Brian Ferentz was asked if he has considered stepping down. This was his response.
Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz didn't mince words about the team's offensive performance during his Wednesday bye week news conference.
The Hawkeyes' struggles are well documented: last in the nation in total offense (131 teams), 127th in scoring offense, 127th in rushing offense and 120th in pass offense. Ferentz said those numbers are not acceptable.
"Obviously right now we're all disappointed, frustrated by our performance offensively on Saturdays," Ferentz said. "During the bye, there's a renewed focus on improving and executing at all 11 spots. We all have ownership in this right now. Making the make-ables and doing our jobs, just the simple basics. I think we all understand and need to understand that we need to take advantage of the opportunities that are in front of us in the six football games remaining in the season."
The sixth-year offensive coordinator noted that the effort has been there and he feels that there have been improvements since fall camp. But he admitted there was a setback in last Saturday's 9-6 loss to Illinois. Having no game this week gives Ferentz, the other offensive coaches and players a chance to go back to the drawing board and find tangible changes that can lead to more success.
"We need any improvement," Ferentz said. "I'm not worried about how much (progress) is feasible. I'm worried about how much can we make and we need to be striving to make as much as we possibly can. Possess the ball, advance the ball and score the ball. How do we do those things better?"
Here are four more takeaways from Ferentz's Wednesday press conference:
What's the root of Iowa's offensive problems?
Where do Iowa's problems begin? Quarterback play? The offensive line? Coaching? Ferentz said that it's hard to pinpoint the root of the issue.
"We turned the ball over four times in two games," Ferentz said. "Every single one of those turnovers either took points off the board for us or put points on the board for our opponents.
"The next thing you look at offensively is first-down production. Are you staying on schedule? Are you staying ahead of the chains in those manageable situations? Are you being efficient on first down? Right now the reality is we're not consistently."
How to improve, then?
"I look at the coaching, I look at the scheme, I look at everything," Ferentz said. "I say we got to do better in all regards. How do we put our players in better positions to be successful in those in those opportunities? How do we execute better when we have those opportunities, and how do we make them a couple plays at the end of the day."
Ferentz gives self-evaluation of his performance as offensive coordinator
Ferentz said he's not doing a good enough job right now in the three categories he outlined: possessing the ball, advancing the ball and scoring with the ball.
"I don't think we're doing any of those things very consistently right now," Ferentz said. "How I would evaluate myself is I need to improve. I need to work on ways to get better. How do I help the guys do those things? How do I put us in positions to be successful and to advance the football without taking unnecessary risks? And then certainly we need to get down into (the red zone) and score."
Ferentz also touched on the coaching changes around the Big Ten and questions about his own job security. When asked if he has considered stepping down due to the offense's poor performance, Ferentz said he has two choices: surrender or dig in his feet and fight. And he's choosing the latter.
"I learned very early in my career to keep your eyes on the road," Ferentz said. "Keep your eyes where they need to be and keep your feet where you are, and worry about doing your job as good as you possibly can regardless of circumstance. Regardless of what's going on around you, keep your focus there and pour your effort into that. And whatever happens, happens."
Ferentz gives thoughts on quarterbacks Spencer Petras, Alex Padilla and Joe Labas
At the most polarizing position in football, quarterback, Iowa's production hasn't met its standards. Senior Spencer Petras has taken every snap this season and remains starting quarterback during the bye week. Ferentz addressed the evaluation process of Petras and backup Alex Padilla.
"We're looking at metrics, not just games and practice," Ferentz said. "You're talking about decision reads, timing, location, all those things. And the good news with the quarterback position is that's very tangible. There's not a lot of gray area when you're grading those factors. So the reality is we do like Alex, we will feel comfortable with Alex in the game. We feel like he's a good player. But the reason Spencer is our quarterback is we feel like he gives us the best chance to win."
As far as redshirt freshman and third-string quarterback Joe Labas, there hasn't been enough improvement yet for him to be a factor in the quarterback room.
"Joe continues to do a good job. But the simple answer is no, he has not yet closed the gap on (Spencer and Alex)," Ferentz said. "But [it] doesn't discourage you from continuing to work with him right and hoping that you get there."
What is the first step toward offensive progress?
Ferentz doesn't foresee any schematic changes during the bye week. The focus is on improving certain areas of the playbook and featuring players better. But the foundation of improvement to Ferentz is eliminating negative plays and penalties as well as better execution.
"We've racked up all kinds of penalties in the last two weeks," Ferentz said. "All in fairly critical situations whether it affects the field position or affected down and distance. What can we do right now to address those things? It's not glamorous. My answer is we need to do better. We need to do better in practice. We need to have more focus. We need to have more attention to detail. We need to have more of a sense of urgency about making sure that those things that are going to set us back aren't happening on Saturdays."
There have been moments when Iowa's offense was on the doorstep of success (see the lost scoring opportunities against Illinois) and the execution hasn't been there. The scheme isn't changing this season, so better execution is the starting point for progress.
"We need to make whatever progress we're capable of making in a short amount of time," Ferentz said. "Let's work on that and then understand that's going to have to continue week to week."