It wasn’t what Ferentz said via press release Tuesday night, it was that he said it at all.
“There continues to be public speculation and questions, as recently as the December 4th press conference, regarding my coaching future at Iowa or elsewhere,” said Ferentz. “To emphasize what I have said previously, I am very happy at Iowa. We have a great staff and group of student athletes, and we receive outstanding support from President Sally Mason and Director of Athletics Gary Barta. I fully intend to be at Iowa next year and well beyond 2012.”
I don’t think many people inside Iowa thought Ferentz was on his way to coach the Kansas City Chiefs, a coaching opening that some have speculated he might find alluring since the Chiefs’ general manager is Ferentz’s longtime friend and former co-worker, Scott Pioli.
Normally when such talk of Ferentz possibly being a candidate for an NFL opening has swirled, Ferentz’s public reaction has been non-existent. Sometimes, I’ve wondered if he and his agent minded such chatter. If it makes you look more-attractive, why not let it percolate? You laugh about it with recruits, telling them it’s just idle chatter. And you look like a hotter commodity to the people who pay you.
Clearly, this isn’t such a time. Ferentz wouldn’t have seen the need to put out that statement unless scuttlebutt about him and the Chiefs was affecting his recruiting negatively. That, compounded with recent news about the retirement of defensive coordinator Norm Parker and the defection of defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski to Nebraska could lead a recruiter from another school to suggest that Iowa’s coaching staff is skipping Iowa City one at a time until the man in charge walks away after the Insight Bowl.
Believe it or not, there are recruiters who bend facts. I’ve heard from more than one person that a Big Ten assistant was telling a certain recruit last winter that some or all of Iowa’s staff would get fired because of the rhabdo episode. The recruit in that story signed with Iowa, anyhow.
But Ferentz isn’t leaving, not this offseason. On Dec. 4 he insisted he was coming back next year. A few coaches over the years have looked people in the eye and lied about such things, but I don’t think Ferentz could stomach being one of them. I can’t find the documentation to prove it after digging through our archives for a while Tuesday night, but I’m pretty sure I heard him say a few years ago that he wanted to be Iowa’s coach for 20 years. He definitely said this late in 2006:
“I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve got a dream job (in mind). I don’t know if it’s 10 years from now or 12 years from now.
“My job is to be a (National Football League) consultant where I’m paid probably more than I should, and nobody’s really quite sure what hours I’m working and what my responsibility is.”
What I’m wondering is if Ferentz sees this coming offseason as a personal reboot, maybe the start of a new age of the program. That’s undoubtedly putting it way too strongly, of course, especially about someone who values consistency in his approach. But anyone who thinks Ferentz is content to go 7-5 every year and whistle to the bank as he cashes his paychecks simply doesn’t know him.
But with a new defensive coordinator and two new coaches coming aboard — and who knows, maybe more than two — there will be some sort of fresh air blowing through the Iowa compound. Any workplace can grow stale if the same group of people are together for a long period. Maybe Iowa’s program can use a bit of a new look and sound without shedding its core.
The way Ferentz has kept a staff pretty much the same for a long time is unusual and not without a lot of benefits. But at some point, you’re just not as likely to get a new wrinkle from the inside as the outside.
One of Ferentz’s professional mentors and friends, Bill Belichick, has had all sorts of changes on his coaching staff over the years. Just like every other NFL coach who has lasted on the job for very long.
Belichick remains Belichick, the Patriots do what they do his way, and they do it quite well most years. Yet, I’m guessing it stays fairly fresh. He has a 28-year-old assistant coach, for goodness sakes. A fellow named Brian Ferentz, if I remember correctly.
I don’t know if this is really related to this post, but here’s a new Wall Street Journal story on Hayden Fry, and how there are more former players from Iowa coaching in Division I football than any other school. Three of them — Bob Stoops, Jay Norvell and Bruce Kittle — are on Oklahoma’s staff. Bret Bielema is Wisconsin’s head coach. Bob Diaco is Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator. And so forth.