From e-mailer Mike: “Norm Parker’s replacement. I want Norm to stick around for years to come, but his health may not allow it. I would think that Iowa would want Norm’s defensive philosophy to continue. Is there a current staff member being groomed to step in when Norm retires or will Iowa look outside the program?”
Hmm, you guys continue to want to get me in trouble. But OK, I’ll give it a shot.
Here’s an April post from an interview with Parker.
Here are some excerpts:
He’s down two toes in a battle with diabetes. He’s coached from a golf cart for about six years. He’s going into his 46th year as a football coach.
Norm Parker, 68, isn’t going anywhere. Seriously.
“I’ll probably croak out on the field someday,” the Iowa defensive coordinator deadpanned. “Hope we’re ahead when I do it.”
And then from a post in December . . .
The foot problems that took him off the field after the Michigan State game on Oct. 24 haven’t let up. After having a toe amputated due to infection this summer, the wound never fully healed. Parker, a diabetic, pushed his health to the limit. It caught him after Michigan State.
“We tried to get through the year and do something after the year,” said Parker, who lost a toe due to diabetes in 2004. “After the Michigan State game, I went into the lockerroom, they took off my shoe and it was full of blood.”
Parker went to the UI Hospitals and Clinics the next day. The toe was “sewed up” again. Parker was put in a cast and “put my ass in bed.”
“He (the doctor) said, ‘Now you can’t walk on it at all,’” Parker said.
For Iowa’s next game against Indiana on Oct. 31, Parker coached from the press box. The problem now is that his leg has atrophied, which is why he’s still in the wheelchair and still slow getting around.
He’ll likely coach the Orange Bowl from the press box.
“Hell, I fell down in a snowbank the other day and couldn’t get out of the snow bank,” he said. “Some guy driving by in a car had to stop and help me up. I’m sort of a feeble old man right now.
“My wheelchair is right outside the room.”
Parker joked about coaching from the press box.
“It’s warmer up there and you can eat,” he said with a laugh.
His preference is to be on the field, though. He disputed the notion that coaches can see the game better from the press box.
“Hell, I watch practice everyday from the field,” he said. “It’s not like when you’re on the field you’ve got your eyes closed, but you are away from the players. I like to be able to talk to the players.
“Up in the press box, it’s like you’re watching a game from inside a closet. There’s no noise, there’s no anything up there. You might as well watch it on TV and turn the sound down.”
And . . .
“If I didn’t think I could do it, I’d be the first guy to say, that’s it,” Parker said. “I don’t want to do it, if I don’t really believe I can do it. That’s not fair to the team and that’s not fair to the other coaches. I don’t want to try to do something that I know I can’t do.
“When I think I can’t do it, this cowboy’s heading the other way.
“I’ll be the first guy to say, that’s it guys, I’m done. I don’t want to be that guy who hangs on longer than he should hang on, which maybe I already am, who knows?”
Judging by the performance of the ‘09 defense — echoing Parker’s call for “six seconds of hell” — Parker is not that guy.
Far from it.
So, Norm Parker, 68, is in for this year and maybe next. His health seemed dire at the end of last season, but, as he has in the past, he’s bounced back with vigor.
Succession is not an easy topic. Of course, head coach Kirk Ferentz wants Parker around for as long as he can have him. And remember, Ferentz’s mentor, the late Joe Moore, won an ugly age discrimination lawsuit with Notre Dame during the Bob Davie era.
Ferentz is sensitive to the issue, but college football is a “two moves ahead of your opponent” chess game. He probably has a handful of coaches in mind just in case any position came open on Iowa’s staff.
I have no idea who those people are. Here’s a logical look at likely candidates on the current staff:
Phil Parker, secondary coach — Parker, no relation, has had 12 years studying Norm Parker’s system. He knows it inside and out. He’s also a very good recruiter for the Hawkeyes, helping grab players in Ohio and Michigan. The one thing that has consistently impressed me about Parker’s defensive backs is that they hit. You can’t be Deion Sanders and play cornerback at Iowa. (OK, you probably could, but you’d better learn how to hit.)
From a 2006 story on I wrote on Parker (sorry, not on net, that I know of):
Other college recruiters told Godfrey he was going to start. He was the top defensive back on their list. They told him how great they thought he was.
“Coach Parker came in and said, ‘Let’s go watch some film,’ ” said Godfrey, third on the team with 35 tackles. “He watched film with me and didn’t point out the good things. He pointed out the things I did wrong.
“That’s what I wanted. I wanted somebody who was going to make me better.”
Godfrey wanted the truth.
“The smart guys want to go with the truth,” Godfrey said. “There are guys who just want to be pampered and want things to go their way. When things don’t turn out their way, they think, ‘I didn’t know it was going to happen like this.’
“I wanted him to honest with me. I’ll work for what I get.”
Would Iowa’s defense be more aggressive under Phil Parker? From the same story:
Parker lets recruits see the all-Big Ten safety who didn’t dance around when he returned punts. He returned the ball straight up the field, Perles said.
In turn, Parker is straight up with prospects.
“I tell them, don’t come if you can’t take it,” Parker said. “It kind of eliminates some of the guys.
“We’re a program that you’re not going to be able to baby kids. It’s hard to do that. This is a violent, physical football game. It’s not a contact sport, it’s a violent contact sport. Mentally, you’ve got to be able to take the pressure when it comes up.”
Parker knows that failure on the field can dig deeper than any yelling he can dish out.
“You’ve got to be mentally tough. You can’t crack under pressure,” Parker said. “When I find out a kid has mental toughness, I like the kid.
“Nobody in the real world sees someone lose $250,000 dollars in business. They’re on the front page, losing money. They just go on with their business. It’s a little bit more visual embarrassment sometimes, when you get beat.”
Darrell Wilson, linebackers coach – Wilson has been on Iowa’s staff since 2002. This last season, Wilson was a finalist for footballscoop.com’s linebackers coach of the year award. Granted, he had an excellent group to work with, but he got a lot out of them. Wilson also is a co-coach on special teams, taking care of punt returns among other duties. Couple that with coaching linebackers, Wilson has a full and healthy resume with tentacles deep into what Iowa is doing on defense and special teams.
Iowa hasn’t hit New Jersey in a few years, but when it does, it’s Wilson. Hello, Shonn Greene.
When Norm Parker wasn’t able to coach in early 2004, Phil Parker, Wilson and then-defensive line coach Ron Aiken collaborated on calling the defense.
“He (Norm Parker) told me the other night the worst thing you can do – another Normism here – is walk in a half-hour before Thanksgiving dinner and tell everybody what they should do,” Ferentz said during this time. “If you’re not in the kitchen … He’s got great faith in those guys. They’ve done a great job.”
Also, a strong candidate. Yes, Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds were smart players last season. Wilson had a hand in that.
Rick Kaczenski, D-line – I’m not too sure the former Notre Dame offensive lineman isn’t Iowa’s toughest coach. You want attention to detail? Check this video.
Keep in mind. This was one of the first spring practices last March. He was making players do over during a warmup tackling drill.
From a story on the D-line’s resurgence last fall (remember, ISU ran for 190 against Iowa):
In Iowa’s 21-10 upset at Penn State, the anointed leader pulled off a fabulous individual effort, blocking a punt in “punt safe” mode, fielding it and sprinting 53 yards for the points that pushed the Hawkeyes (4-0) over the top and into today’s matchup with Arkansas State (12) with a world of possibilities in front of them.
This run started with a meeting, with their position coach and with themselves. “We’re really talented players as individuals, but we weren’t playing as a group,” the freak athlete said. “We were just trying to make plays out there, try ing to do too much. Now, we’re working as a group and trying to play the defense.” The Sunday after Iowa State — a 35-3 Iowa victory, by the way — Dline coach Rick Kaczenski opened fire in the group meeting. In week 1, Northern Iowa’s offense executed like a Toyota.
The next week, Iowa State rushed for 190 yards, the most against an Iowa defense since 2007.
“After Iowa State, coach wasn’t too happy and, after watching the tape, none of the D-line was, either,” the squirrel hunter said.
“We were embarrassed how we played. We all took that to heart and came out the following weeks and started practicing a little better and it translated to the field.”
Iowa’s D-line, with all of its natural ability, isn’t just plug-and-play.
Also, Kaczenski is Iowa’s main recruiter in Florida. The Hawkeyes don’t hit Florida as much as it did when Ferentz arrived at Iowa. The Hawkeyes have a robust reputation in the midwest, but Florida always is a good place to have a toe in. Iowa grabbed Miami running back D’Andre Johnson last February.
Kaczenski’s background is rooted on offense. Up until he was promoted from graduate assistant in 2007, his resume reads all offensive line, from Erie Cathedral Catholic in 1998 to stops all over the south with a little tight end mixed in, too.
Is defense his long-term goal?
Again, no idea when this happens. Everyone wants Norm Parker to stick around. He’s a great interview, so, I’ll admit to wanting him around for as long as possible.
Let’s just see what happens.
Tell me what you think.