Brown: Iowa's QB ballad puts Ferentz in no-win situation
IOWA CITY, Ia. – I saw C.J. Beathard at Iowa's new football facility Monday. He was wearing a Hawkeye stocking cap. That much I can swear to.
Beyond that, it's all speculation. Whispers of Beathard's possible transfer out of the Iowa program because of a lack of playing time quickly became a talking point Monday when the quarterback's father, Casey, responded to questions from The (Nashville) Tennessean about his son's future.
"He's really hoping he doesn't have to transfer," Casey said. "I said (to him), 'Hopefully it'll be obvious in this game, one way or the other.' "
"This game" is a Jan. 2 meeting between Iowa and Tennessee at the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. Beathard, from Franklin, Tenn., got a little taste of life behind center this season as a backup to Jake Rudock and wants more. It sounds like his father would like to see more, too.
C.J., who was interviewed by the Tennessean on Monday afternoon while Iowa reporters stood on the other side of the door waiting for the arrival of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and selected players — Beathard wasn't one of them — told the newspaper, "We'll see how the bowl game goes, and then go from there."
As the No. 2 quarterback, Beathard's the favorite son of Monday morning quarterbacks from Clinton to Council Bluffs. And the outrage — in some fan circles and especially on Internet message boards — over Ferentz's perceived stubbornness by sticking with Rudock remains the gift that keeps giving.
The coach's announcement earlier Monday that wide receiver Derrick Willies wouldn't be rejoining the program became yesterday's news in a hurry.
This Rudock-Beathard spectacle has all the makings of a country and western song, Casey Beathard's professional trade. And it's put Ferentz in a no-win position. A position no coach relishes. A position, his critics will say, he put himself in.
If Ferentz plays Beathard against the Volunteers, it looks like he bowed to demands even if that was already going to be part of the gameplan. And if he doesn't play Beathard and C.J. decides to leave, the message boards might go down in flames — even if Iowa beats the Volunteers with Rudock taking all the snaps.
But after the events of Monday, I think there's a better chance of a tornado touching down in Iowa on Jan. 2 than seeing Sunshine, Beathard's nickname, start against Tennessee.
Going with a two-quarterback system was teased this summer and remained a possibility between the opening of practice and the start of the season. Beathard got his first call in the second series of the season's second game against Ball State, throwing a perfect strike to Damond Powell for a 38-yard touchdown that replay later overruled.
There was also the Pittsburgh game, where Beathard relieved an injured Rudock at halftime and rallied the troops to a 24-20 victory. He made his first collegiate start the following week in a 24-10 victory at Purdue.
But it's been Rudock's job for the most part. And Jake, who has unfairly been painted as the bad guy in this saga, is the one Ferentz believes gives his team the best chance of winning. There's got to be a reason why, though Ferentz will never share that publicly at the risk of throwing one of his players under the bus.
Rudock is the game manager. Beathard, with a bigger arm, has the look of a potential playmaker. And we all know this offense could use some playmakers.
Rudock beat out Beathard and Cody Sokol for the starting job in 2013. Sokol transferred to Louisiana Tech and passed for 3,189 yards this season. Rudock, a redshirt junior, got the nod again this fall over Beathard, a redshirt sophomore.
Ferentz has said numerous times this season that he's got two good quarterbacks.
"Everybody loves the No. 2 guy, and I do, too," Ferentz said back in September.
Soon, we'll find out if Rudock heads into 2015 as the last man standing.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.