10 takeaways from a 3-hour, 12-minute interview with Iowa OC Brian Ferentz
The Des Moines Register’s Chad Leistikow talked to Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz and posted his raw interview earlier this month, which clocked in at 3:12.
I listened so you don’t have to, but really, you should. Hawkeyes fans will appreciate the unfiltered* insight.
Ferentz says he’s still not comfortable in the offensive coordinator position — and maybe never will be — but believes he’s “better at it.” He also said he enjoyed this “long-form” one-on-one setting compared to a news conference. It showed.
Here are 10 takeaways — plus twice as many one-liners — from the interview, which can be listened to in its entirety here. If you have the time, it’s worth it.
When Noah Fant went missing and how it affects 2021
The 2018 season was an anomaly on offense and an embarrassment of riches. But with 2 tight ends who ended up being drafted in the first round, it’s hard not to think that team underachieved. Especially when 1 of the TEs ended up on a milk carton.
Ferentz didn’t dodge it, although he admitted that hindsight helps.
“I think that’s a legit story. To suggest that we wouldn’t be trying to win football games or doing everything in our power to make sure the best guys are playing the most and getting the most balls … my job security hinges on that,” Ferentz said.
“I have regrets. The easy answer is yes. Whether it was Noah, T.J. [Hockenson], even Ihmir [Smith-Marsette] that year, there’s ways that I wish we would have done things differently. It was a good team. I have regrets about 2019 … how we used guys. I have regrets about last year. I don’t know how many targets Tyrone [Tracy] had — it wasn’t enough. Sam LaPorta? He didn’t have enough targets. I know he had 30 catches or whatever. Those two guys? Should have got them the ball a lot more. It’s hard. That’s the hardest part about my job is making sure the right guys are getting the ball. I’m gonna be laying on my deathbed … probably thinking about certain games. Penn State 2018, Wisconsin. … Man, wish I could go back.”
’It’s very rare that you make the exact right call’
Ferentz said he was taught early on not to try to make the perfect call every time. The key is to limit your bad calls.
“It’s hard to overcome wrong calls,” Ferentz said.
He tells his players that one play doesn’t cost a team a game, but a couple of his play-calls he wished he had back stood out.
In 2018 at Penn State, Ferentz said he should have taken a timeout from the 3 right before Nate Stanley threw an interception.
“I just didn’t like the way that we responded coming out of the huddle,” he said. “We didn’t look right.”
As Hawkeyes fans might remember, his dad, head coach Kirk Ferentz, tried to, but “there was some interference” and the official didn’t blow the whistle. This viral video I shot showed how close the field judge came — complete with a flinch.
Ferentz then brought up the 2019 2-point conversion at Wisconsin.
“I don’t know how we didn’t score.”
Perhaps he forgot the umpire was in on the tackle. Or never saw it. It just so happens I shot a video of that play, too. Iowa lost 24-22.
To Ferentz’ credit, he didn’t blame or mention the officials on the podcast. He said both play-calls were “the right call.”
Ironically enough, he segued into a segment praising Big Ten officials, calling them “the best in college football.”
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for officials,” Ferentz said. “Their impact on the game is extremely minimal.”
How his dad shocked him last year
When Minnesota called timeout late in 2020’s Floyd of Rosedale game to try to set up a touchdown and end Iowa’s shutout, Kirk Ferentz responded with 3 timeouts of his own.
After the game, Kirk dropped this classic: “I figured we’d take Floyd with us and leave the timeouts here.”
“That shocked me,” Brian admitted. “It shocked me that he would say some of those things, because that cuts against his character and his type so hard. He’s never high. He’s never low. And I’m like the opposite in some ways and I’ve had to work on it. One thing I just admire about him is his ability to keep an even keel regardless of what the seas are doing around him. … It was a good line.”
Emphasis on trophy games has worked
Since going 0-4 in 2014, Iowa has placed an emphasis on winning the trophy games. Of course, the next year, the Hawkeyes swept the games as they finished the regular season 12-0.
But beyond that, they’ve been 19-4 in the games (12-3 during Brian Ferentz’ tenure as OC) and all 4 of those losses have been to Wisconsin (2-4). Iowa is 6-0 against Minnesota and Nebraska and 5-0 against Iowa State.
Ferentz wanted to go with the “every game is important” cliche, but admitted the bookends are easiest to emphasize.
Nebraska, “because it’s a one-game season at that point,” but also Iowa State, because it’s “hard to set the tone for the season” if you don’t beat the Cyclones at the start.
Ferentz also praised the rarity of an in-state rivalry game played in September.
As for his most memorable rivalry moments, sadly they’re all bad. And that means Wisconsin, of course.
“The losses are big losses because they have knocked us out of contention.”
But winning them makes the trophy that much more special.
“There’s something tangible about winning a trophy,” Ferentz said. “It’s really hard to describe. There’s something about possessing that that is just very important and … visceral. I don’t know if I can do it justice. It’s a feeling. When we come back in the locker room after those games, getting a chance to put your hands on that trophy again, whatever it is, it’s important. … There’s a 48-hour window there where it doesn’t belong to you and it’s very nice to see it again.”
‘A good center should false start every play’
Legend has it Wisconsin false starts every play. It’s an Iowa legend Ferentz hadn’t been told.
“I’ve never heard that before,” he told Leistikow. “I’ve studied a lot of Wisconsin tape. A good center should false start every play. You should be snapping and stepping at the same time.”
“If they all look like they’re jumping it, then to me that’s really good coaching. That would be my argument.”
His neighbor will second guess him
Ferentz says he has a neighbor he sometimes shares beers with after games. After a Rutgers game the Hawkeyes won 30-0 in 2019, the neighbor “uncomfortably” asked what went wrong at the end of the first half.
“ ‘I screwed it up. Exactly what you watched and what you’re thinking right now, that’s right.’ … What he saw, it was that obvious. I always laugh when coaches try to make things more complicated than they really are,” Ferentz said. “I laugh because coaches are so afraid to be criticized. Coaches are so insecure that they can’t admit when they screw things up. Sometimes we are stupid and sometimes we make bad decisions.”
‘That’s what a passionate fanbase does’
Brain Ferentz embraces everything that comes with being the offensive coordinator for Iowa football.
“We’re the only show in town. … It’s a lot more like a pro market in some ways,” Ferentz said. “I happen to have the job that’s the most fun to second-guess, to dissect, to go down the list, right? That doesn’t bother me. That’s what fans should be doing. That’s the fun of being a fan. Now, do I spend a lot of time soliciting feedback? No. … There’s probably about 1,000-2,000 people in the stands that probably could do it better than me, but they don’t have my job. I don’t understand coaches that get upset about, ‘the media said this’ or ‘the fans said this.’ You guys have a job to do.”
He knows that the length of a game depends on who is broadcasting it
At one point, he talked about a 3-hour football game, but caught himself.
“If we’re on Fox, it’ll be like 3 hours and 57 minutes, if we’re on ESPN it’ll be about 3:45, and if we’re on the Big Ten Network we’ll probably get it done in about 3:10. It’s just gonna depend on that national audience.”
No hot takes on Tyler Linderbaum
“Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman — they’re not arguing over what a great kid Tyler Linderbaum is. You can’t have a hot take on that. That’s the world we live in. I don’t know why people take it so personally.”
You think you know Iowa, but you have no idea
Brian Ferentz said Iowa’s style changes for certain teams, but people don’t always notice.
“There’s a certain amount of aggression that you have to approach certain games with. It depends on who we’re playing. You think about stealing possessions from time-to-time. You have to know what kind of game it’s gonna be.”
His pet peeve: Trying not to lose
“I have a lot more respect for people who compete to win, even when they don’t have a chance. There’s honor in that. There’s no honor in keeping it close.”
*One filter: The ongoing racial bias lawsuit was off limits
Ferentz declined to comment on his role as a defendant in a racial bias lawsuit with a March 2023 trial date.
“What did Mike Gundy say? ‘Come after me.’ I’m not quite 40.”
“Alabama was beatable” (last year)
“Iowa guys making their first start in Kinnick Stadium, I worry about them more than a guy from Detroit.”
“I feel good about the pool we have right now, and part of me is excited to see ’em do it for real, some of these young guys. Because what I’ve seen ’em do is impressive.”
“4th and 1 is a recommended go on most parts of the field.”
“Timeout usage is extremely strategic.”
“We’re in the entertainment business.”
“The game is safer than it’s ever been.”
“Doing business as business is being done.”
“I would never say the head coach made a bad decision.” (It’s his dad, so of course.)
“We made a lot of noise about it and nobody cared.” (about the cut-blocking rule, which came up a few times)
“I’ve got clinic tapes of Brandon Scherff throwing the same blocks that are now outlawed. Nobody gets hurt on those.”
“The HawkSlayer Bowl.” (Ouch. The call is coming from inside the house.)
“Everybody wants access, but access isn’t going to help us win” (on which players get to talk to the media on Tuesdays, weighing “outlandish statements” vs. “say as little as possible”).
“Most of us don’t like to talk about the past and I’m not in the business of making predictions.”
“Stoppages are the worst.”
“It’s not quite nut-cutting time yet.”
“When you have four downs, two-minute drills are the most liberating. It’s easy to call plays. You don’t care. You’re just calling it.”
“Coaches that make decisions on winning and losing are the best kind of coaches.”
“He’s right. It’s like Tecmo Bowl — 4 plays.” — in response to his brother James once saying the Iowa offensive coordinator job “is not that hard, it’s either run or pass.”