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Suchomel: Give O’Keefe credit for the good, too

[ 14 ] February 4, 2012 |

For a guy that often was criticized for being too predictable, Ken O’Keefe sure brought out the double-reverse pass on Friday.

After 13 seasons as Iowa offensive coordinator, O’Keefe stepped down to take a coaching job in the NFL, joining the staff of new Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin.

While many appreciated what O’Keefe did in his time at Iowa, there was a very vocal group that relentlessly rode O’Keefe into the ground after every loss … and even after some victories.

Even as he left Friday, some Hawkeye fans could hardly contain their glee on social media sites. Here is a small sampling.

“The Hawkeyes have finally shed 175 lbs. of garbage. O’Keefe is leaving. Hallelujah. #bestdayever.”

“Ken O’Keefe is leaving Iowa, per every thrilled Hawkeye fan on Twitter.”

“TODAY IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE. GOOD BYE KEN O’KEEFE! YOU WILL NOT BE MISSED. #bestdayever.”

There were a few positive messages, but it wasn’t a 50/50 split.

Coaches have always been the targets of criticism. The volume has only gotten louder over the last decade.

Higher salaries for assistants has upped their visibility and accountability. Coverage of college football has increased exponentially over the last decade. (When O’Keefe came to Iowa in 1999, every Hawkeye game was not on TV.)

And the echo chamber that used to be limited to the post-game call-in shows and water coolers now is everywhere, all the time.

What I could never figure out is why O’Keefe seemed to be the constant scapegoat for losses.

There was always a feeling among some fans out there that every fall O’Keefe was handed the keys to a Porsche, and then proceeded to drive it at 45 mph down the left-hand lane of the Interstate. And those folks passing him honking their horns and flipping him the bird? Yeah, those were Hawkeye fans.

Exactly which Iowa skill position players moved on to become stars in the NFL? I think the list is Dallas Clark, and he benefitted greatly by pairing up with some guy named Manning.

Not that Iowa hasn’t had great offensive players during O’Keefe’s tenure. When he had them, he used them. Shonn Greene and Marvin McNutt set the benchmarks for Hawkeye running backs and receivers under his watch.

To be fair, there were times it did feel like the Hawkeye offensive playbook could be printed on a travel brochure.

But I think both O’Keefe and no-blitz Norm Parker, both took their ques from the head Hawk. And Kirk Ferentz is just to the right of Newt Gingerich when it comes to conservative philosophy.

When Parker retired last month, he was given a big, wet and well-deserved kiss from the Iowa fan base. O’Keefe may not be retiring, but hardly deserves to have the door slammed on him on the way out.

Iowa never won in spite of O’Keefe. It won because of him.

All those last-minute victories fans savor — Banks to Clark, Stanzi to McNutt, Tate to Halloway — who called those plays? The Easter bunny?

Remember, O’Keefe had a first-year quarterback and no running game in 2004 and got enough out of the offense for the Hawkeyes to win a Big Ten title.

O’Keefe, 58, heads to South Beach. He will coach receivers for the Dolphins (and good luck with Brandon Marshall).

No more snowstorms, no more endless recruiting trips, and no more being called garbage by Iowa fans.

Instead its the NFL, the beach … and one presumes, a least a few bubble screens.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Ryan Suchomel: Reach Ryan Suchomel at 339-7368 or rsuchomel@press-citizen.com. View author profile.

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