When they go to write the book about Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz, maybe not in the first two or three sentences, but somewhere up high Greg Davis’ name will be mentioned.
That much we know as Davis prepares for his fourth season as Ferentz’s offensive coordinator. Ferentz has hooked his saddle, and part of his legacy, to the 63-year old Davis and there is no turning back now.
What we don’t know is how this story will end. Right now, it doesn’t look good with Iowa just 19-19 in the three seasons since Davis replaced Ken O’Keefe as offensive coordinator.
And to say that the offense has sputtered under Davis would be an understatement. It has moved horizontally more than forward, partly because of Davis’ fascination with short passes thrown to the far sideline.
It’s now become a running joke for some Iowa fans to say that Davis likes to call a 3-yard down-and-out pass play on third-and-5.
Fans can joke all they want, but the person they’re joking about has a huge impact on Ferentz’s coaching legacy.
Part of Ferentz’s legacy hangs in the balance, hurt by Iowa’s current stretch of mediocrity. Ferentz achieved greatness during his first decade as head coach, but the second decade has left much to be desired in terms of wins and entertainment value.
Davis has become an easy target for criticism. Some of it’s probably deserved because the offense has been dreadful at times, including for the entire 2012 season. But it’s hard to know for sure how much blame Davis deserves because we don’t know where his authority ends and where Ferentz’s begins.
I’ve been told several times that C.J. Beathard would’ve started over Jake Rudock last season if it were Davis’ decision to make.
That decision finally was made by Ferentz about a week after the TaxSlayer Bowl in January, but under awkward circumstances to which nobody seems comfortable talking about publicly.
Davis met with the media on Wednesday and was asked several times what specifically led to the switch at quarterback. Davis danced around the question like Fred Astaire, his answer always the same.
“We just felt like he gave us the best chance to win,” Davis said of Beathard. “It was not like an epiphany.
“They had been close for a long time. We just felt like what we do at every position, who did you think gives us the best opportunity to win? And that’s what we felt after the bowl game.”
The problem with that answer besides being vague is that perception tells a different story. Perception says that Ferentz caved to the demands of Beathard’s father, who had hinted in a newspaper article about a two weeks before the TaxSlayer Bowl that his son might transfer if he was dissatisfied with his role in the bowl game.
Rudock started the TaxSlayer Bowl, but that was about all he did during the 45-28 loss to Tennessee on Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla. Beathard started the second half and took a majority of snaps, making it clear that it was now his job.
Rudock has since made plans to transfer to Michigan, where he will play as a fifth-year graduate student next season. So it’s obvious how he felt about being demoted.
I asked Davis on Wednesday if he wished that Beathard had played more during the regular season to show that it was a close competition. Beathard rarely played when Rudock was healthy last season.
“Hindsight is usually 20/20,” Davis said. “So I think there’s all kind of things we could have said, `yeah, we could have done this, done that.’ But we’re happy with where we are at now.”
Are they really?
I find that hard to believe because how can a coaching staff be happy about having just two quarterbacks on scholarship during spring practice and only having one quarterback with any playing experience?
Davis would like for Beathard to use his scrambling ability to extend plays, but that could prove costly from an injury standpoint.
Nothing against redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Wiegers, who is the other quarterback on scholarship this spring, but he isn’t ready to compete at the Big Ten level, at least not yet.
Davis will rely on Beathard to help do his job, while Ferentz will rely on Davis to help save his legacy. Ferentz must believe strongly in Davis because why would Ferentz stick with him for this long when the results have been mediocre?
Davis accomplished some amazing things as the offensive coordinator at Texas, most notably winning a national title in 2005.
But that was Texas. This is Iowa. The two programs are worlds apart from each other.
You just wonder if Ferentz took that into consideration when he hired Davis, because so far that decision has done more harm than good to Ferentz’s legacy.