Brown: A message for those who want Kirk Ferentz's head
IOWA CITY, Ia. – No victory equals plenty of vitriol. This is your life, Kirk Ferentz.
"This comes with any loss," Iowa's football coach said matter-of-factly Tuesday. "If it's an in-state deal, amp it up times two."
Times 10 might be closer to the truth. Ferentz got the amped part right. He's been a white-hot target for criticism since his team, a double-digit favorite, lost to Iowa State on Saturday. Twitter and message boards have been spewing wrath ever since.
You are, after all, only as good as your last victory ... or loss. Or so it seems in today's anonymous social-media judge-and-jury world that convicts a lot more people than a judge and jury do.
Guilty in the court of public opinion. And you can't get bail unless you win your next game.
The Hawkeyes' offense, still looking for some rhythm and reason a quarter of the way into the season, is an easy target. And deservedly so. By Monday, the vocal minority was crying for Ferentz's head. This a day after offensive coordinator Greg Davis was all but hung in effigy.
"Do this enough," Ferentz admitted, "and you're going to get your tail kicked."
Pouring gasoline on the fire was a story Tuesday from Forbes that discussed Ferentz, and the financial logic of buying out his contract that runs through the 2020 season.
Boy, things sure escalated quickly, didn't they?
I'll be the first to admit that watching Iowa's offense right now is not easy on the eyes. And I, like many of my peers in the media, have questioned what Davis is trying to accomplish in his third season on the Iowa staff.
But timeout, people. Catch a breath. You need to take a drink of reality. Do you think you're the only ones hurting after a loss?
"They're not the ones playing," quarterback Jake Rudock said. "We're more upset about the loss than they are, let's put it that way."
Ferentz is not perfect, we know that. Guess what? So does he. He'd love to pound everyone by three touchdowns. His offense needs to improve in a hurry, starting Saturday at Pittsburgh. But he's not going to change his offensive philosophy, just to please you. And he is loyal. Probably to a fault. If that's a bad trait, sign me up.
Asked Tuesday how Davis was holding up, Ferentz said, "If we were 500 yards a game, 35-40 points a game, he'd be doing great. But we're not. It's coaching. He's been around, too. He knows the drill."
Four seasons with double-digit victories and four top-10 finishes in the Associated Press poll made the bed Ferentz sleeps in today.
Some fans expect those levels of success every year. And while dreaming big is totally understandable, it's not reality. I know a lot of you don't agree with this concept: But Iowa never has been, never will be, Alabama, Ohio State or Notre Dame. It will never be a school that selectively recruits. It will always be a school that recruits potential and works hard to develop it.
Thankfully, some of you agree. Many of you donated money toward the $55 million state-of-the-art football facility the team will move into in two weeks. You patiently suffered through those 19 straight non-winning seasons. Like me, you'd listen to Jim Zabel's pregame radio show and think to yourself, "Maybe the Hawkeyes do have a chance today." Three hours later, reality had kicked you in the butt.
So 11 bowl games, including two Orange Bowls, in 15 seasons under Ferentz, and 10 winning seasons, sounds pretty good to me. Want to get rid of the old ball coach? Be careful what you wish for.
You might become Minnesota or Illinois, two programs with better built-in advantages than Iowa. The Gophers haven't been to a major bowl since the 1961 Rose Bowl. They haven't had a winning Big Ten record since 2003. Over that same time frame, Illinois has had one winning record in Big Ten play, gone winless three times and had one victory twice.
Remember when you got tired of Tom Davis as the Hawkeyes' basketball coach? Old 20-win, second round of the NCAA tournament Dr. Tom? We can do better, you said. How did that work out for you?
Steve Alford and Todd Lickliter later, Fran McCaffery was brought in to clean up an absolute mess. It's still a work in progress. The Hawkeyes have just one NCAA victory since Dr. Tom's contract wasn't renewed, more than 15 years ago.
Some fans got tired of Davis. That happens when you coach the same program for 13 seasons. Your success gets taken for granted. Now we have Ferentz, in his 16th season as a head coach, and it feels like history is repeating itself.
Ferentz peeled away layers of protective cover and opened up to the criticism Tuesday.
"You've got a day to bleed and a day to feel bad," Ferentz said, adding, "You're not human if it doesn't affect you."
So take a deep breath, some of you. And remember: Be careful what you wish for.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.