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Monday Musings: Let the Hate Flow Through You

Kirk Ferentz, Tim Lester and the offense of it all

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Last night while Brock Purdy put on the most Matt Saracen come-back performances of all-time (shouts to Z for the comp), the SpoCo Radio text group was all-a-buzz about...Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Hawkeye Football program.

In particular, the 90-Day Fiancé search that brought in the vaunted, the impeccable, the offensive genius that is going to get Iowa into the 12-team playoff for years and years to come (cementing Kirk Ferentz in the pantheon of greatest Big Ten coaches of all time), none other than TIM “The MAC Daddy” LESTER!

(FIREWORKS! REJOICING! CHEERS! FARTTTTTTTTTTTTT!)

WHO HAS IT BETTER THAN US?

EVERYBODY!

I will fully admit, I got to the point last night in our group chat where I was ready to just turn the page and submit to Cobra Commander Kirk Ferentz. In less than eight hours he already beat me into a pulp and I cried Uncle. I said all the things he wants us to say to the fellas as I slowly tried to convince myself by talking out loud that this thing is finally going to get right by proxy because, well, it can’t get much worse!

I had every excuse swirling in my head:

“I’ve decided to reserve judgement until I see it.”

“I never watched him at Western Michigan or anywhere else, so it’s hard for me to say what it could or couldn’t be.”

“It can’t be worse than Brian though!”

“If he just gets the most out of Iowa’s tight ends that continue to be major weapons in the NFL and just gets our running game back in order, I’ll be happy!”

“The floor is soooooo low.”

“It wont take much for the offense to help this team win ten games next year... and honestly it should be eleven! Buckeyes are the only team I think Iowa loses after how they bolstered their roster in the portal, but outside of that, Washington is shot dead, LOL-ing at UCLA, Minnesota is going to be a major revenge game, Wisconsin has Grinch now... it’s a cake walk!”

I said and thought I believed every one of those things but then my mindset started to shift.

I got maybe three hours of total sleep last night and the majority of those three hours were spent holding an infant. And to pass the time, I started reading up on ol’ Tim Lester and the massive contradiction his coaching career has been compared to what Kirk Ferentz says he values in a coordinator.

With every creeping hour awake in the wee hours of the night, I got more and more grumpy. I filled my optimistic brain with nothing but nicotine and vitriol. Like Anakin, I let the hate flow through me.

First, it was Hawk Central’s “3 Things to Know” piece that was dripping with mockery:

In a surprising move that will generate many questions among the Iowa football fan base, head coach Kirk Ferentz is hiring Tim Lester to become the Hawkeyes’ new offensive coordinator.

Lester most recently spent the 2023 season as a senior analyst for the Green Bay Packers following six pedestrian seasons as the head coach at Western Michigan (2017-22). Lester went 37-32 leading the Broncos with one eight-win season.

AND:

The height of Lester’s tenure came with an 8-5 season in 2021, which included a win in the Quick Lane Bowl. However, after a 2-5 start than led to a 5-7 campaign in 2022, Western Michigan fired Lester in November 2022. That decision came 10 months after Lester had received a two-year extension.

“I didn’t have a ton of confidence in the plan moving forward,” Western Michigan AD Dan Bartholomae told the Detroit News at the time of the firing.

AND:

Lester’s only experience as a Power Five offensive coordinator resulted in offenses that ranked 116th and 119th nationally at Syracuse in 2014 and 2015, respectively. He became the OC five games in to the 2014 season and went 1-6 from there, putting his overall record as a Power Five OC at 5-14.

HATEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

Then it was the On3 piece that pulled a lot from Andy Staple’s conversation with Tom Kakert:

“If you look back at his Western teams, they run a lot of RPO sets and they’re in the ‘gun a lot and do a lot of those different things,” Kakert said. “Is Kirk gonna be willing to do that? He’s been kind of resistant to do the RPO stuff on a regular basis and kind of sit there in the shotgun and deal that way. It’s kind of not been something he’s been interested in. Will he do that now? I don’t know.”

We may not know, but we know. Do we think Cade McNamara and his ACL are going to be running RPO’s? And if it’s not Cade, do we see Deacon Hill doing that?

We all know the answer here.

And then, like a moth to a flame, I opened up my email and there he was...my Emperor, Patrick Vint:

There hasn’t been much news over the course of Kirk Ferentz’s 90-day offensive coordinator search. The only definitive statement he made was that “wins per game” was his most important metric, and things like offensive production didn’t much matter. That’s unquestionably a dumb way to measure someone who is only responsible for half of the team, but Kirk thinks those ten-win seasons are a really big deal.

However, if “wins per game” matters most and those ten-win seasons are so important, how do you finish your NINETY-DAY SEARCH FOR A COORDINATOR with the guy who went 37-32 at Western Michigan and, in a 22-year coaching career, has coached on a team that won ten or more games exactly once, and that one being in Division III? The two times Tim Lester has coached at the Power 5 level, the staff has gotten fired. That doesn’t happen to coaches excelling in “wins per game.” It doesn’t happen to coaches at Iowa.

Last year, Colorado hired the head coach at Kent State as an offensive coordinator. Alabama’s new staff hired a head coach for a coordinator position this year, and USC got the North Dakota State head coach as a position coach. The dynamics of high-level assistant coaching jobs has changed, to where a good MAC head coach is well within the realm of possibility for a job like Iowa’s. If Kirk Ferentz took 90 days and came up with Toledo’s Jason Candle, or even Eastern Michigan’s Chris Creighton, it would be consistent with current hiring practices and the standards Kirk set for the job. Those guys win, and have won for a long time, and Iowa would do well to add someone to the staff with their qualifications.

But this isn’t that. I’m willing to look past that last offense at Western Michigan as a bad hire and a new quarterback. I’m willing to consider that his other five offenses were productive, and showed the sort of balance that Ferentz loves. This might work out fine. But Tim Lester’s resume is the complete opposite of what Ferentz claimed he was doing, and is frankly insufficient to justify a Big Ten coordinator job. He’s been occasionally productive at the MAC level, but he hasn’t won anything more than a Quick Lane Bowl. His prior work at this level was an abject disaster. His hire, and the three-month process to get to it, reeks of complacency, of a belief that hiring a coordinator to fix the worst offense in the country really isn’t that important to Ferentz. And if you refuse to believe that, or that Ferentz is simply trying to troll the fanbase, there is only one other explanation: Nobody wants this job.

Ferentz said on December 18 that there was “strong interest from people that would make a lot of sense” in this job. He then waited 41 days before making his hire and telling us the opposite.

YES! YESSSSSSSSS! I CAN FEEL YOUR ANGER! GOOD! GOOD!

And to think he almost got me to submit full cobra... again:

Rumor after rumor of both exciting and mediocre offensive minded names, all of which would’ve given the fan base some uplifting HOPE (and probably some more NIL $$$$), and Tim Lester and his DIII success is the best thing you cooked up, Kirk?

This is like getting three months to turn in your final project and you decided to wait until midnight the night before to do it and handed in a napkin with the words “SOWWY” written on it.

And the fanbase knows it. All of the benefit of the doubt you used to get is going to be gone now. Brian is no longer the shield for the hate. If Lester fails, the Boo-Birds will be coming at you because we all saw what just transpired. This was fully in your control. You are the CEO of a major college football brand in one of the two most powerful conferences in the country, equipped with a rabid fanbase that has stood behind you passionately with their presence and their dollars and have supported you and your family until we literally couldn’t anymore and this is what you gave us?

We were all ready to settle on Paul Chryst! Just Paul Chryst. Someone that, in theory, should align with everything you believe in offensively and in terms of coaching/recruiting philosophy. But you got left at the altar on that one and why?

It has to be control. All of this has to be because Kirk Ferentz refuses to let the offensively minded peacock fly.

And that’s why we saw an onslaught of names come out and almost as quickly go away. Who in today’s college football (that’s worth a damn) wants to come to Iowa and run the Ferentz system without ANY input after how we saw it go down with his own son?

The answer unfolded right in front of our eyes.

So, Kirk was forced to go bargain shopping for someone that would Hail Cobra and run his offense and he landed on a dude that has been a coordinator for three head coaches (all of which have went on to take other jobs and decided to leave his ass behind in Kevin Johns) or a guy that has been so mediocre in his coaching career, he was on life support as a defensive analyst for the Green Bay Packers and probably wouldn’t get a sniff at any other Big Ten program right now (Lester).

And Kirk chose the latter because...why wouldn’t Tim Lester succumb to Ferentz and not take this opportunity? Why wouldn’t he be the ultimate Yes man? It’s a win/win! If Iowa keeps on winning 10-games a year and he figures out a way to improve the offense along the way, he’ll be a MAC head coach again in no time.

And if he doesn’t, what then? He’s toiling somewhere in an analyst role again?

The dude just hit on 19 and got a 2.

I know I’m in a sour mood and a lack of sleep, but this is the half-est of half measures.

Like DCIII said so adequately last night to the group text (and I mean this wholeheartedly too, this anger isn’t towards or even really about Tim Lester. He might be a great guy with a great head on his shoulders and has learned from all of his past failures and he may just get Iowa into a place where their not a laughing stock AND losing games because of the unit he’s in charge of. He might breakthrough to Kirk on RPO’s and the capabilities of throwing from shotgun. He might be the driving force in landing a better quarterback in the portal to help us sure up a very iffy position heading into the fall of 2024.

He might be...OK. And we all might learn to adore the man. This isn’t his fault and it sucks that he has to hear about it. But, being that he took the job, I hope he’s ready for it.

But we can all agree, that there is no world in which Tim Lester is the best possible candidate for this job and after employing your son who crashed the offense into the iceberg, you NEEDED to do better than this. It was your job to do better than this. And yet Kirk seemingly put this on the back burner while simultaneously not looking in the mirror at why his son’s not coaching here in the first place and, well, here we are.

Only this time the fanbase is on to you and, as witnessed above, even the media is on to you, too. We were all on pins and needles the last 90-days swimming through leaks and getting our hopes up (yet again) that you were finally going to just give in a little. Not much. Not entirely. We all knew Chip Kelly and Scotty Frost were a STRETCH. But we thought you’d hire someone with a little cache that would get the offense to a respectable place while playing inside of your coaching philosophies and then we’d see the ultimate MEGAZORD of complementary football come together.

And instead, you seemingly told all of us to “suck it” and that you’ll do it your way until 2030 and laugh as your defense and special teams carries you to 8-10 wins a season and once-upon-a-time respectable bowl games that will continue to not matter to anyone.

Offense be damned.

And honestly, after all of the selling I do in my own brain in favor of you, that just down right hurts.


***I fully reserve the right to denounce this piece in 9 months and claim Tim Lester and Kirk Ferentz as modern day football geniuses and that I know absolutely nothing and am a total idiot. HAIL COBRA.***