When Ken O'Keefe announced his retirement last month and Iowa began a search for a new QB coach to add to the staff, little did we suspect that the search would end with Iowa hiring... a new tight ends coach?
Iowa is expected to hire Abdul Hodge as tight ends coach, sources tell @on3sports.— Matt Zenitz (@mzenitz) March 1, 2022
Hodge, a former Iowa star linebacker who played five seasons in the NFL, has been the outside linebackers coach at South Dakota the last three years.https://t.co/k5bN5NhJoE
Hodge, a star at Iowa in the early '00s and a three-year starter at MLB who played on a few of the best Iowa defenses ever, has been a coach for several seasons now, mostly recently at the University of South Dakota, as an outside linebackers coach. At Iowa he'll be taking over as TE coach from Brian Ferentz, who's served in that capacity for a few seasons now. But we soon learned that Brian would be replacing that position coaching responsibility with a new one:
Source: Iowas hire of Abdul Hodge as TE coach marks a change in responsibility of Iowa OC Brian Ferentz, who switches from TE coach to QB coach. Longtime QB coach Ken OKeefe stepped down in February.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) March 1, 2022
Iowa confirmed the hire of Hodge (and Brian Ferentz's subsequent takeover of the QB Coach role) today:
With all due respect to Abdul Hodge -- and I have a lot of respect for Hodge, based on his stellar playing career for Iowa -- his return to Iowa City is by far the least newsworthy part of this move. It's always nice to see a familiar face return and, while I don't believe he has any specific experience coaching tight ends, I suspect he can learn quickly. He certainly won't be the first young assistant coach to be coaching a different position than the one he played. Welcome back, Abdul, and best of luck.
But the real news here is at QB Coach, where Iowa is doubling down on Brian Ferentz and his role within the Iowa offense. After the past season, that's certainly... a choice. Iowa's release around the Hodge hire offered only this brief note from Kirk Ferentz about Brian taking over as QB coach:
“We believe this is the logical move for our football program,” said Ferentz. “The person in charge of calling the plays should work most closely with the players who are in control of the offense.”
That statement is broadly true -- it is a pretty common arrangement to have the same person as QB Coach and offensive coordinator. I think where it falters here is in the person serving in that dual role. After last season's historically wretched offense, many (most?) Iowa fans have been clamoring for change; I don't believe any of them were calling for Brian Ferentz to instead be given even more responsibility and control over the offense. He's now in charge of arguably the two most important coaching positions on the offensive side of the ball.
There's certainly reason to wonder about how effective Brian can be as a QB Coach, especially given his background. Again, it's not a prerequisite for a position coach to have played the position he's coaching -- though it is far more common for QB coaches to be former quarterbacks themselves. That arrangement makes sense, given how challenging the quarterback position is; who better to understand that than a former quarterback? There's also the question of mechanics; a former QB is likely to be more adept at coaching and fixing the mechanical aspects of QB play than someone who hasn't played QB. QB mechanics have been a long-term issue at Iowa (it's telling that several recent Iowa quarterbacks have gone outside the program to find a coach to help them with QB mechanics) and this is not a hire that inspires great confidence in that problem being resolved.
Hiring Brian Ferentz as QB Coach also means that the Iowa offense -- the schemes, the playcalling, the play design, etc. -- remains a closed circuit. Hiring someone from outside the very insular Iowa program would have been an opportunity to inject some new ideas or new possibilities into the offensive side of the ball. This hire makes it clear that Kirk Ferentz -- and, by extension, the Iowa program -- is not at all interested in that notion. Instead, this hire is a clear indication that Ferentz believes that he and Brian have the answers to fix Iowa's offense -- or that he doesn't even believe there's a problem with the offense. (Neither option is at all comforting.)
The bigger question to all this, though: does any of this matter? This hire has been characterized as Ferentz betting on himself (or on his family, at least). But that seems inaccurate because a bet implies that you can lose, that you could suffer negative consequences. Does anyone think that's a realistic possibility here? Brian Ferentz just oversaw one of the least-productive Iowa offenses of all time -- and his father's response was to give him even more responsibility within the offense. If you think Kirk Ferentz -- or Gary Barta lol -- is going to do anything if the offense continues to flounder, then I have some bridges I'd like to sell you.
I hope this works out. I hope Abdul is a hit at TE coach and he continues the tradition of Iowa's college-to-NFL tight end pipeline. And I hope that Brian Ferentz taking over the QB Coach role unlocks some heretofore unseen potency within the Iowa offense. But the process to arrive at this outcome absolutely stunk and "extreme skepticism" feels like the only sane response to this setup. Prove us wrong, Brian.