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KIRK SPEAKS: Northwestern

Oh, there’s a game this weekend?

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports


There’s a new sheriff in town and her name is Beth Goetz. Long gone are the days of Kirk Ferentz running the Iowa football program without any sort of consequences for his actions. You know what’s up: Brian Ferentz is done at the end of the season. And folks, his daddy is not happy.

He met with the media today, as he always does on Tuesdays ahead of a game and boy oh boy, this was not a happy man. Take a watch of the press conference if you’d like:

That’s a dejected man if I’ve ever seen one.

As always, check out the transcript of the full thing here, and my snark below.

Let’s get right into the meat:

KIRK FERENTZ: A couple things on the announcement yesterday, I’ll briefly address the announcement that came out of the AD’s office, and I suspect you’ll probably have questions. We’ll take a few of those afterwards.

I’ll basically say this, for 25 years, I’ve tried to operate with the singular focus of doing what I feel is best for the program and that’s mainly the players and everybody that works in this building. That’s my first obligation.

Basically, my philosophy and my practice has been pretty consistent. Typically we go through the season and then run an evaluation of the program top to bottom afterwards. Yesterday’s announcement is certainly a departure from that practice, but that’s really what we’ve tried to do for the past 24 years.

Final analysis, just let’s say this. I’m really proud of our players, proud of our coaches. They’ve done a good job over a long time. What we do now is move forward, and our focus is on getting ready for this game and then, bigger picture, all four games.

Decisions made on Saturdays, player-wise, are based on us watching the guys during the out of season, in season, a lot of hours of evaluation time we spend with them just in classrooms, all those types of things.

Just really proud of our players. I think they’ve done a great job. Our staff’s done a great job. You have challenges that sometimes you can’t foresee, and this season is one of those. You play through it. You work through it, and that’s our plan moving forward. I am very proud of the program, the success that we’ve had, and this is one of those things we’ll have to work through as well.

As you know, I did request to be the public voice this week. I thought it was best to protect our players a little bit, pull them out of the interview list. You’ll get a chance to talk to them Saturday certainly and beyond that.

I think in light of what’s going on right now, I think it’s best for us to stay tight and keep our focus on the game at hand. That is the most important thing, and that’s what we owe to our 120-plus players. That’s really where our focus has been. Our plan is to move forward here and do our best to finish out this portion of the season strong, four-week season.

We have an opportunity to do some really good things right now. I think we’re all excited about that. Historically, this program has had ten 10-win seasons in 100 and whatever years. We have an opportunity for that and potentially beyond that too, which would be historic.

It’s like any game. Our focus is on doing what we can do this week. That’s the only one that counts. What we can do this week to be successful, and that’s where our focus is. Again, I would just ask you to appreciate that. Plenty of other time for discussion after the season if we want to go back and go through all the detail, minutia, all that stuff.

Oh, we’re gonna want to go through all the details after the season, Kirk. All of them. Let’s dig into this. First and foremost, I think Kirk being upset that he wasn’t allowed to evaluate this at the end of the season is just absolute garbage, and it’s a sign that Beth Goetz came in and ripped control away from a man who very clearly was used to doing whatever he wants under the previous regime. That’s no longer the case. Secondly, if Brian’s firing is a “challenge that [Kirk] couldn’t foresee”...well...that’s your own problem, buddy.

Q. When were you notified by Beth Goetz regarding this decision? What were the consultations like, and then the announcement when you were made aware of it?

KIRK FERENTZ: I had access to the announcement that you read, that we all read over the weekend.

Hmmm. Sure, I guess I’ll believe that.

Q. In light of things that have transpired, are you definitively returning yourself next season, or is that still up in the air?

KIRK FERENTZ: Things are as they always are, to worry about this game and bigger scale, bigger picture for these four games. That’s where my focus has been this entire season. Obviously there was more than four games a week ago, two weeks ago. That’s what I think about.

Definitely one of the most newsworthy aspects of this press conference. Now, of course Kirk was never going to come out and answer this question with a ‘yes, I’m going to retire.’ But if we’re reading between the lines, if we’re apt to do during this weekly post, and we’re also watching the video, retirement has definitely crossed Kirk’s mind. Does that hinge on how the rest of the season plays out? Who knows. But this is certainly interesting (albeit, probably how Kirk would answer the question in any given year).

Q. Listening to your statement, it sounded like is your frustration with the timing that it happened before the end of the season or with the decision itself or both?

KIRK FERENTZ: I would just say my policy has typically been to evaluate everything — players, coaches, all that — postseason because in season we have a lot on our plates. That’s kind of been the nature of it, and it’s been that way probably since I got started full-time in ‘81. There’s not enough time in the day. That’s where our focus is.

Everything you do is precious in terms of time relations. So to me, it’s a better time. It’s a less emotional time. I can give you a lot of reasons why I’ve done it that way, but it really doesn’t matter. It’s really not significant right now because we’re dealing with something that we have to deal with, and we will.

That’s one of the points I always make for our team in camp, at the end of camp. There are a lot of factors it usually e didn’t boils down to, usually three or four of them, but one that never changes is how do you handle the bumps you don’t anticipate, the things you don’t see coming, certainly don’t see coming in August and early September? It’s part of any season, just like injuries. Those are parts of seasons, and how you respond to those things, that’s how you get defined.

So this is just one more of those things that you have to try to compartmentalize and put it in the right position. Then the most important question is what do we have to do to move forward and be successful to be successful?

Again, I do not feel bad for this man. This is not how things work for most coaches across the country. And most coaches across the country aren’t dealing with a situation where their son is the offensive coordinator and is objectively terrible at his job, and has been for years. This is a new era. Goetz is Brian’s supervisor and can make the call. She did. Kirk later says that he respects the chain of command, but his words here are closer to what he truly feels. And waiting until the season is over to make changes is a frustrating practice on its own as well. Patrick Vint’s latest Substack post sums up my thoughts very nicely here.

Somewhere, Kirk is thinking “The Who lied to me. The new boss is NOT the same as the old boss.”

Q. Now that you can step back and look, is there anything that you sort of regret about the plan that Brian was put on the 25 points per game and all of these goals?

KIRK FERENTZ: I’m not good at that looking back picture because it really doesn’t serve much purpose. I think, when all that took place, Brian is the one who signed it, and I think he thought it was the best option available, and I would have co-signed it. Not that it was my business.

As I said earlier, there’s been a lot of unusual things this year that I think have affected our play. If you want to look back at recent history, look at 2009, I think you can figure that one out. The course of our season changed very dramatically.

I’ll go back and one-up you, 1984, and coincidentally is the first weekend of November. We had a couple bumps there. We were sitting direct path to the Rose Bowl, had a couple injuries, and things changed really fast. That happens in football. You have to deal with it, and you can’t worry about the 8 million things that might happen here in the next two weeks. Now you’re talking about a waste of time. That’s a waste of time too.

I’m not good at the looking back picture says the man who constantly references the 80s in his press conferences INCLUDING LATER IN THIS VERY ANSWER. This is what I mean about Kirk being upset. He’s talking about wasting time. He was very visibly annoyed by these questions.

Q. I wanted to ask you about this on a personal level. How does this affect you in that regard? Because obviously you and Brian have a different relationship.

KIRK FERENTZ: Obviously we have a biological relationship. I’m very fond of him. I’ve had a lot of relationships with people that have worked here, and that’s one of the things we do. If it was anybody on this staff that fell in this category, I’d feel bad about it. I’m guessing they would encourage us to keep moving forward too. It’s what you have to do.

So basically, Kirk tried to separate Brian My Son from Brian My OC according to his answer here...but data points would argue otherwise.

Q. Looking back this past year with you and your son, anything you would have done differently maybe to change the way things have panned out?

KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, kept everybody healthy. Again, you can’t play that game. It is what it is. We’re at where we’re at, and we’re moving forward. That’s all you can do.

The health — or lack thereof — of the roster impacted the offensive performance for sure. But to still say that injuries are the only reason for this is just a flat out lie. Kirk can die on that hill all he wants but anyone with working eyes that’s not named Kirk Ferentz knows it’s not the entire truth. This offense is broken beyond bones.

Q. When you and Brian had the meeting — first of all, I’m sorry I’m reverting back, but I didn’t get a chance to ask in the earlier portion of this. When you and Brian and Beth and President Wilson met, what did they tell you about why now as opposed to waiting until season’s end?

KIRK FERENTZ: I don’t know what’s been disclosed about who met, but what I just heard is not 100 percent accurate. Again, the details that are private and who conferred with each other, that’s private as well. Other than what’s been released.

Again, it really doesn’t matter at this point. The decision has been made. It’s the university’s position. We’re moving forward. We have four games. What I’m looking at, Mike, we’re a 6-2 football team right now. It’s not great. It’s not perfect, but it’s not bad. We do have an opportunity to win 10. Again, just like I said a minute ago, it’s going to be extremely difficult, but we have an opportunity.

I always tend to look at what’s the upside on things. Right now that’s our goal to win those four games that remain just like I’m sure everybody else on our schedule is trying to do. If we get to win 11, we’ll try to win 11. If we get a shot at 12, we’ll go for that, too. If we go beyond that, that would be great.

That’s probably about as good as we can do, which would be okay. That’s really all that matters at this point.

“I tend to look at the upside of things” says same coach who asked “What’s the upside” about switching quarterbacks. Here’s about as much of an “I disagree with the decision’ as you’ll get from Kirk.

Onto the actual game-related questions, where things are still bad!

Q. How much thought, if any, was given to quarterback switch during the bye week? Is Deacon still your guy? Is Joe Labas still your No. 2 guy going into this game?

KIRK FERENTZ: We’ve looked at every position and let everybody compete and let everybody practice. Again, the older guys are more experienced. I think they got some work last week, but not to the extent of a normal practice week, I would say.

The quarterback position, it’s a clear 1, 2, 3, and we’ll keep an open mind as we move forward.

Q. Labas is 2 then?


I don’t understand how you can look at “everything” in the quaraterback position and say that Deaon Hill is a clear No. 1. That is, if you’re, you know, looking at the games. Apparently no thought went into switching quarterbacks. Lovely!

Q. With regards to the next four games, do you see any change in the play calling at all considering the circumstances with the offensive coordinator?

KIRK FERENTZ: Really it’s more based on who the players are and what they can do. That is changing. It changed dramatically already this year. So you try to bend and yield, move in a direction where the players that are going to be playing, the guys that are in the game can do some things. Yeah, that’s a possibility. Depends who’s in the game. We’ll do what we think is best.

First and foremost, if you want to start with something that’s really important, start with better ball security. That would be a major thing. It’s really hard to win football games at this level thinking you can turn it over three times and your opponent doesn’t. That’s pretty much a foregone conclusion how the game’s going to go.

So there’s a lot of things we need to do better right now, but if we’re going to excel — Stanzi’s the only guy who can break this rule — we’ve got to take care of the football. We’ve got to take care of that, and we’ll go from there.

We do have some strengths on our team right now. You try to play to your strengths as well. That’s 25 years of that too.

“Start with better ball security” says the coach whose starting quarterback coughed up the ball three times in a real game two weeks ago. It’s wild to think that, apparently, Deacon can essentially lose this team a game on the field, but as long as he doesn’t fumble or throw an interception in practice, he irrevocably has the reigns to the offense without any fear of change. Make it make sense.

Q. Wanted to ask you about offense, specifically negative plays aside. What can you do better positively to put your team in a position to score more points, to move the ball a little bit better than what we’ve seen the last few weeks?

KIRK FERENTZ: First things first, ball security. Let’s go right back there because that really impacted the game pretty significantly last time we were out there. Again, I think it was 3-0, wasn’t it? I don’t think they gave one up. If you’re down 3-0, it’s going to be tough. It’s tough to outscore people getting in those types of games. You’re going to be sloppy with the football.

Yeah, those are things we’ve been working on, believe it or not, since August, and I thought we were on the right path. We’ve had some things altered this season, so we’ve got to work through those. There’s no magic panacea. Avoiding negative yardage plays, to your point, would be a real starting point to get ahead in the chains. That would be a real benefit as well.

So little things like that, and then someplace along the way you have to make some big plays. That’s just how offense works typically. Starts with minimizing your mistakes, ball security being the first and foremost one. Secondly, not having negative yardage plays. I’m not a big sack guy, but if you take a sack or get negative yards, get thrown off, the chances not only of getting a first down, but more importantly scoring, are really minimized in the NFL to a dramatic number.

If you get a sack, you might as well punt and try to get the ball back. Not that you would, but you understand the point.

Then at some point good football teams find ways to make plays. You design one every now and then, but it’s usually somebody making a really good play and then doing a little something extra.

LEAKED: Kirk Ferentz’s entire offensive philosophy: if you get sacked, you might as well punt to try to get the ball back. But yes, injuries are the ONLY reason why this offense is bad. NOTHING ELSE. LOOK AWAY.

Q. There’s a metric out there that Deacon Hill is 160th out of 160 in turnover worthy plays — interceptions, fumbles, balls tipped. How do you equate him still being QB1 with such a high turnover possibility when he’s in the game? Or are the other guys just that bad?

KIRK FERENTZ: Well, those are your words, not mine certainly. It isn’t that bad. They’re playing major college football.

Again, we go through. We’ve been evaluating since the start of spring practice. You look at the body of work. Believe it or not, at least I think we know a little bit more about our guys because we see a lot more. Our judgment is 100 percent correct rarely, when you talk about player evaluation, that type of thing. But all you can do is try to make the best decisions based on what the evidence is and what you see on a daily basis and then move forward.

By you saying somebody else might be bad is suggesting the other guy is bad, too. I don’t look at it that way. I try to look at guys who haven’t been able to grow very much and see how well they can move forward and how quickly they can move forward here.

I’ll go back to the first point, and to your point, if we’re going to beat ourselves, it’s going to be tough to win. So far we’ve lost two games this year. We’ve had experience of losing. 25 years, I’ve got plenty of experience with losing. I’m an expert at getting my butt kicked. That’s one thing that I’m an expert in. But you get back on your feet and move forward.

AGAIN — MAKE IT MAKE SENSE. Joe Labas is so gone in the offseason.

Q. You mentioned that Deacon Hill is a younger quarterback. Obviously got pressed into action. Do you think that he is in position to succeed with everything that’s around him, or are these struggles to be expected?

KIRK FERENTZ: Famous words. We’ll see. All right? Not to kill the talk season, but the offseason, everybody’s speculating. Nobody’s talking about the Jets right now in the Super Bowl. They were all summer. But we’ll see.

I don’t know the answers. I think he’s got a lot of really good qualities. Go back to his history, playing on a wildcat team, he and I were talking about it yesterday...

His senior year was disrupted. Obviously didn’t play at his last school. This is all new for him. I’m not going to ask people to be patient, but I think it’s realistic that it may take him some time to get going.

We as coaches have seen plenty to be encouraged about and plenty that we feel good about. If he’s persistent and he keeps working hard, some better days are ahead for him. He’s already done some good things. We’ll try to build off of that just like we would with every player on our team.

This was a really, really testy answer from Kirk at the end of the press conference. “We’ll see, all right?” Folks, he’s mad. “I’m not going to ask people to be patient, but be patient.” I’ve been patient, Kirk. It’s time to make a change at quarterback. Everyone knows it but you, and it’s already costing you wins.

Beth Goetz also did a scrum with the media after the official press conference ended. I do not have Twitter anymore and Elon Musk has made it impossible for me to look up current tweets about it without an account, so I’ll sum it up by basically saying she referred to her statement a lot, would not go into details on the timing, but ultimately said that, despite being interim, she thought she had to do what she thought was best in the situation (and she was right).

Remove her interim tag now.