Brian Ferentz said a lot during Wednesday’s press conference, but probably not what fans wanted to hear
By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – For approximately 32 minutes on Wednesday, Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz met with the media, and the biggest takeaway from what he said is that despite all the shortcomings on offense, it’s pretty much business as usual.
There will be no change at quarterback.
There will be no dramatic changes in personnel, schemes or approach during the bye week.
And there will be no thought from Brian Ferentz of stepping down or resigning despite having arguably the worst offense in the nation.
“There are two options in life in any situation. You can surrender, and if you surrender then I think the results are pretty much guaranteed,” Brian Ferentz said Wednesday when asked if he has considered resigning. “Or you can dig in and fight and you can try to improve and do things better.”
That was Brian Ferentz’s main message to the media on Wednesday; do things better.
“I don’t have great answers right now,” he said “We’re in the process of going through those things. But the reality is, yeah, we have to look at doing things differently and changing some things moving forward here. But are we going to be five wide and in the wildcat and things like that? I don’t think that’s the answer. And if it was, I can assure you that’s what we would be working on doing.
“But the reality is we’re trying to win football games. We’re invested in this. This is very important to us. What can we do to get better? That’s a question in our minds at every moment in every day. And that’s not unique to the bye week, either. These are things that you’re trying to adjust and change week to week during the season in the midst of it.”
All three of Iowa’s coordinators met with the media on Wednesday as part of the bye week.
But the questions asked to defensive coordinator Phil Parker and to special teams coordinator LeVar Woods were of a different nature because both of their units have performed well this season.
The Iowa offense, on the other hand, has been a dysfunctional mess for most of the season.
With records of 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten, Iowa already has lost more games than it lost during the entire 2021 regular season when it compiled a 10-2 record and won the Big Ten West Division.
Iowa’s next game is against undefeated Ohio State on Oct. 22 in Columbus, Ohio, so, the threat of Iowa losing a third consecutive conference game and falling to 3-4 looms large.
The Iowa offense has performed so poorly that it has become a laughingstock and a punchline, with much of directed at Brian Ferentz.
“In this business, we all signed up for this,” Brian Ferentz said. “This is a results-driven business. It has been since the minute I entered it. None of this is a new phenomenon. Things that go on outside of this program never surprise or shock me because this is the world we live in. This is the life we chose. You have to get results or otherwise they will move on to people who will. That’s the way it is.”
The problem with that answer is that Brian Ferentz’s situation appears different than what he described as a results-driven business.
Some fans feel that Brian Ferentz gets preferential treatment since his father, Kirk Ferentz, is the Iowa head coach, and they believe that a lot of offensive coordinators with Brian Ferentz’s track record would’ve been fired by now.
“There is a responsibility and a privilege that comes with being a coach here, or being a player here,” Brian Ferentz said. “I feel that deeply. There’s another layer to it for me. My father is the head coach. I’ve been answering questions about nepotism my entire adult life. None of that is new to me.
“But I would flip it and say, if you think that I don’t feel an added responsibility or added pressure to perform well for my father, you’re crazy. Of course, I feel that. I’m a human being. But at the end of the day, what you can’t let happen is worry about anything that can’t help you do your job. I learned that very early in my career. Keep your eyes on the road. Keep your eyes where they need to be. Keep your feet where you are and worry about doing your job as well as you possibly can regardless of circumstances and regardless of what’s going on around you, keep your focus there, pour your effort into that and whatever happens happens.”
That all sounds good, but as Brian Ferentz said, it’s a results-driven business and right now, his results leave so much to be desired.
Brian Ferentz reminded the media on Wednesday that he was born in Iowa City and has spent much of his life affiliated with the Iowa football program as a young fan, as a former player and now as a coach under his father.
And while his job performance has become a national story for all the wrong reasons, Brian Ferentz said Wednesday that he doesn’t spend any time worrying about his job security.
“Do the best you can where you’re at and with what you’ve got and you won’t have any regrets,” Brian Ferentz said. “That’s what I was taught at an early age and I continue to live by that. So, I don’t worry about what’s going on at other places, and quite frankly, I don’t worry about what’s going on for my job status or anything like that.
“My focus is on the staff, the players and doing my duty to the best of my ability to help them be successful.”
A critic would say that Brian Ferentz doesn’t worry about his job status because his father is the head coach and would never fire his son.
Brian Ferentz was asked Wednesday if being Kirk Ferentz’s son impacts how gets evaluated from a job performance standpoint.
“You would have to ask the head coach,” Brian Ferentz said. “I don’t think anything. That would be a question for him. I don’t want to speak for anyone else.”
Brian Ferentz reports to Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta instead of to his father to avoid conflicts with nepotism.
However, the perception is that Barta never would take a stand against Kirk Ferentz on anything, especially something involving Kirk Ferentz’s son.
Brian Ferentz offered no miracle cures on Wednesday because there aren’t any.
The Iowa offense has to make do with what it has, and it just has to get better.
Those hoping for a change at quarterback wouldn’t like what Brian Ferentz said Wednesday because it doesn’t sound as if junior backup Alex Padilla is anywhere close to supplanting senior Spencer Petras as the starter.
Petras has some of the worst passing statistics in the Big Ten, and has only thrown two touchdown passes this season.
But according to Brian Ferentz, Petras still gives Iowa its best chance of winning.
“Right now, the best I can describe the quarterback position is this; it’s like any position on the football team,” Brian Ferentz said. “We’re evaluating everybody all the time on everything. And the quarterback position is very simple; who can do the job that absolute best?
“What are we looking at? Well, we’re looking at metrics, not just games, practice. You’re talking about decisions, reads, timing, location, all those things. And the good news with the quarterback position is it’s very tangible. There’s not a lot of gray area when you’re grading those factors.
“So, the reality is, we do like Alex. We feel comfortable with Alex in the game. We feel like he’s a good player. But the reason Spencer is our quarterback is because we feel he gives us the best chance to win.”
When asked what would be the downside to making a quarterback change, Brian Ferentz said:
“What’s the upside?”
Besides sort of throwing the backup quarterbacks under the bus, Brian Ferentz’s answer provides little hope because it makes it seem as if Petras is the only quarterback who the coaches trust.
And if Padilla hasn’t earned the coaches’ trust in his fourth season in the program, then, obviously, that’s a problem.
Brian Ferentz also made it abundantly clear that third-team quarterback Joey Labas still has a lot work to do when asked if he had narrowed the gap with Petras and Padilla.
“Joe continues to do a good job, but the simple answer to that is; no he has not,” Brian Ferentz said of Labas, a redshirt freshman from Ohio. “He has not yet closed the gap on the two guys. But that doesn’t discourage you to continue to work with him and hope that you get there.”
Much of what Brian Ferentz said Wednesday probably won’t sit well with some fans because the we-just-have-to-get-better narrative has gotten old and now falls on deaf ears. Fans are tired of hearing that while the offense continues to struggle in historic fashion.
Kirk Ferentz took a risk when he promoted Brian Ferentz to offensive coordinator in 2017, because as the old saying goes; don’t ever hire someone you can’t fire.”
And now Kirk Ferentz has a mess to clean up on offense.
But do he and his son have what it takes to get the job done?
Based on the current circumstances, the answer would appear to be no.
Brian Ferentz said a lot during Wednesday’s press conference. But he also didn’t say much at all.