On Tuesday, Kirk Ferentz was asked about his punt return game and comments he made following Iowa’s loss on Saturday where Michigan State became the latest in a long line of teams to convert a fake punt against Iowa.
“If you pressed me today I’d say we may never return a punt again, just because when you do that, the blocked pass you have to turn and go with those guys to shadow them. When you do that you open the door. And Michigan State did a pretty good job of taking advantage of it, to their credit. What helped us a couple of weeks ago we paid for on Saturday and cost us a field goal and a possession. So, yeah, I may be leaning towards where you never see us try to return one again. We may just try to catch it and keep it off the ground. I was being dead serious, yeah”
And there it is…the white flag. Not surprisingly, a few posts/comments began to pop up from around a surprised world wide web:
In the most explosive age of innovation in the history of football, Kirk Ferentz chimes in by threating to never set up a punt return again.
— LukeMeredith (@LukeMeredithAP) October 8, 2013
Iowa might ban punt returns http://t.co/o3CvSIFBQ0
— CollegeFootballTalk (@CFTalk) October 9, 2013
Saying this immediately after a game and in the heat of the moment is forgivable. However coming back three days later and saying the same thing and adding the ‘dead serious’ line to it is another thing altogether.
Even if this is going to be your strategy going forward, don’t announce to the college football world that you actually do come from the jurassic period as it relates to risk taking and trying to win with dynamic play. I realize running more than 70 plays per game might be enough change for one year, but don’t INTENTIONALLY make things harder on you and your staff on the recruiting trails than they already are.
That’s where I think this comment is going to live on, actually. It will be forgotten by national media types (those who are still even paying attention to the Iowa football program) but it likely won’t be forgotten by assistant coaches in the Big Ten who recruit against Iowa. The Hawkeye program already has a bit of an Old Spice or Brut tinge to it so there is no need to announce to the world that you are actually getting into the DeLorean and setting the timer back to 1939. Wait, even Nile Kinnick fielded punts and holds the school record for most punt return yards in a game, so perhaps we need to go back much further than that, to the days when they didn’t wear face masks.
There is a distinct possibility that Kirk Ferentz is the first football coach in Iowa or Big Ten history to say something like this related to the punt return.
To be fair, it’s not like many teams are doing much as it relates to punt returns. There are around 123 teams in the FBS so roughly team 62 would be right in the middle, or average. The 62nd ‘best’ team at punt returns this year is averaging a paltry 7.50 yards per punt. You could say that is the average of average. You can also say that a punt return is a high-risk, low-reward play given those numbers.
So on the surface, Ferentz’s thinking isn’t crazy and you wouldn’t say he’s ‘Dead Wrong’ with his (de) evolving philosophy.
My issue here is that you don’t say it. You don’t put it out there in today’s day and age because you become a punch line. You don’t put it out there in a day and age where Northwestern has more athleticism on the field than you do, at least in their starting lineup and just showed it on national TV. You don’t put it out there in a day when you are knocking on 60’s door and you’re the oldest coach in a conference; don’t remind your peers of that because they will most likely be reminding your recruits of that and/or bringing up something like this on the recruiting trail.
Was Kirk Ferentz wrong to be so open and honest about this? Those of us in the media are always looking for honest and transparency so some people might defend Ferentz and say he was just being transparent and he can’t win. I get that, but Ferentz has mastered the art of saying a lot without saying anything and if you have been a regular reader of his press conferences through the years, you know that to be true.
I think Kirk’s job on the recruiting front and perception front is hard enough without him actually playing in traffic like this, which is why I found these comments to be cringe worthy as opposed to refreshing honesty.
Some may want to say he was still joking. This is several days after the fact and he was asked if he was serious about those comments. If he were joking, he’s turned into a horrible communicator, which he is not. He’s not unintelligent. This is also diverts attention from the fact that Iowa has been atrocious in this area of special teams over the past three and a half years.
What’s your take?