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KIRK SPEAKS: The Offseason

Buckle up y'all, this was a doozy

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Well folks, we’re deep-ish into the midst of football offseason, which means it’s time for Kirk’s annual postseason press conference. We’re just going to go right into it because this one was a doozy, and there’s a lot to cover. My highlights and commentary below, full transcript here.

Kirk started things out with a lengthy opening, let’s get right into the meat of it. This section is long as well, but I’m including it all because it’s important context for the later questions.

KIRK FERENTZ: Bottom line is I just really believe strongly in our path. Our program is on a really good path, a strong foundation, and we’re eager to try to move forward now, and that’s really kind of where our sights turn at this point.

I’ll take a minute just to touch on the advisory group. A lot has been said and written on that.

I think all of you are aware, 18 months ago we went through some turbulent times. My first response was to reach out to former players, Black and White, and former coaches here, people that coached in the program, just to get a better feel what our situation was and the areas that we need to address.

One big takeaway from the whole thing was that there’s an opportunity. That’s one benefit of being somewhere 20 plus years. There are a lot of downsides to it, but one benefit is we’ve got pretty good continuity in this program. It really made me aware that there’s another resource out there available, and that’s really my rationality for forming that committee, that advisory group.

The bottom line was they were a resource, period, and will continue to be, so that was my goal and purpose, and that’s really what they’ve been.

As you may have noticed, I didn’t publicly announce all the members, haven’t shared all the names in the group, and that’s just the way I choose to operate. Same thing can be said about conversations I’ve had with members. Not unlike any conversations I had with our players internally here. I just don’t think that’s necessarily best for public consumption.

When I do talk to folks, I try to give them the confidence that they’re going to be speaking confidentially, and it’s hopefully a two-way street.

Basically in a nutshell, we met very frequently at the onset and then scaled back the meetings. Over the course of 2020 we did meet frequently, I think it was weekly I believe or every other week in 2020, and then by last summer really cut the number of meetings back.

As the path has moved forward, we’ve just kind of cut back on that, and the bottom line is this: As the season went on, it became clear to me that it was really time that maybe we reshape the committee, the people involved. They’ve given a lot of time and a lot of their efforts to the program, cutting time out of their schedules, so in my mind it was time to reshape things a little bit, and I’m not quite sure what that’s going to look like. I’m still formulating some thoughts on that, but we’ll get that to where we need to.

It’s going to continue to be a resource for me. That’s just something that is going to be very valuable, very helpful. The bottom line is this: I’m extremely appreciative to each and every one of the guys, and there were 10 members, for their contributions, their time. Like I said, it was really significant time. A lot of really positive feedback and helpful things.

I think one thing about when you’re in charge of things, if you’re in a leadership position, one thing you’re very fearful of or leery of is the possibility for blind spots, so the more people that you can talk to, the more areas to probe of the program and things that we do on a daily basis, I think the better, and there’s no better group in my mind than players that have been through the program, people that have been through the program.

Again, a high percentage of them played in the last 20 plus years, but there are those or there was at least one key member that played here years ago but has a real good unique perspective on what it is we do on a daily basis.

All information is really helpful, and again, I’m just very, very appreciative of that group.

Now, I included the whole thing here to prove my point of: this is classic Kirk speak, where he’s taking like SEVEN HUNDRED words to explain nothing of actual merit regarding what actually made people upset about the situation. He’s giving context that the group met less and less frequently (understandable) but also leaves out the elephant in the room of how he addressed it. Credit where it’s due to the media members, who asked really difficult questions as a result. Let’s get into that.

Q. Regarding the advisory committee, might as well ask these early. There was maybe some incon-sistencies on an email versus a letter that you sent regarding whether it’s disbanded or changed, al-tered. Can you kind of address what maybe you meant in the email that you sent, that it was going to be disbanding and what changed to make you want to reform it and adapt it to a different type of committee?

KIRK FERENTZ: We’ve been in existence, whatever it is, 16, 18 months, and a lot of hours spent. Probably in fairness to the guys on the committee, maybe a chance to give them a reprieve and get some fresh faces. I’m not quite sure where we’ll go, and there may be some repeat members if they volunteer and they’re open to it. But I think it’s like anything, sometimes a little change is good, and I want guys that are willing and not tired or fatigued.

We’ll go from there, but just some thoughts I have right now are perhaps some guys a little bit more recent vintage, a little bit closer to it. I think Jordan Lomax was the most recent graduate on the committee. Maybe some guys that have more direct ties to this profession, be it college football, pro foot-ball. It’s a little bit of a challenge for pro football players, and we had one or two active guys on it initial-ly, but their time commitment just didn’t allow them to stay with it.

Those are some things I want to explore. This is a time right now to think about football, time to think about a lot of things, and this is one we’ll give thought to before we really kind of formulate things. I want to get some opinions ...

That’s kind of my thought process, and I pretty much in December had a little bit of time to think about things.

Ok, so he wants to get new faces into the committee. That’s great. The more recent people that are on there shaping the future culture of the program, the better in my eyes. That’s all fine and dandy. Here’s where things continue to get frustrating.

Q. Do you have a timeline for when you’d like to have this all figured out?

KIRK FERENTZ: When I’ve got it in my mind, that’s when we’re going to do it. There’s that funny commercial somebody had about 20 years ago, where the guy takes some time to think and the guy says, what makes you think. None of us think enough, and that’s one of our biggest challenges, especially in season, which is part of the reason I held off until January. We’ve got a lot going on.

My first commitment is still to our players, and that’s the work of the committee is to make this a better environment for our players that are here. Those are the guys I’m most committed to.

Our job is to give them a great environment. Hopefully when they leave here, they graduate and have a great experience and maximize their football and then go fly and run, run on your own. We’re still here to support them, but that’s our goal.

This is yet another self inflicted wound by Kirk Ferentz in this situation. WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT FOR HIM TO SAY ‘I’d like to have this reorganized and ready to go for fall camp’ OR SOMETHING ALONG THOSE LINES? Giving the impression with this answer — and with the initial message — of kicking the can down the road ad nauseam is partially why we’re here in the first place. “We’ve got a lot going on.” Sure, at the end of the day a committee isn’t the top thing on the mind of a head coach, but if it’s truly important to him, he would have said ‘I’m disbanding this with the intent to restructure it like this,” in the first place. OR AT LEAST LIE AND PICK AN ARBITRARY DATE.

Every impression we’ve gotten from Kirk in this situation says — at least to me — that he wants this committee to go away, and he wishes you would stop asking about it so others can forget about it.

The questioning didn’t stop there and I’m going to let this sequence of questions run on its own.

Q. I asked David Porter the same thing: Could this have been communicated better on both ends? Do you think that’s fair or do you think that’s not fair?

KIRK FERENTZ: Well, everything could probably be communicated better. I don’t have any regrets about my communication. I haven’t heard any feedback, negative feedback from the people, and I’ve reached out to a couple guys individually. But I think the guys all kind of knew — I don’t want to say all, but a lot of guys knew where we were heading on this thing. I think they had a good sense of it.

One thing about life, everybody has opinions, and it doesn’t make them facts, but everybody has opinions about things. Smart people can decipher through and try to figure out what’s factual.

Q. What’s your reaction to David’s recommendation that after 18 months that he felt like it was best if you stepped down? That’s heavy.

KIRK FERENTZ: Well, it’s not heavy, it’s an opinion, and obviously everybody is entitled to their opinions. I’m not thinking in those terms, if that’s what you’re asking. Not even remotely.

Q. How do you react to something like that?

KIRK FERENTZ: I didn’t have much reaction. I read it and that’s his opinion. There’s not much to react to other than I have a different opinion. My intention is like long-term and big picture, not short-term. Everyone is allowed to have an opinion.

Q. It’s not alarming that he feels that way?

KIRK FERENTZ: No, it’s his opinion.

Q. Or why he feels that way?

KIRK FERENTZ: No, it’s his opinion.

Q. He also said he considers you still a friend and a mentor.

KIRK FERENTZ: But he thinks I should retire apparently, right? So we have a difference of opinion. I’m not thinking about that right now, but I respect that. I’ve got no problem with that.

Holy snark here, Batman. Obviously, I’m reading the text online and have no context of body language, tone of voice, etc, so let’s look at the tape, shall we?

Right from the get-go, I sense irritation here. “Smart people can decipher through and try to figure out what’s factual.” Yikes. Rob seems to be the one who asked the questions here, and is getting shit on for it in the replies. Kirk later says to talk to the other people on the committee, and I agree with that. But also, earlier in the press conference, he literally said “As you may have noticed, I didn’t publicly announce all the members, haven’t shared all the names in the group, and that’s just the way I choose to operate.” So I don’t really know how we’re supposed to operate here when David Porter is the one that is obviously the root cause of this specific issue — which is separate from the disbanding of the committee, at least to me. I don’t know what Rob expected to hear in response to this questions — he goes to enough of these press conferences to know that Kirk can talk for twenty minutes straight about a question without giving an answer — but I applaud him for asking about it. Kirk dodges the questions, but there’s a little bit of snark and irritation there. You can tell from the way he’s quick to answer the question and try to move on. Certainly not the best “phrased” question, but a question that did at least deserve to be asked. The Iowa media members do not frequently press on one issue. While the result was unsurprising, I think we’re going to start seeing more of that, and I for one think that’s a good thing.

After this line of questioning, the media went into recruiting topics, but let’s stay adjacent to this topic for one more question:

Q. Along those lines, if anybody received more criticism than Spencer this year, it was Brian, and the numbers are the numbers. A lot of people with a relationship, obviously you’re his dad, so they wonder if there’s either nepotism involved and why he’s still here and another coach may not be. What gives you faith that Brian can do the job that he’s doing and do it well to remain the offensive coordinator?

KIRK FERENTZ: A couple things. Going back to the last question, he’s an adult and he’s getting paid. I’m not saying he’s fair game, but when you get paid, I look at the world a whole lot different if you’re getting a salary versus being a college athlete. That’s the way it goes. I’ve joked about it, but it is the worst position, and with social media it’s become the all-time worst position is the guy who calls plays.

The nepotism, I would say my approach, and believe me, I’ve thought about all this stuff, we didn’t exactly light it up in ‘04. We were next to last in rushing. I can’t remember who was last. But next to last in rushing, but we didn’t torch it up or tear the playbook up after that. We were not a very good team, and I still remember like yesterday the spring of ‘08, Tom Moore in our facility Saturday morning or it was Friday morning, whatever time he got here, ridiculously early, I walk in the conference room and he’s watching our film from ‘07, and I asked him what he was doing. He said, I’m watching your film. I said, why, because we were terrible on offense.

But my answer there is after those two seasons, we just went back to work, and that’s what we do.

It’s my judgment to decide if we’ve got the best people in the building. That’s my obligation, my judgment. It’s my obligation to the program, most importantly to our players, and again, I feel really good about our staff. I think we’ve got a real capable staff, talented staff. We’re going to find solutions and get better, and that’s my responsibility as the head coach.

Some interesting things to look at here. Kirk’s reference of the past — to me — implies he realizes what the numbers are saying about Brian and the offense. But then he basically goes on to give Brian a full vote of confidence, and dodges the question by saying he will “find solutions” and “get better.” So, barring any coaching changes (which Kirk said earlier he doesn’t anticipate having), Brian is here to stay, and he’s not going anywhere if Kirk has anything to say about it. Sure, you want to stand up for your coach (and your son) but this is not a great answer (but also completely unsurprising) if you’re looking for any kind of offensive change this year...or any sort of change in Brian’s job status based on the discrimination report or the new version of the committee.

Onto more football related topics quickly:

Q. Your team is never going to win the metrics battles because of the style of play and ground acquisition at times just to try to play complementary football, but you were in the hundreds in almost every offensive category this year and probably most concerning is completion percentage over the last handful of years has been below 60 percent. Even your quarterbacks have talked about how complicated the offense is. Is there a way to — is it too complicated? Is there a way to simplify it, and how much more can you get out of the passing game to push some of those numbers up?

KIRK FERENTZ: That’s certainly part of the discussion this out of season. Yeah, we especially last year we didn’t throw the ball well enough to be successful enough, if you want ... but yeah, we’ve got to do better. That’ll be part of the discussion certainly.

That tends to be part of the — if there is an issue or problem, a lot of times it is making things harder than they need to be, so we’ll certainly ask those questions.

“we've got to do better” but also, “we’ll certainly ask the questions.” Which one is it? I mean I get it’s somewhat early in the offseason still, but I think this is a solution that would help the program a lot and would be easy enough to implement. It shouldn’t be a question after this season.

Last and very certainly not least:

Q. You said no incumbents are safe, but how do you feel about quarterbacks? Do you feel like it’s wide open competition?

KIRK FERENTZ: I do, yeah. I mean, everybody has a right to compete. I’m anxious to see Joe compete, too. He was kind of getting spoon fed in December because he was the only guy out there for a while.

But yeah, we have to do better. There’s several positions, and everybody knows that, we have to do better if we’re going to move the ball and score points the way we want to. We don’t have to score 45 points a game.

...If we’ve got makeable plays out there, we’ve got to make them. We’ve got to throw it and we’ve got to catch it and we’ve got to protect. That’s kind of where it is, and we’ve got to make positive yards when we run the football. Doesn’t always have to be five, six, seven, but it’s got to be positive yards. Those negative yardage plays kill you, or dropped balls or makeable throws that we don’t make.

Ok, so QB battle is open. We knew that. Offense has to do better and make the “makable” plays. We knew that too, but it’s interesting to hear. But what’s going to actually change is the biggest question heading into next season no matter who is under center. Kirk talked about it a little bit in the other question, but still. Do things need to change, or don’t they? We have a lot of questions regarding the offense heading into 2022, and now the question is if we’ll get any sort of answer about change before the first snap of non-conference play.