It was all the way back in October that Iowa finally and mercifully fired struggling (to put it politely) offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. In the 90-something days between then and now we haven’t had a lot of transparency on the hiring process, but at some point Joe Philbin was in the mix, Paul Chryst turned us down, and internal candidates (who were partially at fault for the mess of an offense last year) were considered.
Finally, last Kirk Ferentz was spotted at the Courtyard Marriott across the street from Kinnick Stadium interviewing former Duke OC Kevin Johns
The move was met with near-universal acclaim from the Hawkeye faithful. Johns runs a modern offense and has worked alongside some of the best offensive minds in the game. He’s been successful everywhere he’s been, including right here in the Big Ten with Northwestern and Indiana. If Kirk closed the deal it would be about as good of a hire as we could possibly have hoped for.
Except...Kirk is gonna Kirk.
You see, Kirk Ferentz has been in charge of this program since the last century, but he’s had to do a surprisingly little amount of hiring in that time. From the sample size we have though, it’s safe to deduce that he doesn’t take the candidate’s resume into account at all when filling an open position. Instead, Ferentz makes exactly three types of hires:
- Old friends
- Former players
- Dudes who match his vibes (derogatory)
Not exactly the best position to be in when your program needs sweeping fundamental change.
Anyway, Kirk didn’t just interview Johns last week. He also did a second interview. And brother, did Kirk ever like those vibes:
Sources: Iowa is expected to hire Tim Lester, the former Western Michigan coach, as offensive coordinator. Lester spent the 2023 season as a Green Bay Packers analyst, and was set to take the OC job at Troy. Iowa also strongly considered former Duke OC Kevin Johns, per sources.— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) January 28, 2024
If you’ve never heard of Tim Lester, let me give you a crash course.
His only FBS coordinator experience was at Syracuse, where he finished the year with an offense that finished ranked 80th in points per game and 117th in yards per game. After a single year as Purdue’s QB coach he failed upward into the head coaching gig at Western Michigan. The offense in his final year as a Bronco finished the year ranked 122 in PPG and 121 in YPG.
After getting fired he spent last year as an analyst with the Packers.
So to recap: we fired Brian Ferentz and replaced him with a guy that puts up offensive performances which could most accurately be described as “Ferentzian”
The Kirk Ferentz defenders have been out in force defending this hire, but those of us that live in the real world know how much it sucks. You had a guy who really wanted the job with a killer resume who had worked with Kevin Wilson and Kliff Kingsbury and was largely responsible for revitalizing the Duke program...and instead went with a middling MAC guy. Two dudes going through completely opposite career trajectories, and we went with the one that’s falling.
But hey, he spent last year in the NFL at least. He must have picked up something useful for running our offense up in Green Bay.
I have to admit that I was a bit happy that Lester had been at Green Bay, so that he might be able to update Iowa's West Coast offense from what it's been.— Ivan Bologna (@PV_GIA) January 28, 2024
And then I found out he was a defensive analyst.
Listen, the only way Iowa was ever going to be successful next year was if Kirk Ferentz consented to let go of his outdated schemes and his grip around the decision making on offense. It was a longshot, but he got closer than any of us expected to hiring a guy who could do just that. Iowa desperately needed a guy who could make an instant impact and, against all odds, got one lined up to take the job.
In the end, the old man fell back into his comfort zone, instead leaving the Hawkeyes with a man who has no history of P5 success (and no success at all without PJ Fleck’s players). You’re going to see the exact same offense you’ve seen for 25 years, except with a few unsuccessful RPOs thrown in at inopportune moments.
I have nothing else constructive to say, so I’ll let Stewmonkey play me out:
His western Michigan teams were pretty good at offense in the wake of the peejster, but that was all under an OC that when he left the offense crashed to about 120th in the country.
But here we are, this is really all anyone could expect as an OC hire at Iowa.
Ferentz has been very clear that the offense will be what he wants it to be.
Anyone he hires agrees, upfront, to be a puppet to that end.
Anyone willing to take this job knows it is career suicide and has worn out every other opportunity. This is a last stop job.
In that way Brian was really the last best hope for anything resembling competency for offensive football at Iowa, and we all know how that went.
While Kirk is infinitely petty, in the way that most every successful football coach is, this was not an intentional thumb in the eye to the public. This is just the logical hire of the first person who agreed to all the handcuffs the job requires.
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