Iowa Football, Love It or Leave It: Will Kirk Ferentz Make Necessary Changes?

David Fidler Correspondent INovember 28, 2010

IOWA CITY, IA - NOVEMBER 20:  University of Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz looks on from the sideline during pre game warm ups before game action against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Kinnick Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Iowa City, Iowa. Ohio State won 20-17 over Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
David Purdy/Getty Images

In a way, I'm almost glad Iowa lost to Minnesota.

I'm not glad they fell flat on their faces, but let's be frank: The only way the Hawks were going to lose to the Gophers was if the Hawks didn't show up. Therefore, in a way, I'm almost glad Iowa fell flat on their faces.

For the duration of this season, I think we've all been searching for answers; trying to find out what has been missing in this team.

At first, I tried to find a way to justify certain shortcomings. Then I got a bit defensive, yet hopeful, believing this coaching staff would find their way.

This was followed by the blame game, and finally, I looked for some sort of logical reason for Iowa's failures.

However, the failures have continued to pile up, and after witnessing Iowa sleepwalk through their game against Minnesota, I think I can safely admit what I have been trying to avoid saying: The 2010 Iowa Hawkeyes have quit on their coach.

Being able to say that is almost cathartic.

For those that have played older versions of EA Sports NCAA Football, you probably remember that the game's announcers repeated the same tired cliches ad nauseum. After a while, it got to a point where I just turned off the volume.

Nevertheless, I remember Lee Corso (or NCAA Football 2003's version of Lee Corso) used to repeat the following phrase: The biggest compliment you can pay to a coach is to say that his players are working hard.

So, what does it say when a team quits on a coach? When a team no longer has "a will to win."

I think we all know the answer to that. And with that answer in mind, let's look back at the last five years.

In that time, two teams have quit on Ferentz. Two. A third team was in full rebuilding mode, and as often as not, looked like they were lost on the field. The fourth team was the Orange Bowl year.

Finally, the fifth team (2008) has to be considered a success. On the other hand, at 9-4, perhaps part of that success was due to decreased expectations because of the previous two years' failures.

I'm not saying that Iowa Hawkeye fans can ever scoff at a 9-4 season. It was a good and successful season, but it was also hardly a trip to the Rose Bowl.

Therefore, in the previous five years, there have been two unmitigated disasters, one semi-justifiable mess, one great season and one good season.

In retrospect, that is hardly the results one would expect from a three-time Big Ten coach of the year.

I think all of this has played out most palpably in the story of Darrell Johnson-Koulianos.

DJK and Ferentz have had a tumultuous five years together. Despite receiving numerous in-house punishments, Koulianos will end his career at Iowa as the Hawks' all-time leading receiver in almost every category.

Yet, in his final Big Ten game, Coach Ferentz didn't start him. Why?

According to Ferentz, because fellow-senior receiver Colin Sandeman—he of 40 career receptions—had "a better week in practice" than DJK.

Before anything else, I will state that this is in no way an indictment of Sandeman's play, but face it, he's no DJK. Not that I actually believe Ferentz, but if Brian Hoyer is shredding Tom Brady on the practice field week after week, Tom Brady is still the one that should be under center on Sunday.

No, DJK's benching is something else. If Ferentz were truly candid, he might say that he benched DJK for the good of the team. Yet, what could be worse than the team's showing against Minnesota?

Especially when you consider that DJK, with one touchdown grab and one kick return for a touchdown, was one of the few players that did show up.

Look at the senior day picture of DJK with his father.

By now, most of us know his story, and if you don't, this article written after his sophomore season—back when he was allowed to do interviews—does a nice job of explaining it.

He has five years of his life invested in this program, in this school, and in us, the fans. Do you think he wanted to end his career this way?

Do you think Ricky Stanzi, Julian Vandervelde, Karl Klug or any of Iowa's 26 seniors wanted to end it this way?

Just remember that no matter how lousy we feel, the players feel it 1,000 times worse.

In the end, this year's fiasco is not a matter of unrealistic expectations or poor execution. This year is wholly on Ferentz.

I am not calling for coaches' heads to roll, but I am calling for a major shake-up, and in that, I don't think I'm alone. Maybe Ferentz needs to replace some assistant coaches or coordinators. Maybe he needs to adjust his own way of looking at his job. Maybe he needs to re-tune his philosophy on football.

I think he owes that much to the school, the fans, and most of all, his players.


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