Oh boy. Okay, here we go.
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz has reached almost iconic status at the University of Iowa. He took over a struggling program from another Iowa icon (Hayden Fry) at a time when the cupboards were pretty well bare.
He patiently put together a team that has been bowling far more often than not and has the program's first BCS bowl victory when Iowa defeated Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl following last season. The team has earned the respect of conference foes and entered the year being touted by the media as a potential dark horse in the national title race.
Poor coaching doesn't produce that kind of program.
However, that's all the result of past work. That wasn't 2010.
Norm Parker can easily be praised for what he's built as a core for this defense. At the same time, it's difficult to blame him for any of the shortcomings that the defense suffered this year. Complications from diabetes and the amputation of a foot kept Parker away from the team for a good portion of the season.
It's really tough to determine if those shortcomings would have happened had Parker been on the sidelines or not. It's really easy to blame someone else --anyone else -- for lapses in Iowa's normally stingy protectors-of-the-goal.
Fair or not, I give Parker a free pass with a N/A due to his long absence from the field.
Ken O'Keefe has been the butt of Hawk fans' ire for a few seasons. Perhaps its rightfully so. Iowa's offense has never been very flashy under O'Keefe's watch, and more often than not, it's been a far weaker component to the team than the defense has been.
At twelve years of tenure at Iowa, O'Keefe has had plenty of time to figure out how to put together a potent offense -- especially with talent like Derrell Johnson-Koulianos at his disposal.
Iowa's offense has instead become increasingly more predictable, and thus stoppable. The run game has been merely "decent", not great. Some of that can be blamed on injuries and youth, but the usage of the run game has been questionable on many occasions.
Iowa's scoring offense has been sixth and tenth respectively in the conference over the 2010 and 2009 seasons. It was much better in 2008, but that year Shonn Greene was carrying the entire offense on his thick legs and broad shoulders. O'Keefe hardly had much to do with that and play calling is pretty darned easy when you've got a Doak Walker Award winner at your disposal.
In 2007, Iowa was dead last in the conference and in 2006 they were seventh.
Particularly damning this year was Iowa's two-minute offense. It was horrendous at best and failed utterly at putting together drives when they needed one most. You can blame Ricky Stanzi for not having the poise he showed last year. You can blame the offensive line for giving up four consecutive sacks to Arizona.
You can blame a lot of things, but you'd better add O'Keefe to that list. The preparation lies with him and the many failures belong solidly on his shoulders.
Kirk Ferentz is above reproach in many fans' minds, but they might reconsider.
The fact that Iowa's offense has been so poor for so long and yet there have been no changes made is Coach Ferentz's responsibility. The fact that Iowa's offense has struggled so mightily in late-game drives and yet there have been no adjustments is Ferentz's responsibility. The fact that everyone in the football-viewing-world knows what play Iowa is going to run next and yet there have been no upgrades to the system is Ferentz's responsibility.
Coach Ferentz is as loyal a friend to his coordinators as a person could possibly hope for. He's getting paid millions of dollars per year to perform though, and failing to acknowledge and fix problems that have festered throughout the year and reach back as many as four seasons is dereliction of duty.
As Al Namias IV pointed out, Coach Ferentz's team quit on him this year. In my mind, that is perhaps the worst failure a coach can endure.
For whatever reason -- a disagreement of philosophy or a failure of communication -- Coach Ferentz and his players weren't on the same page by the time the Hawkeyes collapsed.
What's more, at a crucial time in the season, when Iowa was firmly in the Big Ten title hunt and needed just a little extra "oomph" to get over the hump against Northwestern (and again against Ohio State), Ferentz stood quietly -- almost bored -- on the sideline chewing his gum while his team slipped into oblivion. If it can be said that his team gave up on him, it might also be said that he gave up on his team.
Where was the fire? Where was the passion? Where was that excitement and drive that coaches like Pat Fitzgerald use to pick their teams up and propel them to victory?
Maybe Coach Ferentz has never really displayed those attributes, but the lack thereof filtered over to the players this year, to the detriment of the team and fans who love to cheer them on.
Still, he did get Iowa back to a bowl game. For a fair number of fans, that's good enough.
Overall 2010 Grade: D-