By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The only real news to come out of Thursday’s press conference featuring the Iowa football team’s three coordinators is that there will be no significant changes made on offense.
And that’s only news if you were naïve or foolish enough to believe that sweeping changes would be made on offense.
“We’re going to do the same things we do, and we’re going to do them better,” Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said when asked what the offense has to do differently to avoid struggling the way it did last season.
Brian Ferentz said something similar last spring when asked if changes would be made on offense.
It now seems a narrative surfaces each spring in which some fans, and some in the media, try to convince themselves that major changes would be made on offense.
The thinking seems to be that since Iowa has performed so woefully on offense in each of the past two seasons, that change is inevitable and the best time to makes changes is in the spring.
The problem with this narrative is that it’s just wishful thinking because the head Hawk, Kirk Ferentz, isn’t about to make dramatic changes on offense as he prepares for his 25th season as the Iowa head coach.
Kirk Ferentz, who is Brian Ferentz’s father, believes that offense should be played a certain way, and he isn’t about to let a couple historically bad seasons on offense, or outside influences, change the way he thinks.
Brain Ferentz was reminded on Thursday about the narrative that surfaces each spring in which changes are supposedly being made on offense.
He was then asked if change is necessary for the offense to improve, or if it’s mostly a case of Iowa just having to be better at what it does on offense.
“Have you ever heard that talk from me?” Brian Ferentz said. “I’m going to approach my job the same way I’ve approached it for the last eleven seasons. My job is to help us win football games. We have a tried-and-true method. We know how we win. We know who we are. My job is to make sure that we play to those strengths, and then on Saturday, we’re winning games, not losing them.”
In fairness to Brian Ferentz, he never has said publicly, or even hinted that major changes were needed to fix the offense, nor has his father.
This narrative has been fueled by frustrated fans, and by some in the media.
Fans certainly have a right to be frustrated given how poorly the offense has performed recently under Brian Ferentz, including finishing last season ranked 130th out of 131 FBS teams in total offense.
But it also helps to be realistic and to remember that Kirk Ferentz will be 68 years old when next season starts, and his approach to offense has changed very little since he became a head coach.
Kirk Ferentz believes that his body of work, which includes ranking fourth all-time in wins (186) among Big Ten coaches, speaks for itself.
And despite how poorly the offense has performed in each of the past two seasons, Iowa still combined to win 18 games, along with the Big Ten West Division in 2021.
Of course, a critic would counter by saying just imagine how much more success Iowa could’ve had if the offense was just average.
And fair enough.
But again, you can’t assume that change is inevitable just because you want to believe it.
Or, you can make that assumption, but just be prepared to be disappointed.
Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta has been criticized for coddling Kirk Ferentz, and for not demanding that changes be made on offense.
Barta sort of took a stand when it was announced in February that Brian Ferentz’s salary had been cut from $900,000 to $850,000 annually, and that designated performance objectives had been added to Brian Ferentz’s contract.
The objectives include averaging at least 25 points per game and winning at least seven games, which includes the regular season and bowl game.
Brian Ferentz was asked Thursday if the revisions to his contract would change or alter the way in which he calls plays or organizes game plans.
“That’s a fair question and the answer is no,” Brian Ferentz said. “I’m going to approach my job the same way I’ve approached it for eleven years. The reason that I’m at the University of Iowa and the reason I coach here is because I care about this program, and I care about the people in this building. I have one responsibility and that’s to help them win football games. That’s it. That’s how I’m going to approach my job.”
Brian Ferentz was then given a hypothetical in which he was asked if he would take a knee or attempt a field goal if Iowa were leading Wisconsin 24-10 with 30 seconds remaining.
“That’s probably a better question for the head coach,” Brian Ferentz said. “I’m not interested in that and couldn’t care less, honestly. If this is my last year being the offensive coordinator for Iowa football, I’m at peace with that. And if we’re beating Wisconsin 24-10 with thirty seconds left, you can bet your ass I’ll be at peace with that.”
And while the addition of former Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara has provided some hope and optimism on offense, it also has helped to fuel the misguided belief that significant changes would be made on offense.
Some of the players also have said this spring that tweaks were being made on offense.
But that’s mostly because they were asked to comment on tweaks that were supposedly being made on offense.
“Our job as an offensive staff is to get together every year and tweak the things that we do and figure out how to do what we do better,” Brian Ferentz said. “I don’t know that there’s any notable changes. If that’s what the players think, that’s super. That’s great. We’re just trying to move the football. We’re trying to help the team win games.”
The belief that changes would be made on offense also gained momentum when Jon Budmayr was hired as an offensive analyst before last season.
Some mistakenly assumed that Budmayr, a former Wisconsin quarterback and assistant coach, was brought in to help make changes to the offense.
But it didn’t take long to realize once the games started being played last season that it was pretty much the same offense, even with Budmayr helping as an advisor.
Brian Ferentz was asked Thursday what his message to fans would be.
“I don’t have a message to them,” he said.
That was all that he said about that topic.
Brian Ferentz is trying his best to ignore the outside noise, and to just keep working because that is really his option at this point.
And bold statements or predictions would fall on deaf ears.
The situation would be awkward even if Brian Ferentz wasn’t the son of the head coach.
But since he is Kirk Ferentz’s son, it just takes the awkwardness to another level.
Fans were probably disappointed with what Brian Ferentz said, or didn’t say on Thursday.
But he was only being honest.
There is no magic cure for the problems on offense.
And if you continue to believe that major changes will be made anytime soon on offense, that’s not Brian Ferentz’s fault.
That’s your fault.