IOWA CITY, Iowa – It’s still way too early to know if the 2015 Iowa football team is destined for greatness, but we can say with certainty that its head coach has changed.
At least, I’ve seen enough to believe that Kirk Ferentz has changed his approach to coaching in some ways that aren’t so subtle. From making C.J. Beathard his starting quarterback in January to calling two fake field-goal attempts already this season to being far more aggressive in recruiting, Ferentz is evolving as a head coach, even at this late stage in his career.
Maybe this change is from Ferentz turning 60-years old barely a month ago on Aug. 1 because isn’t 60 considered the new 40 these days?
Ferentz even referred to himself as the “new me” during his weekly press conference on Tuesday when asked about allowing Marshall Koehn to punt rugby style against Pittsburgh last Saturday. Ferentz had been opposed to using that style of punting until last Saturday.
“Yeah, it’s a new me,” Ferentz said, causing the room filled with reporters to burst into laughter.
Ferentz then acknowledged that something within him and within the Iowa program had to change in response to last season ending so horribly.
Ferentz reached that sobering conclusion after watching his team unravel at the end of last season, losing its final three games, including home losses to Nebraska and Wisconsin, followed by a 45-28 beat-down against Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
“It’s as simple as this,” Ferentz said. “You just get back to everybody that left the stadium back in November, everybody, players, coaches, every fan that we have, and we’ve got the best fans in the world, everybody left saying, really. Okay? You go through a little period like that and the bowl game wasn’t much fun, either.
“So you go back and you just look at everything. So yeah, we had an open mind starting in January, and more so in February, March and April. You know, what can we do to be better? I don’t think we look totally different as a football team. But if we can make some tweaks and little changes that are going to help us and be advantageous, we were open to it.”
Ferentz’s job wasn’t in jeopardy after last season despite what some in the national might have thought. However, his legacy was on the line, and still is as the 3-0 Hawkeyes prepare to face North Texas and head coach Dan McCarney on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
There were a growing number of disgruntled, and even worse, disinterested fans, who were tired of Ferentz’s conservative appraoch and wanted him to be replaced. That feeling reached an all-time high after the TaxSlayer debacle.
Even Gary Barta, Iowa’s Director of Athletics and the unofficial head of the Kirk Ferentz fan club, told reporters that last season’s performance was unacceptable.
Winning was the only thing that could save Ferentz’s legacy, and he knew it.
He knew that he already had used up all his good will after last season’s stunning collapse and that being average just wouldn’t cut it anymore.
So it was time for a new Kirk. And that’s what we’re seeing now, a coach who is more willing to take chances instead of always playing it safe, or as some would say, playing not to lose.
I doubt the old Kirk would’ve approved two fake field-goal attempts during an entire season, let alone in just three games.
I doubt the old Kirk would’ve allowed his top defensive back to also be his top kick and punt returner, as is the case this season with junior Desmond King.
And I doubt the old Kirk would’ve been so willing to switch from practicing in the late afternoon to early in the morning like the new Kirk has, at least for this season.
Everybody has to makes changes in order to survive because so much is changing around us.
It was painfully obvious to Ferentz after last season that his approach wasn’t working anymore. So he has tinkered with it and seems open to making more changes.
Some fans were hoping after last season that Ferentz would make changes on his coaching staff. But when that didn’t happen, it gave the impression that 2015 would be more of the same.
It turns out we were wrong about Ferentz. He stayed loyal to his staff, but he didn’t stay in the same comfort zone as a head coach.
It’s probably fair to say that Brian Ferentz has had some influence on getting his father to change since joining the Iowa coaching staff in 2012. Brian is more outgoing than his father, and nearly half his age. Brian understands the importance of using social media to get the program’s message across to fans and to recruits.
This isn’t to suggest that the Iowa players will soon be allowed to use Twitter or that Kirk Ferentz will start talking trash to his opponents or start throwing his players under the bus.
There are some things about Kirk Ferentz that won’t change. And thank goodness for that.