Tuesday, April 29, 2008

FOOTBALL: Here's What Frustrates Me The Most About Iowa Football Right Now

This blog entry could end up very lengthy, so I am going to try to approach it will the understanding that I am going to cut myself off after so many words.

Think back 3 or 4 years ago...

At the time everyone was talking about the recruiting classes coming in, the cupcake schedule, and the perfect coach at the helm. For all intents and purposes, it looked like the years between or 07-09 were going to be a cakewalk for the Iowa Football program. I mean, let's face it, Iowa had been spitting out 10 win seasons against decent competition. Now in those years ahead, Iowa was going to be able to get through the Big Ten season without facing Michigan OR Ohio State. HOLY COW! How does THAT happen? The toughest games on the schedule? Wisconsin (a team Iowa absolutely owned the past few decades) and Purdue/MSU. Add in a fairly posh non-conference schedule, and Iowa was pretty much guaranteed a BCS game.


Think about that, though. I know expectations change, however these couple years were supposed to be the years where Iowa gets the break in the schedule and shouldn't have issues winning football games. Not only did Iowa not get to a BCS game last year, they didn't even get A Bowl game. Iowa was dealt one of the easiest schedule since I have been born and they can't even muster a winning record. Just sad.

If it didn't happen in 07, it SURELY would happen in 08 with the famed recruiting class in its junior year and having the system down pat. However, expectations are fairly low around most of the Iowa fanbase, as well as across the national scene.

It's frustrating to me to see a program that once had a chip on its shoulder, once had a sense of moxy, once had pride and respect, to end up looking like a program that doesn't know what to do next... almost like a kid lost in the grocery store. Kirk Ferentz has remained steadfast through it all with his normal demeanor and normal attitude towards it all. He is a rock, and for that I applaud him. That said, I want to see results from this program. Enough of the off-the-field events. Enough of the deer in the headlights looks from the players. Enough following instead of leading. It's time to get that chip back on the shoulder and go out and punch someone in the mouth. I, for one, am tired of looking at our team and seeing a 16 year trying to hit on supermodel.

The time is now. This Hawkeye team needs to step up to the plate and do something. Now.

All I am asking is to see some fire from this Iowa program. I don't think that is too much to ask.

"The Catch" was the beginning of the end.

Last year's results were nothing like the results of the '04 season, even though both situations are comparable.

First year QB, 4th string starting RB, Starting TE wasn't even in the 2 deeps to start the year, First Year Kicker. Gallery Gone. Kaeding Gone. Freddie Gone. Mo Brown Gone. Hodges, Clauss, Steen, Sanders All Gone. The offense replaced EIGHT starters, the defense replaced SEVEN starters. The injury bug struck hard that season too.

Last year's team arguably had more coming back that the 04 team did.

2004: 10-2 - Cap One Champs
2007: 6-6 - Sitting Home Eating Nachos

What's the common denominator? I don't know. I honestly don't know what the hell happened to the Iowa program. There wasn't much turnover as far as personnel goes in the program. Coordinators stayed the same. Schemes stayed the same. Did the coaches forget how to coach? Did the players forget how to play? Very doubtful.

The ONLY thing I can think of is attitude. Love or Hate Drew Tate's "attitude", that guy had HEART. He had FIRE. He had the INTANGIBLES. Something that we have been SORELY missing from this Iowa team the past three years.

We can sit here and make excuses... injuries, talent, coaching, etc... But when it comes down to it, if our guys don't have the attitude, the passion, the gumption, the want to, then we will NEVER get back to where we were 3 years ago.

Why was 2004 so different? Iowa won 10 games that year without a ton of superstars. Yes, that team had Roth, Greenway, Hodge, and Paschal... all NFL players, but what about the offense? How was Drew Tate able to become the BT POY as a first year starter? Senior WRs, sure. But zero running game.

Remember the OSU game? That Iowa team went out and beat the piss out of a team made up of Troy Smith, Antonio Pittman, Teddy Ginn Jr, Santonio Holmes, Vernon Gholston, Nick Mangold, Schlegel, Carpenter, Dustin Fox, Donte Whitner... The List goes ON and ON and ON.

How DID Iowa beat the Buckeyes that year? Can you tell me Iowa had more talent? Had more NFL prospects? Surely, that dog don't hunt. Iowa had those 10 wins seasons because our players played their tails off, they played within themselves, and our coaching staff had them believe in themselves.

We Need Some Moxy.


  1. No disagreement on the lack of 'attitude' - but a significant difference on coaching. '04 had a number of older lineman who had started under Phil Bentler, before he left for the Packers. IMHO a major reason for the decline after that has been the underperformance of the O-line. For 3 years now, the o-line has ranged from adequate to woeful. Coaching CAN make a difference.{Parenthetically, you can parallel the late decline in the Hayden Fry years, which began the year after [second season after] the untimely death of O-line coach John O'Hare.)

  2. And by Phil Bentler, do you mean Joe Philbin?

  3. How embarrassing! I'm lucky I didn't say Phil Silvers. Or Phillip Morris.
    Thanks for the 'edit'.

  4. stormin -

    homerHAWKeye777 commenting here.

    As others have said, I think that you're on target with regard to the remarks about moxy and attitude. However, besides that, I'd say that you seem to be a little inaccurate in your attempt to contrast the 2004 and 2007 seasons.

    Firstly, you say that the D replaced 7 starters. What the?!! From 2003 to 2004, the only "new" starters were Paschal, Lewis, and DRob. If you will, the benefit of Babs injury in 2003 was that it prepped Luebke for the 2004 season ... and even DRob saw a start in 2003. As for starters we had to replace ... we had to replace Bob, Steen, Hodges, and Clauss. That's FOUR starters .... not SEVEN!!! Even in replacing 4 starters, basically all of the replacements had pretty good experience, with Paschal and Merrick all having seen a good bit of action in 2003, DRob and Luebke both had starts under their belts (and Luebke was even a returning starter), Babs was a 2-year returning starter. Also, I'm sure that it didn't hurt that our front 4 were all SRs, Lewis was a SR LB for us and his companions were none other than arguably 2 of our best ever, AA and JJ were basically in their 3rd year starting, and Considine was a SR as well. Also, with regard to the the talent level of the 2004 D .... you also further undersold them. You only mentioned "Roth, Greenway, Hodge, and Paschal" as guys who ended up making it into the NFL. Last time I checked, Considine and Babs are also in the NFL, DRob was a free-agent, and even JJ saw some action in the NFL, although he's now a player in the CFL. Even our backup LEO at the time, Miles, is in the NFL!

    Of course, I would say that the 2007 D was pretty darn good too ... however, there were certainly some key differences between the two. Firstly, the 2007 DL never had guys who could get penetration quite like Roth or Babs. Secondly, the 2004 D endured fewer injuries than its 2007 counterpart ... the injuries to Moylan, Klink, and Shada all proving to be fairly significant, and, lastly, the 2007 D had the sort of exploitable weakness that the 2004 D never had. Namely, we had pretty experienced guys playing at safety for us in 2004 ... and we all know how critical safety play is. Well, in 2007, our starting safety unit was comprised of a little used backup (Dalton) and a RS FR who was a former walk-on (Greenwood). While our safety play in 2007 wasn't horrendous ... it also wasn't a strength like it was in 2004.

    As for the discussion about the O ... the 2004 OL was much more experienced than their 2007 counterpart. Also, more importantly, we had more leadership on our 2007 OL ... seeing that McMahon was a SR and that Ferentz was a vocal leader as a JR. Also, speaking of blocking, our blocking TE, Jackson was healthy the entire season AND also that afforded Chandler the opportunity to come on and develop as our receiving TE. Lastly, our WR unit was comprised of 2 talented JRs and a veteran SR ... both Hinkel and Solomon being so good that they both saw action for us as FR in 2002.

    Of course, another key observation to make is that Tate was a QB for us who most certainly had the "X-factor". He most certainly was a HUGE difference maker for us. However, how much of his success also came on the heels of the fact that he was following the act of Nathan Chandler ... a solid and serviceable QB who wasn't flashy and managed to win a lot of games for us.

    In contrast, in 2007, not only did Christensen have to follow Tate .... a tall order by any measure, but also he had do so after a VERY DISAPPOINTING 2006 season where the our squad imploded! One might then infer that that ought to have lowered expectation and made things easier on JC ... but that wasn't the case considering that so many folks expected that we'd be a sleeper since we had such an "easy" schedule. Furthermore, JC had the extra constraint that he wanted to play TOO CLEANLY ... and that was because we had so many darn turnovers in 2006. On top of all this .... unlike Tate who only was hobbled by lacking quality RBs .... Christensen had quality RBs ... however, quality RBs are only as good as the OL blocking for them! When you consider then the joint youth and inexperience that we had ACROSS THE BOARD on the O (with the exception of our RBs and FB) .... it's obvious that Christensen was contending with a much more difficult situation than the one Tate had to deal with in 2004.

    On top of all that ... Tate also had the benefit of having a PK who was pleasantly consistent for a 1st year starter. Also, our entire team benefited from having a veteran punter (and NFL kicker) in Baker. Of course, again in contrast ... how consistent was our specialist play in 2007? Need I even ask?

  5. homer - your points are well made. And I apologize for my incorrect info on the starters returning (after research, by that I mean, wikipedia), it looks like we replaced 7 on the offense, 4 on the defense, 1 ST. That's still a pretty staggering number, though. 1/2 your team's starters being replaced. I'd wager that's still more turnover than last year, but I haven't looked it up yet.

    Thanks for the comments, I do appreciate you taking the time. You had some very good stuff in there.

  6. When you hire a high school coach to run your O-line, that might be a step in the wrong direction. Just sayin'.