Iowa football: Can offense produce in spite of Brian Ferentz? For Cade McNamara's sake, let's hope so
Forget the nepotism for a moment if you will. Regardless of the name behind the numbers, it made perfect sense for Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and AD Gary Barta to move on from last year’s offensive play-caller.
The Hawkeyes’ 2022 offense was dreadful. They averaged just 17.7 points per game; only 5 Power 5 teams were worse. They finished last in the Big Ten, averaging just 255 yards per game. The Hawks were the only conference team to average less than 100 yards rushing per game.
Kirk Ferentz decision to run it back with son Brian as OC is certainly a choice.
With Michigan transfer Cade McNamara coming in to QB the 2023 offense, it’s difficult to imagine the Hawks’ being as bad as they were in 2022. But after 2 consecutive years of ugly results with Brian Ferentz in charge, anything’s possible.
Critics point to several factors for Iowa’s ineptness. The usually solid offense line performed way below expectations. Quarterback play was inconsistent at best and Brian Ferentz’s play-calling was under constant scrutiny.
2 straight years of futility
Iowa’s offense is trending the wrong way under Brian Ferentz. He has been on staff since 2012 and been the Hawks’ OC since 2017. His first 4 years weren’t awful. Iowa ranked in the top 70 of FBS teams during that time.
But the past 2 seasons paint a much different picture. In 2021 Iowa’s offense fell to No. 123 in the FBS. This past year? Even worse. Ferentz’ unit ranked 130th out of 131 FBS schools in total offense. Only New Mexico was lower. Iowa’s offense mustered just 19 TDs all season. The 251.6 yards per game were the lowest average since the 1978 season.
Barta even amended Brian Ferentz’ contract on Monday. Nothing major, but it was reduced to a 1-year deal, instead of 2. From $900,000 to $850,000 with a bonus if metrics are met. Designated performance objectives were added as well. The offense must average 25 points per game and the Hawks’ must reach 7 wins. As everybody with a Twitter account quickly joked, averaging 25 points per game would have ranked 85th in the nation last year. Not exactly bonus material.
Fans are growing impatient. Apathy is starting to rear its ugly head among boosters. Not good in the day and age of NIL.
McNamara enters the picture
Landing McNamara, who led Michigan to the College Football Playoff in 2021 before losing his job last year, is a huge step in the right direction for the offense. However, he alone won’t cure what’s ailed the unit the past 2 seasons.
Kirk Ferentz knows the fix must begin up front with the offensive line. He said Iowa played too many guys that weren’t ready to play in 2022. Fixing it, is a top priority.
He applauded the players’ effort and said they’re well-coached, but that poor line play “cascaded to other areas of the offense.”
The elder Ferentz was evasive when answering reporters’ questions regarding specifics. The overall theme kept spinning back to 2022 not being good enough, and the coaches would work hard to correct it in 2023.
Iowa needs playmakers. Guys on the outside that can get open. Stretch the defense vertically. Iowa tied for last in the B1G with just 10 completions last year of 30+ yards. Only 3 of the 65 Power 5 offenses completed fewer 40-yard passes than the Hawks (4).
McNamara completed 18 passes covering 30+ yards in 2021, including 10 that went for 40+. They weren’t all bubble screens to superior athletes.
So, assuming he can hold up his end of the deal, who will be the playmakers to improve those numbers?
Losing Charlie Jones to Purdue in 2022 was a gut-punch. Especially after Jones put up big numbers in the Boilermakers system.
Charleston Southern transfer Seth Anderson was a big addition in the portal. Anderson, the son of former LA Rams receiver “Flipper” Anderson, caught 42 balls for 612 yards this past season. He’ll look to make an immediate impact.
Nico Ragaini returns for a 6th season. His veteran leadership will be good for the newer guys in the WR room. Both look to be guys McNamara will target.
Where is it all headed?
With the 2023 season still months away, things can change and likely will. Spring practice should give fans a gauge to how McNamara-led offense should look. A veteran offensive line presence certainly won’t hurt. The portal opens again in May. More additions may be made.
Diving deeper, it’s hard to picture a much different product with Brian Ferentz still calling the shots. Monday’s restructured contract amps up the pressure on him to perform. The offense must find a sense of urgency in 2023.
McNamara should benefit from more experience up front. Can the running game find its groove after a year of spinning its wheels? Will a deep threat on the perimeter emerge?
There’s plenty of questions to answer. Ones the will sort themselves out during spring ball and throughout Fall Camp.
Sure, there would’ve been risk pulling the plug on Brian Ferentz and starting anew. Especially in a program that never sees a major overhaul.
But the risk of remaining status quo is higher. Yes, Iowa fans are a patient bunch. Kirk Ferentz is the dean of B1G coaches. He deserves some latitude in his decision making.
But if the offense puts up another clunker in 2023, it’ll be more than just Brian Ferentz’ job on the line.