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Iowa Football 2023 Post-Mortem: Our Long National Nightmare is Over

Despite winning 10 games, Brian Ferentz’s final season was somehow more disastrous than anyone could have predicted. Let’s look at the wreckage

2023 Big Ten Championship - Iowa v Michigan Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Well. Here we are I guess. Nearly five months ago Brian Ferentz began a campaign to turn his much maligned offense around and silence his many critics. He had everything going for him.

Players - Iowa hit the portal hard in the offseason and brought in some heavy hitters, including a Big Ten champion quarterback, a second potential All-American tight end, and a heavily recruited wide receiver from Ohio State.
Motivation - the infamous Drive to 325
Support - Arguably the best defense and special teams units in the country.

This was it, the final push. It was a make or break year and he was given everything he had asked for. So how did it go? He was fired before November and everyone suffered season ending injuries.

The Predictions

  • Predicted: 7.6-4.4 (5.1-3.9)
  • High: 9-3 (6-3) — Kind of..., MNW, RockyMtnBlue, Thump, WSR
  • Low, regular: 4-8 (2-7) — BigRedTwice
  • Low, unserious: 0-12 (0-9) — misdreavus
  • Std. Dev.: 1.50 (overall), 1.23 (B1G)

I’ll say that even though Iowa finished 10-4, won the division, and “played” in a decent bowl game, BigRedTwice’s prediction feels like it was the most correct in spirit so I will be awarding her One Hundred Sherman Bucks.

The Results

Iowa scored an average of 2.5 points in each of their 4 losses. They averaged 15.4 points per game over the course of the season, which those of you with mathematics degrees might recognize as nearly 10 points below the contractually obligated total of 25ppg.

Speaking of points, Iowa was shut out a stunning 3 times, never scoring a single point against the only 3 decent teams they faced all year. There were 7 (SEVEN) games played where neither team managed to score more than 20 points (and Iowa went an astonishing 6-1 in those games). It made one long for the halcyon days of Spencer Petras.

The Analysis

The vibes are horrendous, as tends to happen when you’re outscored a combined 60-0 in the two biggest games to finish out the season. As putrid as you can get while still putting double digits in the win column.

Before I get too far, I should acknowledge that the team (particularly the offense) was ravaged by injuries. Tight ends Luke Lachey and Erick All were lost for the year, as was Iowa’s shiny new quarterback Cade McNamara. The running backs, wide receivers, and offensive line were never quite at full strength after the first couple games of the season. Even Cooper DeJean, the wonderkid defensive back and punt returner, broke his fibula in practice not long after he started taking snaps on offense.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, none of it is an excuse for the offense’s performance this year. You can expect a dip in production sure, but not the smoldering crater of 15ppg and 3 shutouts.

Perhaps one of the more bizarre storylines was the insane devotion to backup quarterback Deacon Hill. Deacon played in 9 games, starting 8 of them, and completed 48% of his passes. He threw 8 interceptions against 5 touchdowns. He lost 169 yards just from taking sacks. Deacon passed for a startlingly pathetic 128 yards per game. However bad you think those numbers are, I promise it will not prepare you for how bad his performance was if you actually watch the games.

Despite...all of that, Deacon’s job was never in jeopardy. Kirk and Brian never considered making a change and publicly insisted that Hill gave Iowa the best chance to win, a claim which was disproven about 3 plays after Marco Lainez replaced Deacon in the Capital One Bowl.

If I were to guess why the Ferentz trust refused to try another quarterback, if only to try and poke the limp corpse of an offense with a stick and hope for something to happen, I would guess regular old stubbornness.

Anyway, back to the analysis I was supposed to be doing: Iowa became a caricature of itself. The offense produced fewer yards than the punter, while the defense allowed fewer yards per play than anyone else in the country. They were LSU’s Wario.

Highlights and Lowlights

The highlights were few and far between. I would say the happiest and most optimistic I felt all year was when Cade McNamara’s very first pass as a Hawkeye went for a touchdown against Utah State. I think you know where it went after that.

It was also fun getting to see Iowa play a game at Wrigley Field in person. I’ve been completely wrong about how playing football in baseball stadiums is bad. It rules and they should do it all the time.

I guess beating Iowa State so the blubbering clods in Ames would just go eat mid bbq at Hickory Park instead of bothering people all year was good? Yeah that’s all I got.

The low point was probably the Capital One Bowl against Tennessee? It just seems like the natural answer for a season where, win or lose, every game made you feel worse than the one before it.

What’s one thing you would change for 2024 to make the team better?

By any means necessary, force Kirk Ferentz to bring in a fresh perspective on offense and let the guy cook without any of the meddling we’ve seen over the last 25 or whatever years.

Wait why are we forcing Kirk to do anything in this scenario, can we just get rid of h- /piano falls on my head

As of publishing, Iowa’s search for a new offensive coordinator has taken 82 days and turned up nothing. Who would you bring in and why?

Brennan Marion would be my personal top choice. I think the go-go offense rules, but more importantly I think it would work.

From a philosophical view, Marion’s offense is not radically different from what Kirk Ferentz already wants to do. It’s a run-first offense that likes to take the ball straight downhill into the teeth of the defense.

There are a few things the old man won’t like at first: it’s up-tempo, the QB is in shotgun, and it does away with zone blocking schemes. It’s also not an offense that Cade McNamara is well equipped to run, since it requires the quarterback to be a threat to keep the ball (though Marco Lainez and incoming freshman James Resar have this exact skillset).

If you think this is too radical of a change, then I don’t know what to tell you. Kirk Ferentz’s offense is outdated by about 25 years. There is no offensive coordinator that will be a “good fit” without just doing whatever Kirk wants to do, and what Kirk wants to do simply doesn’t work anymore, full stop.

Ok, but who do you think Iowa actually hires as offensive coordinator?

There hasn’t been a lot of transparency from Kirk on this, but it seems like all the options he was considering are happy in their current gigs and quietly turning him down. Also, from what I understand they aren’t considering promoting an existing position coach to the job. Kirk is quickly running out of options.

There is exactly one unemployed man with power-5 experience who can’t get anyone else to call him.

Tommy Rees.

Did Kirk Ferentz learn his lesson? Is he going to consent to a total change in philosophy to get this program back on the right track?

Lol not a chance

What’s your too-early prediction for next year’s team?

11-1 regular season (spiritually 6-6). The fan base will continue their slow descent into madness. With Caitlin Clark more than likely being in the WNBA at that point we’ll have no safety valve to bring us back to equilibrium and eventually people will start jokerfying, coming up with schemes to make Jodie Foster fall in love, or simply regressing to a feral state.

Go Hawks.