Tag Archives: Kirk Ferentz

Ferentz Hangs With Heavy Hitters at Spring Training

Kirk Ferentzs pal, Tony La Russa

Kirk Ferentz's pal, Tony La Russa

Recruiting’s over, spring football hasn’t started … if you’re Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz, why not escape to Palm Beach?

That’s where Ferentz was Tuesday – Jupiter, Florida, to be precise, in Palm Beach County. Ferentz was there enjoying an exhibition game between the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals and meeting up with Tigers Manager Jim Leyland and Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa.

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Is Ferentz to Kansas City Impossible, Unlikely, or Neither?

Might Kirk Ferentz spice up his life with a job in K.C.?

Might Kirk Ferentz spice up his life with a job in K.C.?

Oh, is this idiotic blog stirring up something saucy about the Iowa football coach that lacks substance?

Well … yeah. What else am I going to write about, the Iowa basketball team? Crack 50 points sometime again, and maybe I will.

OK, that was mean. I apologize. Blame it on the raw weather we in Iowa (and in much of the northern half of this great nation) are enduring. Blame it on the economy. If you’re a fan of “South Park,” blame Canada.

But Scott Pioli became the Kansas City Chiefs’ general manager today. You have to think Pioli didn’t take that job without knowing precisely who he would bring along as his coach, and it almost surely isn’t incumbent Herm Edwards.

So, Pioli and Ferentz are long-time close friends who worked together once upon a time with the Cleveland Browns. Ferentz lauded Pioli the person at an Outback Bowl press conference. He also said people shouldn’t assume anything about what Pioli might do.

That was when speculation had Pioli leaving the New England Patriots’ organization to run the football operations of the Cleveland Browns. Which didn’t happen, obviously.

But now Pioli has left Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots empire to try to revive a dormant Chiefs franchise. And again, you figure he has to have an awfully good idea who he’ll bring in to coach his team. Otherwise, he’s a gambler. Belichick doesn’t nurture gamblers. A prime example is Ferentz, who along with Pioli, worked with Belichick in Cleveland.

That certainly doesn’t mean it’s Ferentz to Cowtown. If I had to – ahem- gamble, I’d put a lot of paper money on Captain Kirk staying at Iowa for a good while longer. He has said or done nothing in recent years to make me think he’ll do otherwise, and his hints have suggested that’s exactly what he wants to do.

He has the Hawkeyes running the way he and Iowa fans like, again. They are being talked up as a Big Ten title-contender in 2009. It’s not like Ferentz hasn’t been able to win the conference before.

He has son James Ferentz about to embark on a playing career that could involve a lot of playing time on the offensive line, and sooner rather than later.

He endures a fair amount of craziness coaching at the Big Ten level (like dumbbell newspaper bloggers speculating on stuff like this), but it’s nothing compared to the wild heat of being an NFL coach.

But do I rule it out entirely?  Do I assume New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo or some other highly qualified coach will come aboard in Kansas City with Piolo?

No.

Why not? Because I don’t have to, and you can’t make me. And because stranger things happen every year in coaching hirings. Remember Steve Spurrier to the Redskins? Bobby Petrino to the Falcons? Nick Saban to the Dolphins? Tim Floyd to the Bulls?

But the main reason I’m throwing this at the wall is because it’s mid-January, it’s freezing, and it’s fun to speculate about things that don’t directly involve us.

Ferentz said in Tampa that he finds it interesting when people try to decide what’s in another person’s head, or what’s best for that person. So I’m not doing that. He knows where he’ll be next fall. As it has been for his decade as Iowa’s coach, the very safe guess is that will be the home team’s sideline at Kinnick Stadium.

Maybe you and I will be in that stadium that day, too.

Let’s Talk Ferentz and Cleveland

Scott Pioli (SI.com photo)

Scott Pioli (SI.com photo)

I really was going to totally ignore this Kirk Ferentz/Cleveland Browns business altogether, but the Iowa football season is over and I need a hot-button issue.

I’ll settle for lukewarm-button in this case.

I don’t know why Ron Borges of the Boston Herald was so convinced New England Patriots vice president Scott Pioli would automatically bring Kirk Ferentz with him to coach the Clevland Browns if Pioli basically gets full control of the franchise’s football operation.

But Borges knows the Patriots. I don’t.

Borges’ story from Dec. 30: http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/football/patriots/view.bg?articleid=1142108

First and foremost, there’s no guarantee Pioli will come to terms with Cleveland. Here’s an excerpt from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot:

Pioli would require the authority to hire his own coach, and reportedly favors either Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz or Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, whom the Browns were impressed with in his interview Friday.A source close to Pioli said he headed into the Browns interview with serious reservations about the job. Multiple league sources have pointed to the fact the Browns have squandered many draft picks over the past few years – including their third-, fifth- and seventh-round picks in 2009.

Lerner, who’s said he’d be “apprehensive” about hiring a college coach, would have to be sold on Ferentz. Likewise, it probably wouldn’t be a deal breaker for Pioli if the Browns didn’t want to go the college route.  …

 

Also, the salary cap is headed for trouble because of huge signing bonuses given to free agents over the past several years and the fact a number of player contracts are up after 2009.

One league source said the roster is in bad shape after the reign of fired GM Phil Savage, and that only one current defensive player – Shaun Rogers – would be good enough to start for AFC North rivals Baltimore or Pittsburgh. Another said that neither linebacker Beau Bell nor tight end Martin Rucker, two players the Browns traded up to select in the 2008 draft, will cut it in the NFL.

The link to Cabot’s full blog post on the Browns’ situation: http://www.cleveland.com/browns/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/sports/123106145434290.xml&coll=2

Here’s what I think: Accept nothing about Ferentz being a possible head coach with the Browns as fact, but never rule out anything. The Gene Chizik-to-Auburn thing was enough to convince me of that for the rest of my days.

Pioli and Ferentz are tight, true. Ferentz professed his admiration for Pioli in front of a media gathering Dec. 31 in Tampa. He told the same group that people shouldn’t try to assume what’s in another person’s head, meaning his. Ferentz also said people shouldn’t assume Pioli will leave his New England job.

But Ferentz never says never to other rumored options, though he’s been Iowa’s coach for 10 years. That’s because he’s smart. He knows that it’s always good to have some sort of leverage in his current job. It’s not like he hasn’t used it before to get ($$$$$) things. It’s not like he doesn’t have a savvy agent (http://www.neilcornrich.com) who has helped him navigate these waters before.

There’s nothing sinister in any of that. You or I would do the same things in our jobs if we had anything to use as leverage. I, for one, could say Wal-Mart continues to sweeten the offer for me to leave my current job to become one of their greeters. But I don’t think it would help.

Now, Ferentz may have zero intention of leaving Iowa for an NFL job any time in the next four years. But why tell his boss that?

Pioli will or won’t take the Cleveland job, or a similar one with the Kansas City Chiefs. Ferentz will stay put in Iowa City.

Or he won’t.

Just trying to help with that leverage thing, Kirk.

By the way, the last coach to go straight from college to the NFL and succeed was Jimmy Johnson. That was a long time ago.

So, this has been my shameless play for hits using a story I’m very skeptical about. Thanks for indulging me.

Hlas Column From Iowa’s Outback Bowl Savaging of South Carolina

The logo of the day in Raymond James Stadium

The logo of the day in Raymond James Stadium

TAMPA, Fla. — The last time Iowa had won a bowl game, it did so with a lightning bolt of a 56-yard pass that erased the team’s short-circuitry in that game’s fourth-quarter.

The 30-25 win over LSU in Orlando four years ago souped up hype for 2005 that never came close to fruition. It was the last thing to happen to the Hawkeyes’ program that was both big and good, until this season.

On the first day of January 2009, Iowa won a bowl against another SEC team. It wasn’t by plucking it out of the sky with a last-second miracle, but by using 60 minutes of substance. Rock-solid substance.

It won’t make the kind of instant lore that Drew Tate-to-Warren Holloway created, and it won’t become a poster that will hang on walls of rec rooms in Iowa homes for decades.

But you know what? It’s better.

The Hawkeyes brought Hawkeye football to Raymond James Stadium Thursday, at the expense of a completely outmanned, outworked South Carolina squad. The score was 31-10. The game was over well before halftime.

Iowa didn’t surprise Steve Spurrier’s team a bit with what it did on either side of the ball. It just did it. And did it, and did it, and did it.

It was Kirk Ferentz football. It was Hawkeye football. Like all programs, Iowa’s is a fragile ecosystem. But when Ferentz’s players are the right ones and of the right minds, as they were in 2001 through 2004, the system works.

“We had a dip at the end of the 2006 season,” Ferentz said after Thursday’s triumph. “I’ve said many times on record that it’s probably the toughest six weeks I’ve gone through.”

Iowa went from 5-1 to 6-6 that fall, losing its last five Big Ten games. It began a two-year run of genuinely mediocre football accompanied by off-field problems that were far worse than the losing. Ferentz made a lot of most-overpaid coaches’ lists. His name and “hot seat” shared a lot of sentences.

Back in Iowa, you no longer saw a halo over the coach’s head. It looked like we might be watching a man spinning his wheels as some of his players tarnished the reputation of the program and university with some bad trouble away from the stadium.

So what did Ferentz do? Fire some assistants, abandon his beliefs, turn away from the core of who he was and what he had established in search of a quick fix?

Nah. The guy is old-school in a lot of ways, and dealing with problems with common sense and focus rather than throwing people under a bus is one of them. Getting players to represent their school better on and off the gridiron was another.

It sounds like cornball stuff, sure. But it is Iowa, after all.

The Hawkeyes were 3-3 halfway through this regular-season. Why no blame-games from players? Why no cave-in from a team that knew too well what it was like to see a season disintegrate?

“I think it’s just been responding,” said senior center Rob Bruggeman, the subject of quarterback Rick Stanzi’s raves (”Great line calls. He makes everything easier.”) after the game.

“You never focus on the negative and just try to turn it into a positive,” Bruggeman said. “We had a stretch where we lost three games in the middle of the season, and there was never a negative attitude in the locker room. Nobody was pointing fingers.

“I think it started in the off-season. We came together as a team, decided we weren’t going to get down on each other, we were going to stay positive the whole season. We just focused on that.”

The right attitude requires putting in the work, 12 months per year. Iowa has always had to labor harder than many BCS conference programs to reach the Top 25. That has to be something that is understood and embraced. But it’s tough to pull off, anywhere.

“It takes a lot of work,” said another stellar senior Hawkeye offensive lineman, Seth Olsen. He sat on a chair in the bowels of the stadium Thursday and quietly basked in the satisfaction of a game well played and a year well spent.

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” Olsen said. ““That’s one of the quotes in our program. That’s obviously true for us.”

Credit from one Hawkeye to another flowed like Gatorade after the game.

“Our offensive line came together tremendously since last year,” said senior Brandon Myers, who will probably become another Iowa tight end to graduate to the NFL. “I knew that right away in camp. Shonn wouldn’t have done what he did without this group.”

Ah yes, Shonn. That’s Shonn Greene. You know him. The nation got introduced to him too late for a trip to the Heisman Trophy ceremony, but he was everybody’s All-America.

Greene was Greene again Thursday. The yards, the first-downs, the bludgeoning of a defense, and a ninth Iowa win. Then he announced he was turning pro. It was decent of him, really, to say it now and let everyone move on right away.

For the umpteenth time, Greene praised his blockers. He took it beyond that at the team’s postseason banquet last month, asking Iowa’s offensive linemen to join him when he received his team co-MVP award.

“Phenomenal,” Olsen said about Greene.

That covers it in a word, but Olsen added: “He flatters us. He made us look good this year, too.”

Oh, Iowa’s defense had a rather productive season itself, allowing a mere 13 points and 94 rushing yards per game and bowing out with domination over a Steve Spurrier-coached offense.

“It’s been a great year,” Ferentz said. “I just told the team I can’t remember one that was more enjoyable. That includes the championship years. This was a championship in its own right. It feels pretty good.

“This is a team I’ll remember for a long time.”

This was a football team again. Hawkeye football is again substantial.

Iowa probably won’t be ranked higher than 20th in next week’s final AP poll. But are there as many as 10 teams in the nation that are better?

I don’t think so. South Carolina probably doesn’t, either.

The Hlist: USC is Merciful, Missouri is Miserable

Opening kickoff

“In Iowa, where Kirk Ferentz faces the prospect of losing his job precisely because his program has become a feeder team for the Iowa City Jail, things get worse than usual. Ferentz’s kid James, a freshman lineman, got pinched on underaged drinking (shock!) charges. The crime is of questionable import until you figure it might take Dad from the hot seat to the guillotine.” — Tom Ziller, Sportingnews.com

It seems an exaggeration.

First downs

1. Buckeye Nuts: These are a few excerpts from letters to the sports editor in Sunday’s Columbus Dispatch, written after Ohio State’s 16-3 win over Purdue and before OSU’s game at Michigan State on Saturday:

“With the exception of a few, this team needs to follow the yellow brick road and ask the wizard for a heart. While they are at it, the offensive line could ask for courage and the offensive coordinator could ask for a brain.” — Chris Sturgill, Worthington

“If (head coach Jim) Tressel keeps calling plays like he has recently, I’d make early reservations for the Outback Bowl, or wherever third-place Big Ten teams go.” — David Scott, Columbus

“Beanie Wells is capable of 200 yards per game, but the O-line seems to refuse to play with emotion for an entire game. … A promising season is likely to slip away without major improvement.” — Tom Scurlock, Washington

Wells ran 31 times for 140 yards in the Buckeyes’ 45-7 win at Michigan State on Saturday. OSU is OK.

2. One Week, Two Burials: A week ago today, Texas Coach Mack Brown approved a suggestion to bury the game ball from the previous Saturday’s 45-35 win over Oklahoma on the Longhorns’ practice field. Several Horns players then drank a Kool-Aid-like concoction to make them “forget” the big win over the Sooners and focus on the coming week’s game, against Missouri.

Score one for superstitions. No. 1 Texas buried Mizzou, 56-31.

Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy completed 29 of 32 passes for 337 yards. He passed for two touchdowns, ran for two others. He has completed 81 percent of his passes this season, a pace that would easily break the NCAA’s record of 73 percent.

“We need to continue for him to be who he is,” Brown said. “I don’t know if we need him to be any better.”

3. Abnormally Normal: In a season-full of upsets, no Top Ten teams got dumped Saturday.

Not that Southern California feared the reaper. Associated Press reported that two hours before kickoff USC players “menacingly rocked their buses, as if they couldn’t wait to get on the field.”

“Our guys had a ball playing football today, from the locker room on out,” USC Coach Pete Carroll said after his team’s 69-0 laugher over Washington State.

It’s fun being good. USC has won its last three games by a total of 141-10 since an upset loss at Oregon State. The Trojans have scored 117 unanswered points.

USC is ranked fifth in the BCS standings. Carroll’s response: “It doesn’t mean anything about anything.”

(Don Hawkins)

4. Son Sits in Mountains: Colorado’s Dan Hawkins is a father and a coach, but not necessarily in that order during games.

Hawkins pulled starting quarterback Cody Hawkins, his son, after two series of the Buffaloes’ game against Kansas State. In came true freshman Tyler Hansen. With his red-shirt removed, Hansen passed for 71 yards and a touchdown and rushed 19 times for 86 yards. Colorado won, 14-13.

“You have to do what you have to do,” Coach Hawkins said of the move.

Fumbles

1. Lanced in East Lansing: “What’s the one thing you did well today?” MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi was asked after the Spartans’ 45-7 loss to Ohio State.

“I thought we did a good job in warm-ups,” he said.

Michigan State running back Javon Ringer was held to a season-low 67 rushing yards.

“We’ve been trying to prove to people we’re not the same team, where we lose one and fall apart,” Ringer said. “This game, I’m telling you, is not gonna be that hard to get over. Next week is Michigan, and that’s the game we really look forward to. That game’s in a whole different category.”

Yeah, it’s a game against a team the Spartans can beat.

2. Missouri Breaks: After Texas crushed Missouri, Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo was asked what he thought of Missouri’s body language.

“Body language?” Orakpo replied. “I don’t know. I just play football. I ain’t no doctor.”

Ranked No. 3 two weeks ago, the Tigers could use a healer after consecutive losses to Oklahoma State and Texas.

“There’s no excuses,” said Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel. “They outplayed us, out-blocked us, kicked us, running, passing, coaching, everything.”

At least Pinkel has the Tigers’ weaknesses pinpointed.

3. Shooting Blanks: Washington State’s run of 280 consecutive games without being shut out was snapped in their 69-0 debacle of a loss to USC. The Cougars mustered just 116 total yards and four first downs.

“I think our team — a lot of guys are used to losing,” griped WSU defensive end Andy Mattingly.

It seems likely. Wazzu had Pac-10 defeats of 66-3, 63-14 and 66-13 before this game.

USC could have made it 90-0 had it desired. The Trojans played four quarterbacks. They let the last 16 seconds of the first half run out with the ball at the WSU 10 and timeouts left to use.

The Hlist thinks USC wanted to leave the Cougars with enough of a program so it can play at USC next year.

4. Lou’s Loose Lips: Even when you can understand Lou Holtz, he doesn’t always make sense.

ESPN analyst Holtz apologized on the air Saturday for mentioning Adolf Hitler in a discussion of the leadership skills of Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez during an ESPN studio show the night before.

“Ya know,” Holtz said Friday, “Hitler was a great leader, too.”

Wow. On top of that, Holtz predicted the winners of five of Saturday’s key games around the country, which he and broadcast partner Mark May do each week. He was wrong on all five.

Final gun

“This is an embarrassing situation, and I’m hoping this is the lowest point in our season.

“We have a very fragile football team; there’s not much confidence in the locker room right now. It’s not a pretty thing.”

San Diego State Coach Chuck Long after his Aztecs’ 70-7 loss at New Mexico.

James Ferentz: A Harsh Penalty That Had to Be Doled Out

University of Iowa freshman center James Ferentz was cited at 1:26 a.m. Friday for Possession of Alcohol Under the Legal Age as part of a traffic stop in University Heights.

That isn’t drunk driving, it isn’t having an open container, it isn’t public intoxication. But it is what it is, as everyone says these days. It’s alcohol under the legal age, it was at 1:26 a.m., and it was in University Heights. That’s a place where you get pulled over for using too much of their oxygen.

I kid University Heights. I love University Heights.

This is nothing to joke about, of course. The law is the law, and bless University Heights’ heart for enforcing it.

Kirk Ferentz, James’ father and the Iowa head football coach, surely didn’t smile from his wake-up call Friday morning up to the time he rested his head on a pillow in a Cedar Rapids hotel room Friday night.

Not only is any Hawkeye player set up for stern punishment with each legal fumble because of the team’s rash of arrests for incidents extremely serious and less so, but it’s his son. Of all the players in the Iowa program, James Ferentz is the one who should have been most cautious at all times in all situations. College kids will be college kids, absolutely. I’m not going to be the one to throw stones in that regard. It’s a been-there, done-that, happy-to-have-survived thing.

But you’re on full scholarship in full view with your father under such a bright and often harsh spotlight, so your end of the bargain had better be to act as a model citizen and serious student for five years. Otherwise, you should have found a program where you could have blended into the furniture a lot easier.

So, Father/Coach Ferentz had no choice but to offer this Friday:

“I was extremely disappointed to learn of James’ very poor decision making on several levels. This offense will be treated seriously and his punishment will include immediate and total suspension from all team activities. In addition, he will be required to attend counseling sessions and fulfill substantial community service obligations over the next six weekends. I realize this is a severe penalty but it’s just given our current circumstances. The fact that James is also my son only complicates an already tough situation.”

James Ferentz had a choice. Because of the one James made, Kirk had no choice in doing what he did. Both will suffer for it, a lot. If you’re a parent, you surely sympathize. If you’re a student, take heed.

If This Guy’s Any Good, Hawkeyes Got a Bargain

 

This week, it was announced Chigozie Ejiasi will earn a salary of $44,000 per year in his new role as director of player development for the Iowa football team.

“I’m confident this approach and this position can help us reduce the likelihood of having another off-the-field year like we had in 2007,” said Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta.

Ejiasi is 26 and the job is in his third year of working on the Iowa staff after playing football at the school. So, 44 grand is nothing to gripe about. And who’s to say the job isn’t merely cosmetic, a public-relations move?

But if Ejiasi has a positive effect on the Hawkeye players and helps keep the team out of the police logs and news sections of newspapers, 44 grand is a steal.

It isn’t as if Iowa throws nickels around like manhole covers when it comes to the football staff. By my math, Iowa’s nine full-time assistants were to earn a combined $1,626,700 in 2008. Strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle’s salary is $220,000, and his assistant, Raimond Braithwaite, earns $85,000. The base salary for head coach Kirk Ferentz was $1,470,000, with his total compensation about twice that.

Hey, if the market bears it, fine. I’m not the one paying for it. Which is good, because given the way things are going in Washington and Wall Street, you and I will be paying for a lot more things very soon.

I’m just saying if Ejiasi helps keep two or three Hawkeye players from going wayward in their personal lives, he’s earning his paycheck. And he’ll be helping all of the aforementioned to continue to earn theirs.

College Football Grand Larceny: Kirk Ferentz? Seems a Tad Harsh

Ferentz

I report, you decide. Actually, it’s more like I steal from a popular Web site, you decide if it’s valid, bogus, or nothing that hasn’t already been kicked around Iowa fot some time now.

The Big Lead is the site. It doesn’t think the Iowa Hawkeyes are getting as much bang for their college football coaching buck as, say, LSU. In fact, in overheated terms, it uses the phrase “College Football Grand Larceny: Kirk Ferentz.”

Full-time bloggers have all the fun. Leeches like myself grab their sensational headlines and hope to pad my hit counts. In the words of the cashier at the Edgewood Road Subway, “It’s all good.” He said that to me twice in one visit tonight.

But maybe happy days are here again in Hawkdom or are at least right around the corner. Phil Steele, the god of all preseason college football magazines in the Hlog’s eyes, has the Hawkeyes finishing high in the 2008 Big Ten football race. If anyone else says it, it would be debatable. If Phil Steele says it, it just came down a mountain on stone tablets.

If that doesn’t happen and Iowa should go, er, 6-6 again, expect more digs at Captain Kirk Ferentz like this one:

http://thebiglead.com/?p=6555