and then certainly we get down in the low red area, we need to score. We need to score touchdowns. We’re looking to score touchdowns. Certainly field goals are preferable to the alternative, but touchdowns are the goal.
My evaluation, I need to do better. How do I find ways to make us more successful and improve as we move into the next six games?
Unnecessary risk? If I were Brian right now, I’d be willing to take any risk. What’s the worst that could happen, actually scoring touchdowns?
Q. When you evaluate quarterback Spencer Petras, nobody else has taken a snap. You have talked and Kirk has talked about a lot of confidence in Alex Padilla. Yet, when the offense continues to struggle week after week after week, why not make the change just to make a change, just to change something up?
BRIAN FERENTZ: I don’t disagree with the philosophy of changing for change’s sake. I think it has been effective for people. I think it exists in the world. It’s like any philosophy. You can point to times it’s successful. You can point to times it’s not successful.
Just like sticking with somebody, right? That’s going to cut both ways at some point as well. It’s not a philosophy that we adhere to.
Since I’ve been a part of this program — so I have 16 years in this program as player or a coach. You know, our philosophy is we begin the season. We’re in it together at that point. We can get to the end of the season and worry about making changes for change’s sake, and we’ve done that from time to time. I think back to 2014, the 2014 season, got to the end of that season, and certainly made a change.
But right now the best way I can describe the quarterback position is this: It’s like any position on our football team. We’re evaluating everybody all the time on everything. The quarterback position is very simple. Who can do the job the absolute best?
What are we looking at? We’re looking at metrics. Not just games. Practice. You’re talking about decisions, reads, timing, location, all those things. The good news with the quarterback position it’s very tangible. There’s not a lot of gray area when you are grading those factors.
So the reality is we do like Alex. We would feel comfortable with Alex in the game. We feel like he is a good player, but the reason that Spencer is our quarterback is we feel like he gives us the best chance to win.
“We would feel comfortable with Alex in the game” but Petras gives you the best chance to win? Petras is leading the worst offense in college football and you don’t even want to even give another guy a single down?
Tell us how you really feel...
Q. I wanted to ask about the quarterback. What would be the downside of — I know we’ve talked about this. What’s the downside of going with Alex? You still have Spencer on the team. What would be the downside of giving him a shot?
BRIAN FERENTZ: The downside of —
Q. Making a change at quarterback.
BRIAN FERENTZ: What would be the upside?
Q. Making a change. I’m just asking.
BRIAN FERENTZ: I’m not trying to be coy. What I’m saying is — I think I addressed that, Scott, when you asked the question — what’s the downside? I’m not interested in making a change for change’s sake. What I’m looking at is I’m saying what’s the upside?
I don’t know. There’s unknown there. I know what Spencer has done. I know what Spencer can do, and I know what he does every day. That’s the evaluation piece that we were talking about. That’s what the decision is made on.
I do understand the question. I don’t want you to think I’m being flippant, but does that answer it?
Q. Eh, yeah.
BRIAN FERENTZ: Sort of? Kind of? Not satisfactorily?
Oh, he did. Let’s see this in video form:
Q. I’m thinking back to our last Zoom talking about the mobility aspect. It seems like a more mobile option with the line troubles you’re having. It would be a benefit to me, but maybe you can tell me.
BRIAN FERENTZ: I understand that question. Let me explain it this way. The passing game is a system, and the system is built on timing and location in the zone coverage world or if we’re dealing with man-to-man coverage, matchup leverage throws.
...it’s still built on timing. The mobility aspect, certainly understand the question; but the reality is the majority of the passing game, it needs to happen on a timeline, and the minute that timeline is compromised, now all bets are off. Now it’s backyard football.
...But if that answers your question, I don’t know that the mobility — just having a guy running around, I’m not sure that’s going to solve any of our issues. You’re not going to be any more open just because a guy is running around.
Emphasis mine there at the end. So basically, you’re saying earlier that your line sucks, but that “having a guy running around” will not solve issues. I mean, I’ve seen plenty of plays with open receivers that Petras just misses. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Padilla starts and magically turns this season around. But the absolute reluctance to actually do anything with Padilla is so frustrating, and so damning. That sound you hear is Alex Padilla putting his name in the transfer portal.
Q. When you look at the Big Ten, things have changed quite a bit where you have seen two assistant coaches fired this week, you’ve seen two head coaches fired, including one that was quite a shocker, or at least to me. Have you had any concern about your position and based on the success or lack thereof of the offense, and have you considered stepping down because of that lack of success?
BRIAN FERENTZ: Okay, so I will start, number one, with the last part of the question. In my opinion it doesn’t make it right. There’s two options in life in any situation. You can surrender, and if you surrender, then I think the results are pretty much guaranteed. Or you can dig in, you can continue to fight, and you can try to improve and do things better.
I will always choose option A.
A hilarious mistake here. I think most people wish you would always go with option A....
Done it in my personal life. Done it in my professional life. I wouldn’t be able to go home and look my children in the eye if I wasn’t an option B person. I think I said option A. I started with option surrender, right? That’s not me. Let me be crystal clear about that. That’s number one.
Number two, to the other question, you know, look, in this business we all signed up for this. This is a results-driven business. It has been since the minute I entered it. None of this is a new phenomenon.
Things that go on outside of this program never surprise nor shock me. Ever. Because this is the world we live in. This is the life we chose. You have to get results. Otherwise, they will move on to people who will. That’s the way it is.
You add on to it my emotional ties to this place. I already referenced it, player or coach, 16 years here. Was born in a hospital across the street, spent my entire childhood wanting to run out in that Swarm and got to do it and now got to coach here. I love this place. There is a responsibility and a privilege that comes with being a coach here or being a player here. I feet that deeply.
There’s another layer for me. My father is the head coach. I’ve been answering questions about nepotism my entire adult life. None of that is new to me either.
I would flip it and say if you think that I don’t feel an added responsibility or added pressure to perform well for my father, you are crazy. Of course, I feel that. I’m a human being.
But at the end of the day, what you can’t let happen is worrying about anything that’s not going to help you do your job.
I learned that very early in my career: Keep your eyes on the road. Keep your eyes where they need to be. Keep your feet where you are and worry about doing your job as well as you possibly can regardless of circumstance, regardless of what’s going on around you. Keep your focus there. Pour your effort into that. Whatever happens, happens. Do the best you can where you are at with what you got, and you won’t have any regrets.
That’s what I was taught at an early age. I continue to live by that. So I don’t worry about what’s going on other places.
Quite frankly, I don’t worry about what’s going on for my job status or anything like that. My focus is on the staff, the players, and doing my duty to the best of my ability to help them be successful.
I kept this entire answer here because I think this was Brian at his most authentic and raw. It’s clear he has a passion for this program and this place, but it’s also clear that he’s not performing well at his job. You can love your job but suck at your job - it‘s not mutually exclusive.
Q. Along those lines, do you think that in terms of your job evaluation that that’s been influenced by the fact that the head coach is your father?
BRIAN FERENTZ: You would have to ask the head coach. I don’t think anything. That would be a question for him. I don’t want to speak for anyone else.
Boring answer, but again, very solid question.
Q. A finite amount of time in the bye week and the rest of the season to make improvements. How much of an improvement do you think is feasible for this offense?
BRIAN FERENTZ: We need to make any improvement. I’m not worried about how much is feasible. I’m worried about how much can we make? We need to be striving to make as much as we possibly can.
Going back to the first three points of the press conference: possess, advance, and score the football. How do we do those things better? How can we get them better? Any improvement is better than no improvement, but then let’s start building on that and let’s see how much we can make.
AKA...I’m not sure how much improvement they can actually make. Let’s end here:
Q. What tangible change could you point to coming out of the bye week that might be different about this offense going forward?
BRIAN FERENTZ: I think we’ll have to wait and see. I don’t know how exciting that is as an answer. That’s not going to take any weight off your shoulders.
But the question is fair, right? Let me try to give you a fair answer. Look, if the run game is not effective, if we are not being able to move the ball on early downs with the run game, can we find a way to do it with the passing game?
Or are there ways to manufacture yards on early downs whether it’s quick game, whether it’s emptying the formation out, whatever it is? Can we create more space and then put the ball in space? Can we do that?
Are we asking the proper things in the run game out of the right guys? Can we do a better job of having certain backs run certain plays? Are we asking the guys up front to do things that they cannot do? I don’t know.
We have to look at that right now. That’s what we’re in the process of doing. Can we find better ways to create some of that success on early downs ...
... Are we going to put guys in a better position to become successful? Can we put the ball in the perimeter more, however that is going to be, whether it’s bubbles, jet motions, fly motions, things of that nature?
I don’t have great answers right now. We’re in the process of going through those things, but the reality is, yeah, we have to look at doing things differently and changing some things moving forward here.
Are we going to be five-wide in the wildcat and things like that? I don’t think that’s the answer. If it was, I can assure you that’s what we would be working on doing. The reality is we’re trying to win football games, and we’re invested in this. This is very important to us.
This offense is very clearly broken in a way that likely can’t be fixed by the end of this season. Not having great answers going into the bye week on how to improve the statistically worst offense in college football is a problem. It’s very clear that Brian Ferentz either has to go at the end of this season, or he needs to completely retool everything next season because despite it being “very important” to him, it’s clear that things aren’t working.
I’ll end on this note: I give Brian Ferentz credit for facing a ferocious media today asking tough questions on behalf of hardworking fans who spent their hard earned money to watch the worst offense in college football this season. I would have been dreading this all week, especially after how bad the Illinois loss was. Brian answered a lot of questions, and answered them with poise. The answers weren’t great! But he handled this difficult situation well and I’ll give him credit for that.