Sorry for the delay…man to man defense is tough some days. Let’s get right into it…
Last week, I let out all the pent up anger I had over the 90-day Offensive Coordinator search that ultimately garnered former Western Michigan head coach, Tim Lester. In that piece, I emphasized how none of this was about Tim Lester as the hire in and of itself. Had Kirk Ferentz pulled the trigger 60-days prior (and not let leak any of the other candidates that were being interviewed/offered the job), the visceral reaction probably would’ve been more tame. We probably all would’ve digested the positive pieces that have come out since (scheming wide receivers open!!!) with our rose colored glasses and sold ourselves, as we are want to do, that it can’t be worse and at least the guy has done the job before, has experience in all aspects of coaching football and should theoretically help Iowa score more points.
Even then, as we all let the hate flow through us and blew off a little steam, we as a majority, were already starting to come around on it. After all, there was nothing we could do about it now. We Hailed Cobra and were ready to sell our dumb Iowa Football brains, once again, that maybe, just maybe, things will be different and New Kirk 6.0 was ready to let a guy he vetted and trusted do his thing:
Kirk Ferentz on Tim Lester: “I am excited to welcome Tim to our coaching staff as our offensive coordinator. His experience as both a head coach and a coordinator at several different levels of football gives him an excellent perspective."— David Eickholt (@DavidEickholt) January 31, 2024
Perspective! If there is one thing Kirk Ferentz needs in the now, it’s offensive perspective.
Tonight, Gary Dolphin asked Kirk Ferentz how much flexibility Tim Lester will have under the head coach's parameters (which have been seen as holding the offense back by some). Some of Ferentz's comments:— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) February 3, 2024
“We've been here 25 years now, and the parameters have been pretty much…
BALL SECURITY? WE’RE TALKING ABOUT BALL SECURITY?
How is that the first thing you mention in terms of offensive importance when you...
- Couldn’t move the ball whatsoever
- And therefore couldn’t hold the ball for any discernible amount time to simply give your vaunted defense a blow on the sidelines LET ALONE play time of possession/field position games
- And therefore couldn’t score to give your defense the help they need to win the games that mattered
- And therefore had two segments drag along your third segment like a severed limb
- And therefore were NOT mindful of what helps the defense and what hurts the defense whatsoever
- AND... you deployed a quarterback game-in-and-game-out that was somehow less mobile than the effing Statue of Liberty while also having the most severe case of pan hands i’ve ever seen
Are we watching the same games? I truly have no idea anymore.
What’s worse, is that Kirk wasn’t finished and would ultimately lean into the ol “we win a lot of games” excuse by playing our brand of “that’s football” football.
Man, I’m tired of that excuse. And yes, at this point in his career and in this point of time, it’s an excuse. An excuse that both I and many other fans of this team have used (and are still using) in defense of what Kirk Ferentz is doing, has done and will continue to do at the helm of this program.
So, in yet another fit of rage, I decided to take a look at where all of those wins are coming from, and well, let’s just say Taco Bell has less empty calories...
I did some basic napkin math and here’s what Kirk’s put together since that remarkable 12-0 run in 2015 (including the shortened 2020 Covid season):
Record against Ohio State: 1-1 (that’s good and long live the Woodshed)
Record against Michigan: 1-4 (that’s bad and wish Elon could put a computer chip in my head so I can forget these games ever happened)
Record against Penn State: 2-5 (1-5 if you take away the Covid 2020 win)
Record against Wisconsin: 4-5 (3-5 if you take away the Covid 2020 win)
Record against Michigan State: 3-2 (2-2 if you take away the Covid 2020 win)
Record against Northwestern: 5-4 (5-3 if you take away the Covid 2020 loss)
Record against Purdue: 5-4 (5-3 if you take away the Covid 2020 loss)
Total Record against the “upper tier” of the Big Ten (including the Covid season): 21-25
Record against Iowa State, Minnesota, Illinois, Maryland, Rutgers, Indiana and Nebraska (including the Covid season): 40-4
Record against the non-conference games (not including Iowa State): 16-1
Record in Big Ten Championship games: 0-3 (outscored 84-16)
Record in Bowl Games: 4-4 (outscored 196-160)
Record against teams that finished the season .500 or above: 35-30 (including the 2020 Covid season)
Record against teams that finished the season below .500: 46-4 (including the 2020 Covid season)
Record against teams that finished with 8-or-more wins: 22-26
Record against teams that finished with 10-or-more wins: 7-16
I’m sure that’s not TOO shocking to anyone. We all know that Kirk Ferentz has built Iowa into a perennial Top-25 team and by doing so he’s created a floor that is so much higher than the majority of college football. Because of that work, Kirk’s essentially been able to cake walk to 8-wins almost every single year. If there was a “Consistency Top-25”, Iowa would be a playoff team.
When you couple that with where Iowa has found itself in the past (very much in the doldrums of college football before Hayden Fry came marching into town in his white pants), I understand the defense of Kirk Ferentz and his ability to always field a competitive football team. I know there are many of you reading this that have personally watched a winless and horrendous and uninspiring Iowa Football team... some of you have even emailed me to make sure I understood the scary perspective of our past.
I get it.
But that doesn’t change the fact that we are now entering another new era of college football. Having a foundation of tough, hard nosed, “three phase” (LOLOLOL) football that grinds the opponent down on your way to eight wins is a great starting point to have. But that’s just it, 8-wins is the floor.
Yes, it used to be a great finishing point back when computers ran this thing. But those days are long gone.
Maybe it was just me because I’m getting older (although I doubt it), but making the Outback Bowl or Citrus or even the Pinstripe Bowl used to be something I was pretty proud of little ol’ Iowa getting into. But it doesn’t have the same allure anymore because college football has changed. There aren’t just two teams playing for all the marbles anymore. It’s twelve...TWELVE!
The money is in the playoff. And unfortunately for college football, nothing else really matters anymore. Sure, for Iowans it will and we’ll continue to flood every town we play in, but in the grand scheme of things, getting into the mix and giving yourself a punchers chance NEEDS to be THE goal.
I will always applaud Kirk Ferentz for building a program that can win 8-games with their eyes closed. You can only beat who’s on your schedule and I fully admit Kirk’s done that. He has literally made a wonderful living off of CRUSHING every team that is just not very good. But what’s concerning to me going into this new world is that the goal posts have moved on what success is for the rest of the programs built like Iowa, but Kirk’s expectations haven’t.
He said as much this week.
Iowa shouldn’t be slightly better than a coin flip against teams with .500 or better records and worse against teams with eight or more wins.
We have to be more than the Little Debbie of college football!
Maybe I’m being to hard on him, but after the process that got us Tim Lester and then his words about what he’s going to let Lester do as the offensive coordinator (combined with what I’ve seen in the past from KOK, Greg Davis and Brian Ferentz) coupled with where all these wins are actually coming from, well, it begs the question...is it good enough?
Are we getting the juice from all of the squeeze he’s putting on us. Is business as usual acceptable in the landscape? Is winning a lot of games but ultimately finding ourselves just out of reach of the Big Dance because our Head Coach refused to adapt his offensive philosophies defensible anymore?
Is eight wins even eight wins?
Or should we as a fanbase start raising the bar and putting an emphasis on winning a lot of games AND winning (hell just contending in) the games that matter to ensure Iowa is routinely putting themselves in a position to be contenders?
As I stuff my face with a Costco cookie and slice of pizza, I think the answer is yes.