Things are bad, folks. I feel like I write this every year (and I think it’s true every time!), but we’re in uncharted waters when it comes to Iowa Hawkeyes fans and our relationship with Kirk and Brian Ferentz. Saturday’s embrassing loss at Penn State might have actually been a turning point (again, I feel like I say that every year and yet...). We got a lot to discuss from Kirk’s weekly press conference. Let’s get right into it.
Check out the full transcript here and my highlights below (buckle up):
From the opening statement:
KIRK FERENTZ: Going back to Saturday, it was a tough loss, disappointing loss for everybody involved.
One thing we always talk about, it’s always a team loss. Anytime you come off the field without a victory, that’s certainly the case. And everybody’s got ownership. Coaches, players, everybody’s got ownership. It’s always been that way. Always will be.
Yes but...except the defense. They are not at fault here. At all.
Also from the opening statement, a quick injury update:
KIRK FERENTZ: Kaleb Johnson and Jaziun Patterson are out another week, at least.
Not great! How long do we think that will last?
Q. You mentioned the running backs. Does that mean they will be back for Purdue —
COACH FERENTZ: We’ll take it week-to-week. I don’t think we’ll know. If they were out for the season, I’d let you know that, but that’s not the case. Hopefully sooner than later.
Q. Is one better than the other?
COACH FERENTZ: We’ll take whoever is ready to go, we’ll take them when they get back.
So, not anytime soon, and they’re both pretty dinged up. Great!
Onto the meat: (this was literally the first question right out the gate, as was appropriate):
Q. Offense is ranked 100th or worse in a lot of key statistics. What realistically can you do in season to right the ship?
COACH FERENTZ: Just try to get better in every phase. There’s no magic answers; see what we can do to just improve in each and every phase.
Ah, we’re right into it, and we’re also right into the bullshit. I think getting blanked and tallying under 100 yards of offense requires more than “getting better in every phase” but I’m just a stupid fan.
Q. When you evaluate the offense, what are the areas that you’re looking at specifically in the passing game that is not measuring up to what you want or what the players want you to?
COACH FERENTZ: I would still attribute part of that, obvious answer, said it for a while. Our starting quarterback got injured four-five weeks ago. He missed a lot of time. Missed a lot of time last year. To work with this team, this group, everything’s connected.
So the more we practice, the more we do better in practice, have better execution, hopefully it will show on the film.
I’m sick of this answer, particularly in this context. This is a complete dodge. A complete lack of an answer to an extremely valid question where he blames an injury to a verteran quarterback instead of him and his son’s system.
Q. Wide receivers have been targeted 35 times over four games. 14 catches. What is it about the group that’s not getting involved as much as just the ball goes where it goes?
COACH FERENTZ: I think part of that is the ball does go where it goes. We’ve had two pretty good tight ends. Obviously, down one there. That changes.
As a staff, that’s something we’re doing weekly is trying to figure out what’s the best way we can do to help improve production offensively and getting receivers involved probably makes some sense here as we move forward.
Oh yes, the ball goes where it goes. It has a mind of its own, yes. Little known fact, but the footballs at Iowa are actually magnetically attracted to tight ends only. Getting the receivers involved “probably” makes sense. Probably. What a stunning revolution for a man who has won 201 football games as a head coach of a Big Ten institution.
Q. Consciously, do you go into a game saying, hey, we have to get our receivers more involved?
COACH FERENTZ: It’s the personnel group, who you have available. We were playing a little bit more three wide last week than prior.
But at some point we still have to block and protect and throw and get open.
What is this answer?
Q. Regarding the offensive line, Coach Barnett around for three years now. Talked to Logan and Nick about him a little bit. They continue to add votes of confidence for him. You did that in the preseason. What does he do well, and where does that confidence come from for coach Barnett?
COACH FERENTZ: From the players, it’s earned. You earn everything from your players. And it’s the way he is. It’s the person he is and the kind of coach he is. He’s a tremendous football coach. Outstanding human being. The players recognize that. I think they can tell.
It’s been a tough task. We’ve had our challenges up front. He walked into a very challenging situation. I think he’s done a great job pushing it forward and we’ll just keep working.
I posted this from the BHGP Twitter as well but I’ll say it again: I don’t care if he gives his entire salary to charity. The fact of the matter is that he is underperforming at his position and has been for years now. It’s time to move on. I can have the utmost respect for one of my coaches, that doesn’t mean they’re good at their job.
Q. When you talk about not seeing a lot encouraging from the O-Line on Saturday, what do you think needs to change moving forward?
COACH FERENTZ: It’s not any general area. It’s that they played better than we did. Credit to them. We knew they’re a good football team. And they played an outstanding game. Credit to them.
It’s not one specific thing. It’s pretty much across the board, we didn’t compete at the level we need to. We got a good taste of what it looks like. Now we’ve got to get on the train and get to that level.
Spoiler alert: they won’t get to that level.
Q. How do you hope your wide receivers become confident in the game plan if they’re not really a part of it or they’re not contributing?
COACH FERENTZ: It’s not that they’re not part of it. The ball hasn’t gone there for whatever reason. They’re certainly critical. Everybody is. All 11 people are critical out there.
We’ll have to find a better way maybe to spread the ball a little bit, and again Luke being out — that’s part of the deal. Just keep working and keep chipping away at it.
“The ball hasn’t gone there for whatever reason.” Maybe it’s the scheme and the play calls? This isn’t new anymore.
Q. You hit the portal, got a new quarterback, some wide receivers, a tight end. And the constant kind of over the last few years is scheme and play calling. Has there been any discussion of altering any of those, maybe making a change of play caller to change things up for different results?
COACH FERENTZ: That’s not part of the plan, but every week — we’ve done it for 24-plus years — after every game you go back and look at what you did, what could you do better, whether it’s play calling, what are our thoughts going into the game, those types of things, how the opponent matches.
And we’ve been doing that for 24, 25 years offensively, defensively, special teams. It’s part of what we do on Sundays. And then you shift over to the next opponent.
So I mean we’re going to try to do better. There’s really no simple answers or easy remedies. It’s a matter of execution, playing better and trying to do what our players are capable of doing a little bit better.
Oh my god this is infuriating. He’s essentially sitting here and saying that he’s literally going to change nothing because he’s so stuck in his longstanding philosophies that he doesn’t see it’s a problem — or just doesn’t want to admit it. Sure, there’s no simple answers or easy remedies, but why is it that we’re the only team that constantly seems to be trying to fit a sqare peg into a round hole for going on multiple years and thinking the peg just needs to execute being a circle better?
Q. When you look around the country, spread offenses, with throwing the ball just seems much more prominent in this game now versus the past. You see wide receivers putting up crazy numbers. And you go back to the wide receiver targets at Iowa, 35 through four games. When you have guys in that room kind of see how productive are the receivers are being, how do you keep that room engaged with the game plan, how do you approach?
COACH FERENTZ: I don’t have a sense that they’re not engaged. I think we have a great group much guys in there. Nico is a really good football player, veteran player. Diante had a really nice play the other day. He’s healthy. I think he’s confident and feeling good.
We’ve got two guys that are a little bit younger and developing. So I think that room’s fine.
I’m not minimizing stats at all, don’t misread this, but the biggest thing we’re trying — the only stat we’re focused on is winning games. It’s not all about winning, I know it is for a lot of people, but it’s not all about winning. But that’s what we’re doing each and every time we go out there. If there’s a scoreboard, we’re going try to win. That’s why you work hard for nine months.
So that’s the stat that we look at. Every game, every situation, what’s going to give us our best chance to win. And those are decisions we’ll continue to try to make as we go along.
You know what can help you — hell, not even win, just score points? Throwing the ball to your receivers. Another frustrating answer. You say that if there’s a scoreboard you care about winning, but are you actually doing everything you can to win to give yourself the best chance possible to win these games?
Q. Are you worried about the amount of time the defense has been on the field through four games? It’s 20 snaps more per game than your offense. And what can you do to fix it?
COACH FERENTZ: As much as anything, just to give it perspective, really, Saturday — if you want to be a stat person, Saturday’s going to throw everything off the books because we weren’t out there on the field and we couldn’t get off the field.
So as I said earlier, outside of the punting, really wasn’t a lot of good things to take from it. We didn’t spend a hell of a lot of time on the film either just for that reason. I don’t think it’s representative of who we are or where we’re going, what we’ll find out. Time will tell on that one, too.
But no, to answer your question, we’ll just keep playing.
Yes, yes I am worried about how much the defense was on the field.
Q. Is your philosophy since you started coaching, head coach, has it changed much on how you believe the best way to win football games over the long haul, not the emotional week-to-week but seems you stuck to your guns and you believe in the system —
COACH FERENTZ: I think you have to. I didn’t pretend to know everything in 1999, when I got here, and I certainly don’t at this point. In fact, I think most of us could tell you the more experience you get, the more you figure out, boy, there’s a lot of things going on that need some clarity on.
But, yeah, as I said earlier, at some point you’ve got to have some beliefs and you continually examine those. You re-examine those and probe and prod and all that kind of stuff. But you have to be true to something. I guess that’s life in general; you’ve got to be true to something.
All I know is what I see with our players on a daily basis, what I see with our coaching staff. And I guess I’m an optimist to some degree. And history has taught me if you keep pushing forward, maybe some good things will happen. You’ve got to give yourself a chance, though, and it’s just a matter of, you can’t worry about bad things, missteps along the way, because what we do is extremely challenging, extremely competitive. To think we’re going to skate through it on defeat, as much as we try and we want to, you always have to be prepared to deal with the opposite end of it.
That’s all you can do. You analyze, learn from it and hopefully you move on and improve from there.
Well, I’ll give Kirk credit here that he is certainly true to...something. Whether that’s loyalty to his son having gainful employment or just to playing one kind of football no matter what changes around the sport, he’s got that locked down.
Let’s actually end with this:
Cade McNamara on getting #Iowa’s wide receivers involved after just 14 catches through four games.— Eliot Clough (@EliotClough) September 26, 2023
“I’m just the quarterback, I’m not calling the plays or doing any of that.” pic.twitter.com/NG3mLKxKUt
Hooooo boy. Rebuke of Brian throwing his tantrum a couple weeks ago? Or saving face for his next destination? I can’t blame him for doing this one bit but boy, does it throw some intrigue into the fire.