On Monday night, my wife dialed into a work call with Australia from our kitchen table as our 13-month daughter (who shares her bedroom wall with my wife’s office) lay a-snooze in her bed upstairs. As she explained the approach of her business to the Aussie’s on the other end of the Zoom-call, I sat laying in my bed scrolling my phone and massage-gunning my legs.
That’s until I heard the most unpleasant sound... an awful sound...a sound that many of us have heard from their pregnant partners one too many times. Poor thing got hit with a wave of nausea right in the middle of what I can only presume was a very important call. I did my husbandly duties and supported as best I could - I held the bucket, I rubbed her shoulders, I got her Tylenol and water. As she leaned on our counter to collect herself after releasing the demon inside, someone from the Land Down Under put her on the spot.
I’m a very proud husband. My wife is a killer in business and the most generous and loving mom. She’s an incredible example for our soon-to-be two daughters. But she also isn’t the most aware of things going on when she’s in “Go-Mode”. Without even taking a final breath, she ran to the table, flipped on the camera and SOMEHOW regurgitated everything they had just said the last 5-minutes and then answered any causes for concern.
She was listening while auditioning for The Exorcist.
She also left me stranded on our kitchen floor because once that camera flipped on I had nowhere to go but to hit the deck and wait it out. Could she have put on one of those blurry screens to help me sneak away back to my cave? Absolutely. But as mentioned, UNAWARE. The only thing that mattered was finishing that sale.
And she did. God bless her.
But during the ensuing 25-minutes, I sat on my fake hardwood floor behind the kitchen counter waiting and thinking. Thinking about how crazy it is that people are as smart as Oppenheimer (can’t get him out of my head these days). Thinking about how silly it is that parents have to work to support their kids and miss so much of their days. Thinking about an app idea that would allow me to talk to a stylist that could tell me what kind of haircut that would look best on my oversized head.
And finally, thinking about my Iowa optimism.
As most of you know from my past here, Iowa optimism just kind of naturally exists in my brain. It’s unhealthy most of the time - ok a lot of the time - but I love it and it makes me happy inside and if I’ve learned anything the last 35-years, doing what makes you happy isn’t something you should ever apologize for.
But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t also have some actual reasons as to why I’m SO optimistic about this season.
So let’s get the defense and special teams out of the way. It’s pretty simple... I believe in Phil Parker and LeVar Woods SO MUCH that I know we will see little to no set backs on both of those units. Maybe that makes me a fool. But the support for that blind narrative is there. These two get the most out of their players. They develop. They push the right buttons during the spring and fall and practice and in-game. They are tremendous coaches and leaders in every aspect of what they do on and off the field and are largely why Iowa Football under Kirk Ferentz works. You can employ a “bend but don’t break” game plan with those two in charge of two of the three phases of your football team. It’s an Iowa City staple and it’s truly a thing of beauty.
And in knowing that I feel like I’m already two-thirds of the way to a Big Ten West title.
Maybe that’s blind optimism, but until it doesn’t work, I can’t help but KNOW it’s going to work. Sorry, not sorry.
Now the offense.
Yes, it’s been bad. And no, it’s never really been anything to write home about (let alone worth keeping Brian Ferentz around for). But we all know the situation. Is it right? No. If Brian had the last name Scherwin would he be out of town? Yes. But as a lot of my East Coast pals like to say... it is what it is.
BUT, I can’t help but think about those early offenses with Nate Stanley, Noah Fant, TJ Hockenson, Nick “Easy Button” Easley, Brandon Smith and his GIANT hands and ISM along with the two headed runningback unit of Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young along with specialist Ivory Kelly-Martin.
Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t Chip Kelly’s Oregon teams or the Jameis Winston Seminole’s by any stretch of the imagination; but they weren’t 2022 Iowa either. What they may have lacked in a play caller they made up for with enough playmakers at key positions PLUS a quarterback that could get the job done. And that’s me being as modest as I can be about the extremely underrated Stanley. Throw in a fairly decent offensive line (2018 especially) and by god that was a good enough offense to play Kirk’s favorite brand of college football. And it worked pretty damn well.
Don’t make mistakes. Don’t turn the ball over. Flip the field if you can’t score points. Lean on the defense and special teams in tight games.
If you would’ve put either of the 2018 or 2019 Iowa offense on that field last year, I think it’s more than fair to assume they could have EASILY won 11 games (Iowa State, @ Illinois, and Nebraska).
Brian and Kirk and the rest of the staff will never say it, but damn if it wasn’t clear the quarterback position held Iowa back in 2022. There are many people to blame for that. And if it wasn’t just the quarterback, the offensive line did them no favors either. And there are many people to blame for that as well. And if it wasn’t just the quarterback or the offensive line, Brian Ferentz did them no favors either. And there are many people to blame for that, too.
But that was then, this is now. The staff (and especially Kirk) seem to be giddy about the prospects of this years offensive line. That’s always one of the first clues to me on whether or not Iowa can be special. On top of that, BF and KF no longer need to deal with the weekly “Is it Spencer or is it Padilla” question because they now have a signal caller that has performed at the highest levels at a Blue Blood program. And if it wasn’t for an injury last season, probably isn’t here right now. And the best part is, if Cade McNamara has any issues, we have a former Badger ready to take snaps in his stead.
IF YOU BUILD IT...
The cards had to fall so perfectly for this group of talent to be here right now and man does it make me want to chug all of the Kool-Aid.
Throw in the added playmakers like Erick All, Seth Anderson and Kaleb Brown with Kaleb Johnson, Nico Ragaini, Diante Vines and Luke Lachey and sprinkle in some effing injury luck and it’s easy for me to see a resemblance to the teams under Brian Ferentz that were averaging 25-30 points per game.
Maybe I’m fool, but if I’ve learned anything during Kirk Ferentz Hall of Fame coaching career, when he has all of that at his disposal along with some national mockery... Iowa tends to chock the college football world.
The best part about it is, I’m fully prepared to finally tell my own kids about undefeated Iowa this time around.