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Bryce Miller: Ferentz isn’t one of the worst in the country

[ 0 ] July 9, 2013 |

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Where does Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz rank among the 125 coaches leading teams in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision?

There’s no way to know.

One thing I am certain about, though: Ferentz isn’t one of the five worst in the country, as Sports Illustrated college football insider Stewart Mandel claims.

Labeling the never-too-high, never-too-low, gum-abusing Iowa coach bottom five in the country, no matter the criteria and boundaries of reason, is almost impossible to understand.

Iowa has finished in the top eight of the national rankings four times in the last decade. The Hawkeyes have played in 10 bowls over the last 12 seasons, winning six.

Iowa senior Rob Bruggeman dumps gatorade on head coach Kirk Ferentz in the closing minute of their victory over South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, Jan. 1, 2009, at Raymond James Stadium, in Tampa, Fla. Iowa won 31-10. (Press-Citizen file photo)

Iowa senior Rob Bruggeman dumps gatorade on head coach Kirk Ferentz in the closing minute of their victory over South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, Jan. 1, 2009, at Raymond James Stadium, in Tampa, Fla. Iowa won 31-10. (Press-Citizen file photo)

Mandel’s worst-five list includes Ferentz, Tim Beckman of Illinois, Ron English of Eastern Michigan, Lane Kiffin of USC and Charlie Weis of Kansas. The explanation for choosing Ferentz: “The 2009 Orange Bowl proved an aberration in Ferentz’s otherwise unimpressive recent tenure. Take away that one 11-2 season and the Hawkeyes are 47-41 since 2005 under their $3.6 million-per-year coach.”

Start here: The contract Ferentz works under is irrelevant, in terms of best and worst coaches.

If the list was “best bargains” or “most overpaid” — OK, then the zeroes and decimal points matter. The list was about the ability to decide who starts at running back, the play-call on 3rd-and-8 in front of 108,000 in Ann Arbor and all the decisions in between.

Mandel clarifies that the list determines the best and worst right now, rather than assessing career achievement. If someone wants to make the “what have you done for us lately” argument, fine. Then Iowa’s run under Ferentz includes four bowls in the last five seasons — with wins in three of them, including the Orange Bowl.

A fair point from Mandel is the fact that Ferentz is 27-29 in the Big Ten since the Sports Illustrated writer called him the No. 3 best coach in the country in 2006. And I’ve pointed out, for a variety of reasons, that the four-win, 2012 season was the most disappointing since Ferentz took over the program.

Legitimate questions about Hawkeye decision-making exist from a season ago, starting with the reason no quarterback other than James Vandenberg ducked under center to take a snap — leaving Iowa without a single second worth of experience at the team’s most important position.

To say, though, that a coach with the near- and long-view resume of Ferentz is a bottom-five coach? No way.

Asked a different way: Does anyone think there are 120 Football Bowl Subdivision coaches better than Ferentz?

The 2012 season was a big, sloppy mess for Iowa. In addition to the quarterback situation, it’s still unclear if the offensive system of Greg Davis — even with some offseason tweaks — can work in Johnson County. And what about wide receivers? Defensive backs?

How, though, can you evaluate any football coach on one season? Or in most cases, even two? The factors and moving parts in a sport that requires the management of so many teenagers truly can only be measured over time.

It’s like Olympic judging. You throw out the high and low scores — and the fair and most significant truth usually rests in the middle. For now, 2012 is that low score. Toss it, until there’s another outlier that takes its place.

If asked to argue against my own bowl defense of Ferentz, I’d say there are more bowl games than ever before. Iowa under Ferentz, though, is among Big Ten leaders in actually winning those games.

On Twitter, Mandel indicated that “Ferentz’s inclusion on today’s worst coaches list (is) drawing by far the most backlash.” Later, he added: “In all seriousness, I admire Iowans’ loyalty. Don’t like an outsider criticizing, I get it. No other coach got such a spirited defense.”

It’s because, in this case, the defense is merited.

Are the fans who pack Kinnick Stadium disappointed with a four-win season that included six straight losses and stumbles against Purdue and Indiana, teams with losing records and five Big Ten wins combined? Of course.

Will it be acceptable to those who support the program if anything near the results of 2012 is the trend line this fall and the season after? No.

Does it make Ferentz, one of the most accomplished coaches in program history, one of the worst in America?

No way. Not by a long shot.

Bryce Miller can be reached at 515-284-8288 or brmiller@dmreg.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Bryce_A_Miller

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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