IOWA CITY – Kirk Ferentz offered one friendly piece of fatherly advice Monday shortly after introducing his son, Brian, as the Hawkeyes’ new offensive coordinator.
“I did suggest he get another layer of armor,’’ the Iowa coach recalled, referencing the newfound visibility Brian Ferentz will have as he replaces retiring Greg Davis as the leader of the Iowa football program’s offense.
Keeping the position within the family – literally in this instance – does have its risks and both father and son seem well prepared to deal with whatever comes their way as they work toward building an offense which endured its share of struggles in the passing game during the 2016 season.
“The first time we go three and out, the first time we throw an incomplete pass, it’s just one more log on the fire,’’ Kirk Ferentz said, adding he believes his 33-year-old son is the right person at the right time for the position.
Following his playing career at Iowa, Brian Ferentz’s resume includes time spent working under New Englands Patriots coach Bill Belichick and current Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien while gaining four years of experience in the NFL.
He has coached Iowa’s offensive line for the past five seasons and has spent the last two years as Iowa’s run game coordinator and has learned while working with Davis.
“He’s had great mentors, been with them on a day-to-day basis most importantly and he’s been a pretty good student that way,’’ Kirk Ferentz said, calling the hire a logical progression based on his experiences.
“This just made the most sense to me. He’s more than ready. He’s had opportunities at other places and I’m pretty confident he would have had more opportunities at other places, too.’’
Brian Ferentz, who lettered three years as an offensive lineman at Iowa, said he learned the value of coaching to the strengths of available personnel while working with Belichick and O’Brien.
“From those people, I learned two major things,’’ he said. “Number one, players win football games and coaches tend to lose them and second, just the determination and relentless effort it takes to play winning football, to play championship football and compete at a high level.’’
Brian Ferentz also picked up things at every step along the way which will ultimately shape the offense he envisions working for the Hawkeyes.
Like his father, he believes a balanced offense is the best type of offense and his challenge will be to develop a passing game which blends well with the Hawkeyes’ zone blocking schemes and power-run approach.
“Since 1999, our program has been built on the mantra of tough, smart and physical football and that won’t change,’’ Brian Ferentz said.
“But to compete for Big Ten championships, we must also be adaptable and flexible to make the changes necessary on a weekly basis that will give us the best opportunity to win.’’
The Hawkeyes’ new offensive coordinator said any rebuilding of the passing attack will begin with a review of what did and didn’t work this past season.
“When we evaluate that, whether it’s personnel, schemes, how we’re doing things, just like we do in any facet,’’ Brian Ferentz said. “We’ll do the same thing in the run game. What we’re looking for is what is our best chance moving forward to be more productive offensively as a unit and how can we help the football team win games.’’
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Kirk Ferentz said he did consider other possible candidates for the coordinator’s job, mostly in his own thoughts over the past couple of years as Davis neared what became his retirement age at 65.
“Whether he’s my kid or not, I don’t want to lose good coaches from our staff so I thought about it like I always do – I move like a tortoise – but this made a lot of sense to me,’’ Ferentz said.
Director of athletics Gary Barta said he has discussed a possible succession plan for the position with Ferentz over the past 18 months assuming that one day Davis would opt to retire.
“I’ve had good conversations with Brian and Kirk the past few days and I’m pleased and excited for Brian to take this next step in his career,’’ Barta said. “He’s prepared and ready.’’
Since his hiring at Iowa, Brian Ferentz has reported to Barta rather than his father and that will continue to be how the job the structured moving forward.
Both Brian Ferentz and Kirk Ferentz said they do not know at this point if Brian Ferentz’s responsibilities will include continuing to coach the offensive line.
The Hawkeyes will hire one assistant and Kirk Ferentz as usual, said his objective will be to hire the best possible addition to the staff.
“We’ll figure out who goes where at that point,’’ he said, adding that the potential addition of a 10th assistant that is being voted on by NCAA institutions this spring could also factor into Iowa’s staff alignment for the 2017 season.