Iowa football had another media availability Monday, with the same topic on everyone's mind: Who will quarterback the Hawkeyes in the Taxslayer Bowl on January 2? When we last heard from Kirk Ferentz, he was decidedly noncommittal. He wasn't much different Monday.
Q: You mentioned on the radio show that you hadn't made a decision at quarterback. Have you gotten any closer to making that decision?
KF: Yeah, that really grew legs, too. I threw that word, 'could,' I mean, a lot of things 'could' happen. But that's been the most interesting topic, you know? That's like everything. We're looking at everything right now. Practices have been competitive. We're putting guys in tough situations, and we'll see where things unfold.
Q: Would C.J. really have to outplay Jake in practice to get that start?
KF: It would be a good starting point, yeah. I mean, if you outperform --
Q: I mean, like, by a mile, or...
KF: No, no, it's just you've got to bring it every day out there. It's a challenge for Jake, too. That's how we are at every position. I'll confess: Scherff isn't getting pressed too hard, but that's fortunate. He doesn't need to be,
Beathard gave a head-fake to local media and didn't make any statements at that time, probably at the strong encouragement of the coaching staff and media relations team.
I saw CJB at the complex. Thought he was going to talk to us. @PatHarty said, you didn't think they'd let him talk. I said I saw a unicorn.— marcmorehouse (@marcmorehouse) December 23, 2014
Chad Leistikow from the Des Moines Register said later that a request for an interview with Beathard was denied.
Beathard finally broke his silence later Monday by going outside the standard Iowa media circle. He gave an interview to Matt Slovin of The Tennesseean, and the quotes were exactly what Iowa fans feared.
C.J. Beathard tells @MattSlovin on his Iowa future: "We’ll see how the bowl game goes and then go from there."— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) December 23, 2014
Beathard's quote isn't exactly diplomatic, but it looks like Benjamin Disraeli compared to what his dad said later:
CJB's father says this: "He’s really hoping he doesn’t have to transfer. ... Hopefully it’ll be obvious in this game, one way or the other."— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) December 23, 2014
That's about as obvious as it gets: Either play me in January or watch me walk away.
Earlier in the day, we learned that former Iowa wideout Derrick Willies, who had left the team and then tried to come back, won't be rejoining the Hawkeyes. According to Ferentz, he and Willies discussed Ferentz's demands for coming back to the squad and Willies balked. Willies had left the team, and then had contacted the media before talking to Ferentz about returning, which likely didn't sit well with the coach.
Beathard probably should have learned something from what just happened to his teammate, because ignoring the edict of Iowa's PR team and giving a provocative interview to an outside media member in which your father essentially issues an ultimatum to the coaches is probably not the best course of action if your goal is to play. Even if the coaches have opened up the competition for the first time all year, as Beathard told Slovin, that fair shot might have been gone the second that Beathard's dad opened his mouth. It didn't work for Willies. It didn't work for Adam Robinson before that.
At this point, the relationship between Ferentz and Beathard cannot be positive. Beathard was told he would get a shot at the job in 2013 and lost to Rudock. He was told he would have another shot at the job in 2014 and lost again. He was told that the offense would utilize two quarterbacks, then sat quietly while Rudock took every relevant snap when healthy. He was told that he'd split snaps with Rudock against Indiana, and instead got five attempts in an impossible situation. He's heard Ferentz say that the job is still open one week and that Rudock had won the job a year ago in another. He's essentially been muffled since comments about Willies' transfer. Most crucially, he was thrown under the bus by Ferentz after a phenomenal performance in a comeback win over Pitt, with the coach spending more than a week harping on one purportedly horrible practice session in a blatant attempt to discredit his fan-favorite backup and prop up his starter. If Beathard doesn't feel hurt and disrespected by the treatment he has received from these coaches at this point, I'd question whether he cares at all.
And now, Beathard has pinned his hopes on usurping a two-year starter that Ferentz has literally called "the guy you hope your daughter brings home" in a bowl game played in that guy's home state, a state where Iowa desperately wants to reopen its recruiting pipeline (particularly at Rudock's legendary high school program), and Beathard has conveyed those hopes by going to the press against the wishes of Iowa's media guys. Jon Miller said Monday night that, in Texas hold 'em terms, Beathard went all in on the turn and Ferentz hasn't flipped over the river. But this doesn't feel like that. This feels like Beathard has run out of chips and has to take a shot on a loser of a hand, the deck is stacked against him, and the runner-runner straight isn't coming. He's been conned, and he knows it.
No matter what happens on January 2, someone is transferring. Kirk Ferentz is faced with deciding which quarterback is going to stay. And, as he has at every other turn, it's almost certain to be Jake Rudock.