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Brian Ferentz has got to be better than Greg Davis

Dr. Strangepass, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Nepotism.

NCAA Football: Miami (Ohio) at Iowa
Future Iowa Head Coach?
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Following last season, Greg Davis retired as Iowa’s offensive coordinator. After an extensive search—and to everyone’s surprise—Kirk Ferentz tapped his son, Brian, to head Iowa’s offense going forward. This was almost certainly due in large part to nepotism, with Ferentz the Elder attempting to clear the way for Brian to take over when dad eventually retires (insert dumb contract joke here). Now some of you here may have had bad experiences with nepotism and offensive coordinators in the past. So I’m here to tell you that this is far from the worst thing that could have happened.

First let’s take a stroll through Greg Davis’s tenure as signal caller for Iowa. Believe it or not, there are some people who will defend this stretch of mostly horrendous offense. The argument goes that his teams scored more per game every season until they fell off a cliff in 2016. This is a dumb argument. While it’s true his offenses scored more per game from 2012 through 2015 (19.3, 26.3, 28.1, and 30.9), it ignores the fact that he also completely tanked the offense when he took over (27.5 in 2011 to 19.3 in 2012). This also completely ignores the fact that there has been some heavy offensive creep in the last half decade (the median points per game went up ~2.3 from 2011 to 2016). This also ignores that in his final season it dropped from 30.9 to 24.9, with a senior QB that would go on to be drafted in the 3rd round, an offensive line that would win a national award, and a duo of running backs that would both go over 1000 yards (first time that happened in school history). And this all presupposes that points-per-game is a fair metric to use, which...LOLNOPE.

So let’s take a look at a couple other—and notably more advanced—metrics from Football Outsiders. Greg Davis inherited an offense that finished 36th and 46th in their two offensive metrics (FEI and S&P+, respectively). Since then, Greg Davis offenses have finished the seasons ranked 104 and 92 in 2012; 67 and 70 in 2013; 64 and 65 in 2014; 48 and 61 in 2015; and 58 and 78 in 2016. That’s not great, Bob. In fact, finishing every season near or below the national median every single year, and that includes a year where they went undefeated in the regular season (2015).

The jokes about Greg Davis and his horizontal offenses stretch back to his time at Texas and followed him around his time at Iowa. Surely, you’ve seen this image before:

An actual play that was run.

And while these jokes go from being funny, to unfunny, to sad, they are also based in quite a bit of truth. Here is the passing chart for C.J. Beathard for the 2016 season:

The middle of the field is lava.

Not only all that, but the offense was even more predictable than ever. As documented by Scott Dochtermann, on 3rd down, if Iowa was in shotgun, it passed every time. If Beathard was under center, Iowa ran the ball, every time. It was literally that simple. Teams could completely sell-out to stop one thing with 0 repercussions.

Now that we’ve established that Greg Davis was not very good at his old job, what can we expect this season and beyond from the chosen son? In his brief stint away from Hawkeye football as tight ends coach with the New England Patriots, he worked with Bill O’Brien and one of the best tight ends in football history in an offense that features tight ends heavily. O’Brien even took that philosophy with him, to pretty good success, to Penn State and then to Houston. Former long time Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe was brought back to be quarterbacks coach, and (I assume) to help mentor Ferentz the younger. In his time as OC, O’Keefe ran a passing game using bootlegs, play-action, deep crossing routes over the middle, and tight ends running seam routes. In his time as running game coordinator, Brian Ferentz has also introduced some wrinkles into Kirk’s rigid adherence to the zone blocking running game. Now you’ll see an occasional pulling guard, a pin and pull, double teams, etc.

This coming season the offense is still likely to be rough. There is one proven WR, coming off several foot surgeries, and a new starting QB. Still, there’s reason for optimism, if for no other other reason, than addition by subtraction. Iowa fans aren’t looking for Oregon’s or Baylor’s offenses. But we see what wisconsin and Stanford are doing, and can’t help but think that Iowa could do something similar.


How does Iowa’s offense fare under new management?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Craters to depths never before seen.
    (19 votes)
  • 17%
    About the same, that is to say, very, very bad.
    (72 votes)
  • 50%
    Slight improvement, but don’t get your hopes up.
    (205 votes)
  • 27%
    It’s the dawn of a new offensive era.
    (112 votes)
408 votes total Vote Now