By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz always wins a press conference.
His gift for gab, his sense of humor, and his willingness to speak his mind makes for some lively discussion as was the case again on Wednesday.
Brian Ferentz was among three Iowa assistant coaches that met with the media on Wednesday to provide updates on spring practice, along with new tight ends coach Abdul Hodge and receivers coach Kelton Copeland.
It marked the first time that Brian Ferentz has met with media since he recently switched from coaching tight ends to coaching quarterbacks.
The son of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz began with an opening statement in which he paid tribute to former quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe before answering questions for nearly 40 minutes.
“I’m happy to answer any questions you guys have and I’ve got a feeling I can anticipate a few of them, but we’ll see how it is,” Brian Ferentz said.
Brian Ferentz was ready for one particular question in which he was reminded about what he said in 2017 after having been promoted to offensive coordinator.
Brian Ferentz said in 2017 that he wouldn’t be comfortable coaching quarterbacks due to his lack of experience.
He doesn’t remember saying it. But he also doesn’t deny having said it.
“I got reminded of that today,” Brian Ferentz said. “I don’t know the context of that statement. I was presented with it today in preparation for coming in front of you guys. And I have to be honest with you, I don’t remember saying it. I do have a tendency to be a little self-deprecating at times. I think maybe you guys have seen that. So, I would be curious of the conversation.
“Look, when I said I had no idea about quarterback play in 2017, I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. But I can tell you this, I’m a lot more comfortable in 2022 than I was in 2017 because I would’ve been naïve to not keep my eye on the future if you’re talking about being an offensive coordinator. And frankly, the last five years was the first time that I’ve ever been around it as coach on a staff where the play caller was not with the quarterbacks.”
It now seems accurate to say that O’Keefe was hired to coach the quarterbacks in 2017 in part to help Brian Ferentz evolve.
The fact that O’Keefe had served as the Iowa offensive coordinator from 1999 to 2011 also helped to provide a level of comfort.
“I really think, and I would’ve told you this in 2017 that this is the best way to do it from a communication standpoint,” Brain Ferentz said of the offensive coordinator also coaching the quarterbacks. “But I can also tell you in 2017 I was very comfortable as I was in 18, 19, 20 and 21 with Ken doing that because of the trust level.
“And then also over the last five years I can’t overstate how much I’ve learned from Ken, and how much I appreciate that.”
Kirk Ferentz apparently felt that Brian Ferentz wasn’t ready to coach the quarterbacks in 2017.
But after five years of running the offense, and working alongside O’Keefe, Kirk Ferentz believes that Brian Ferentz has evolved to where he is ready to meet the challenge.”
Some fans have questioned the decision to make Brian Ferentz the quarterback coach because they’ve seen how much the offense has struggled with him in charge, including being ranked at or near the bottom of the Big Ten in numerous offensive statistical categories this past season.
Former Iowa All-America quarterback Chuck Long also called the decision to make Brian Ferentz the quarterback coach a missed opportunity for Hawkeye football.
Long was hoping that Kirk Ferentz would hire an established quarterback coach who would bring a new perspective.
Long also accused the Iowa program of nepotism.
“I thought it was a missed opportunity for Kirk and Iowa football, I really did,” Long said last Wednesday on the Hawk Fanatic radio show and podcast. “Quarterback coaching is such a different animal. I was in it for 20 years. I don’t know anybody with an offensive-line background that has gone on to coach quarterbacks. It’s just different than everything else.”
Brian Ferentz was asked about the outside noise, and specifically about those who feel that Hawkeye football missed an opportunity by making him the quarterback coach.
“I would not have an answer,” Brian Ferentz said. “I’m worried about what I’m doing every day and helping this football team, doing my job to the best of my ability. And truly and honestly, that is my only concern.”
Asked if he is motivated by the criticism, Brian Ferentz said:
“I would hope that I don’t need to be motivated by anything, but the desire to get our football team to the point where we can be competitive with anyone that we play on our schedule and have a chance to win football games. And I’m being very truthful when I tell you that is all that I need from a motivation standpoint.”
Brian Ferentz, who turned 39 on Monday, declined to provide much detail on the quarterback competition, saying it’s just too early in spring practice to make a fair and accurate evaluation between Spencer Petras, Alex Padilla and Joey Labas.
“I don’t think I’m even ready to talk about that,” Brian Ferentz said. “And I hope none of us are ready to talk about that yet.”
Time and performance will ultimately determine if Kirk Ferentz made the right decision by making his son the quarterback coach.
Brian Ferentz put on quite a show while speaking to the media on Wednesday because he thrives with a microphone in front of him. He is charismatic, funny and personable.
But it takes more than those qualities to build an offense and to build quarterbacks.
At some point, words will have to be replaced by results.