Brian Ferentz reflects on Super Bowl loss, his future, and Ken O'Keefe leaving Iowa

Former Hawkeye came so close to a Super Bowl ring

Published: February 6 2012 | 8:12 am - Updated: 3 April 2014 | 11:48 am in

INDIANAPOLIS -- The morning after his New England Patriots team had lost the Super Bowl, Brian Ferentz was up early and thinking about next season.

"The whole process starts all over again," Ferentz said. "We're obviously disappointed right now. But we're moving forward at the same time.

"If you're not winning the championship, you're building toward the next one."

The former Iowa offensive lineman came about as close as you can come to being on a world champion in his second year as an assistant coach. The New York Giants scored with 57 seconds left and hung on for a 21-17 win over New England at Lucas Oil Stadium.

One of Ferentz's tight ends, Rob Gronkowski, played the game with a high ankle sprain. The player who had 90 regular-season catches including 17 for touchdowns appeared limited compared to his normal production. He had two catches for 26 yards.

"I'm certainly not a doctor," Ferentz said, "but it was something comparable to what Ricky Stanzi had two years ago.

"I was impressed coaching him in how he showed a lot of mental toughness, a lot of physical toughness. Most importantly, he had the commitment to his teammates to get out on the field and give us whatever he had. I still think he brought a lot to the game with blocking protection in the run game, and he actually performed pretty well. He gave us some spirit, some juice."

There was a pretty significant change on Kirk Ferentz's Iowa coaching staff since I interviewed Brian Ferentz last Wednesday. Offensive Ken O'Keefe resigned to become the wide receivers coach for the NFL's Miami Dolphins. With an opening on the offensive side of the staff, I asked Brian if he would be in the mix for some sort of coaching job on his father's staff.

"My job is the coach of the New England Patriots' tight ends. I'm trying to do that to the best of my ability today. What happens in the future, whether a year, two years, 10 years from now, I'm focused on doing my job."

Brian Ferentz was in the Iowa program for five years, with O'Keefe as his coach. He didn't mince words when discussing his former coordinator.

"I think Coach O'Keefe is one of the finest coaches I've ever been around," Ferentz said. "I know I'm younger (28), but I've been around a lot of football coaches. I don't think I've been around many better teachers who care for their players than Coach O'Keefe."

He compared the way Iowa fans felt about O'Keefe to how Patriots fans have regarded now-outgoing offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, the new head coach at Penn State.

"I work for a good play-caller in Coach O'Brien. He's a lightning rod in Boston. When things go well, the players played well. When things don't go well, it's bad play-calling.

"It was a natural move (for O'Keefe). His kids are out of the house. He had a chance to coach in the NFL, a neat opportunity I've been blessed to have.

"I think it's a big loss for the program. I couldn't even put it into words."

Ferentz, meanwhile, is flying back to Massachusetts today.

"Like anything else, there are no moral victories," he said. "But when we step back in the next couple weeks, then we'll really understand what kind of year it was."

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