The storyline for Iowa football in 2023 has been much the same as it was in 2022. The defense is among the best in the nation. The special teams are special. The offense? What offense?
For the second consecutive year, Iowa’s offense ranks dead last nationally in total offense among power five schools. This year, it’s even worse, ranking dead last among all programs. Granted, injuries have no doubt played a part in the struggles. A year ago Iowa was down to a single scholarship receiver for much of the season. This year, Iowa is without it’s top two tight ends (and lost the third for stretches as well) and lost starting QB Cade McNamara after he played injured the first several games of the season.
But injuries or not, dead last nationally is simply unacceptable for a team that’s among the best in the nation in the two other phases of the game. Simply being bad would result in a top-25 team. The staff and administration know that. It’s why departed athletic director left his farewell gift of a new contract stipulation for offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz.
Much has been written and said about the now infamous drive to 325, but the goal was always to simply be mediocre at offense because the rest of the team is good enough to carry average to a Big Ten West title. Dead last is a heavier load.
Through nine weeks of the season, Iowa is 6-2. They still hold the keys to the Big Ten West and would be headed back to Indianapolis if they win out, barring a massive upset when Minnesota heads to the Horseshoe to take on Ohio State in mid-November. And the Hawkeyes need just one more win to satisfy the wins and losses portion of Brian’s revised contract.
But Iowa enters the home stretch averaging just 232 yards and 19.5 points per game. That’s good for 132nd and 114th nationally. It’s also well off the pace needed for offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz to meet his 25 point per game minimum threshold to have his contract renewed this offseason. To get there, Iowa would need to average 33.8 points over the remaining five games. That’s.... not going to happen.
With that writing on the wall, the only thing left for fans to do is chant “Fire Brian” inside Kinnick Stadium and speculate as to whether interim AD Beth Goetz will actually follow through on Barta’s stipulations or create some wiggle room for the Ferentz family.
On Monday, that speculation came to an end as the University of Iowa announced that Brian Ferentz has officially will not be retained in his position as offensive coordinator for the Hawkeyes after this season. He will, however, remain in the role through Iowa’s bowl game.
Here’s the full release from the University of Iowa:
Statement From Beth Goetz, Henry B. And Patricia B. Tippie Interim Director of Athletics Chair
Anyone who loves Iowa football recognizes both the success and challenges that have brought attention to our program this season. Our struggles on offense coupled with the offensive coordinator’s contract make this a unique situation.
After conversations with head coach Kirk Ferentz, coach Brian Ferentz and President Wilson, I informed Brian that our intention is for him to be with us through the bowl game, but this is his last season with the program. Making this known today is in the best interest of the program and its loyal fans; it provides clarity during this pivotal time in the schedule.
It is not my practice to be involved in assistant coaching decisions and certainly not to make public such a change during a season. Our priority is to put all our student-athletes in the best position to have both short-term and long-term success, on and off the field. Our football team has a group of outstanding young men and talented athletes, who at 6-2, have a lot to play for. As a former athlete, I know every opportunity to put on the jersey is a cherished one.
As Hawkeyes, let’s continue to support all our coaches, staff and student-athletes in their pursuit of a Big Ten Championship and bowl game victory.
Ferentz had been in the role since 2017 when he replaced Greg Davis. Brian had been on the staff since 2012, when he joined as offensive line coach after coaching tight ends for the New England Patriots. After three seasons as OL coach, Brian was named run game coordinator in 2015. He held the title, along with his OL duties, for two seasons before becoming OC.
Notably, the offense hasn’t always been mired by poor performance under Ferentz the younger. Through Brian’s first four seasons in the role, Iowa averaged more than 29 points per game, 54th nationally. That included a pair of seasons over 30 points per game that put Iowa in the top third of all offenses in the country.
Iowa Offensive Ranks Under OC Brian Ferentz
But things turned south in 2021 and have completely gone off the rails the last two seasons. Perhaps not coincidentally, long time offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe retired in 2021, relinquishing his role as quarterbacks coach to Brian Ferentz in 2022. With the move from OC and TE coach to OC and QB coach, Ferentz’s productivity with the offense took a nosedive.
That nosedive, it seems, has finally become untenable for interim AD Beth Goetz. Notably, the release reads as though Goetz is terminating Ferentz’s contract rather than him resigning, which had been rumored earlier in the day. The decision to leave him in place through the rest of the season is open to some criticism given Iowa has a former division one offensive coordinator on staff as an analyst in Jon Budmayr.
However, the decision to announce a termination at this point shows meaningfully more accountability than letting Ferentz leave on his own accord and is a meaningful break from the leadership style Hawkeye fans had grown accustomed to under former athletic director Gary Barta.
Now Iowa fans look to the remaining five games (perhaps six if the Hawkeyes can win the West) and are left to wonder if anything changes for a lame duck coordinator.
Iowa is back on the field this week as they travel to Chicago to take on Northwestern inside Wrigley Field. The game kicks off at 2:30pm CT and will be available for streaming on Peacock.