Kirk Ferentz has been the coach at Iowa since 1999 after spending some time in the NFL as an offensive line coach. He has been friends with Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli for more than two decades.
As such, Ferentz – long rumored to return to the NFL – has been linked to the Chiefs, who fired coach Todd Haley Monday. Should Ferentz make the jump and coach the Chiefs if offered the job? We debate, starting with …
No, Ferentz Should Stay at Iowa: Kirk Ferentz has it good at Iowa. No, it’s not easy to win in the Big Ten, but he has a better shot at continued success there than he would with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Sure, Hawkeye fans want wins, but his time in Iowa City would be like a Caribbean vacation compared to the pressure cooker in which NFL coaches do a slow roast no matter where they work.
Consider outgoing Chiefs coach Todd Haley, who led Kansas City to an AFC West Division crown just last season. He lasted just under three seasons with the team.
His predecessor, Herm Edwards, also lasted three campaigns – getting two more after leading K.C. to a playoff berth in his first year.
The point? We know that there were extenuating circumstances for previous coaches – especially with Haley, who reportedly was in conflict with management – but Ferentz would be heading into an unstable situation.
Additionally, the two most-important pillars of winning in the NFL are coach and quarterback. Oft-injured QB Matt Cassell isn’t a bad player, but he’s not someone who figures to bring the Chiefs’ next coach any longevity like Tom Brady has done for Bill Belichick and Peyton Manning did for Tony Dungy.
Both Belichick (Cleveland Browns) and Dungy (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) were fired from their first head-coaching jobs before becoming Super Bowl winners. Ferentz, not exactly on their level, could follow suit. But would he even get another shot?
Ferentz has the benefit of being an overachiever with the Hawkeyes, who are annually competitive under his watch. But eight- or nine-win seasons in Iowa City are considered successes in a state without an overwhelming pool of talent from which to recruit.
Try flying under the radar in the NFL, Kirk.
But while I believe Ferentz should bypass the Chiefs because of the state of the organization, it should be considered that his success anywhere as an NFL head coach is no foregone conclusion.
Why has he been such a hot commodity? Because of a tenure from 1993-98 coaching offensive lines for the Browns/Ravens? Those teams never won much, and it’s unclear if Ferentz’s laid-back personality – which worked as a position coach – could translate to success as a head man.
I don’t want to hear about his relationship with Pioli. Their friendship is irrelevant; wins are what matter. Ferentz would be out the door – perhaps along with his friend – if his teams don’t succeed.
Want another reason for Ferentz to stay put? History.
College coaches have not been successful in jumping to the NFL – just look at recent examples like Steve Spurrier in Washington, Bobby Petrino in Atlanta and Nick Saban in Miami. There was also Butch Davis, Rich Brooks, Mike Riley and Dennis Erickson.
Ferentz could easily be added to that list.
That’s why I think Ferentz should remain at Iowa, where his son James – the starting center – will be a senior next year. Another son, Steve, is a senior in high school and likely could play under his father as well.
Stay home, Kirk. It’s the smart move. - Anthony Olivieri
Yes, Ferentz Should Go To The NFL: I certainly understand the risk Kirk Ferentz would be taking by accepting the Kansas City Chiefs job.
And yes, I realize how it turned it out for the likes of Saban, Spurrier and Petrino.
But I subscribe to the Theo Epstein theory that after about a decade, it’s in the best interest for both parties to move on and start fresh. Ferentz has been in Iowa City and has done a fabulous job by taking the Hawkeyes to two BCS bowl games and winning Big Ten Coach of the Year three times.
But there just gets to be a point in sports where every player, coach, general manager, etc. is taken for granted and the job just doesn’t seem as fun anymore. First, Ferentz came under fire from Iowa fans in 2007 after back-to-back six-win seasons.
A season after winning the 2010 Orange Bowl, Ferentz was on the hot seat again that fall after his team underachieved and went 8-5 instead of reaching the Rose Bowl as many expected. Not only was Ferentz’s performance criticized, people also started questioning his integrity as more and more Hawkeyes got in trouble off the field.
On top of that, Ferentz was criticized for 12 players going to the hospital with a rare kidney condition called rhabdomyolysis on his watch (they suffered it while working out with the team).
And now Ferentz is really feeling the heat from fans after another underwhelming season in which Iowa finished 7-5. Nevermind the fact that Ferentz is one of the classiest coaches you will ever meet who took over a program in ’99 that was in complete shambles.
No, Ferentz is not in danger of losing his job with a contract extension that lasts until 2020, but why sit around Iowa City with the last of his five children about to graduate high school and fans continuing to murmur that he’s not the same coach he once was? Just because his job is safe doesn’t mean Ferentz will ride off into the sunset when he decides to retire. Ask Hayden Fry, who was a legendary Iowa coach who left the game for good after a horrendous 3-8 season in 1998.
Yes, the pressure on an NFL coach is extremely intense. But it’s no different than what he’s faced at Iowa City in recent years and much of the anger in Kansas City right now is being directed at Pioli. Plus, I think a fresh start at a new place will re-energize Ferentz like it does for all of us.
Plus, let’s face it: All college coaches secretly wonder whether they can cut it at the next level; that’s been proven time and time again.
And Ferentz won’t find a better opportunity than this: A city just five hours away where he can team up with his good friend, Pioli, in a very weak division and a team with plenty of young talent that reached the playoffs last year. I have no idea if Ferentz will succeed in the NFL but he certainly has a chance; his team runs a pro-style offense and his team in the NFL leads you to believe he understands the pro game and, more importantly, how to relate to the pro athlete.
If it doesn’t work out? Well he’s already 56-years old, so why not take the big pay day and just retire if it doesn’t pan out over three or four years? In the worst case scenario, five years from now Ferentz will be 61 and playing golf in Florida with more money than he knows what to do with.
That sure sounds a lot better than sticking around Iowa City and listening to fans groan every time he doesn’t reach a BCS bowl. – Jim Weber