Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Aftermath

So, I wanted to come home and respond to the Iowa-Northwestern debacle Sunday, but I was still irate. I waited another day and remained angry. And now I can't avoid it anymore. I have to write about this, and I have to start with this:

Norm Parker has to go.

So does Ken O'Keefe.

Do you remember that scene in Remember the Titans (a horrendous movie that I can't endorse) where Denzel explains his playbook? The one with four plays? Well, we're running a Denzel, Tecmo Bowl playbook at Iowa. When faced with what can only be described as the most embarrasing moment in the last 4+ years, there was no creativity. There was no obvious sense of urgency. There was nothing in reserve. Instead, we got the same plays on both sides of the ball. When we went to the half down by two touchdowns and needed a spark, we came back with off tackle left and bubble screens. When we needed a stop on a crucial third down, we were running base 4-3 Cover 2 Man. By my count, we threw two passes over 20 yards, one of which led to the only Iowa score of the day. We blitzed once, and got our only sack of the day out of it. Norm and Kenny Boy knew we weren't going to do anything new, because they didn't have anything new. I knew it. Everyone in the stadium knew it. And, because they're far from stupid, Northwestern knew it too. And it was exploited with the same effectiveness of Ohio State and Indiana before them.

Captain Kirk has always limited the playbook early in the season, saving the wrinkles for Big 10 play. In past seasons, when we refused to break out the big play against Iowa State or other non-conference opponents, we weren't happy but we understood why. This season, when we lethargically slogged through the games with Montana, Syracuse, and Lames, we thought it was to keep those secrets in reserve for Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Only now has it become obvious that there weren't any nuances or tricks to protect. Parker and O'Keefe call the game like a kid playing football on Playstation who found a couple of plays that work, then runs them over and over. They were out to lunch.

At least we got to see Drew Tate's halloween costume...but
why was he hanging with the Northwestern offensive line?
Hey! Wait a minute!

This season is looking positively disasterous (it could be salvaged - somewhat - by a pair of wins against Wisky and Minny). The coordinators aren't solely responsible for that. Ferentz has made mistakes (how the hell do you not challenge that fumble in the first quarter?) The defense has looked a step slow all year, especially in the secondary. Drew Tate has been lackluster at best, as defensive coordinators realized that he's less accurate and less effective when contained in the pocket and throwing over his offensive line (true of just about every scrambling quarterback ever, especially undersized scrambling quarterbacks). But ask yourself these three questions:

Did Ken O'Keefe, at any point, change the plays he was calling to address this obvious problem (for instance, running the occasional play action rollout pass)? [ANSWER: No, of course not.]

Do you think for a second that Norm Parker, if facing the Iowa offense and its glaring weaknesses, would do anything to attack those weaknesses (such as blitzing from the outside to keep a scrambling quarterback in the pocket, or placing a spy on the QB, or overloading the strong side of the line to stop the run off-tackle? ) [ANSWER: What, and run something other than Cover 2 Man?]

Can a 12 year old with a firm grasp of College Football 2007 call a better game than either of the current Iowa coordinators? [ANSWER: Well, maybe a 15 year old...]

Of course, the situation isn't helped by the lapdogs who cover Iowa football. Ferentz was on the radio with Gary Dolphin and Ed Potilak (amazingly, within 10 minutes of the final gun). Of course, Wax Your Dolphin and Potilak threw a half-dozen softballs at Ferentz (Potilak even attempted to favorably compare this to 2000, when Iowa went 3-8), and they sent him on his merry way. The coach's later press conference was more of the same. Oprah asks more difficult questions. Will someone ask why we don't stretch the field? Will someone ask why we won't blitz, at least occasionally? Will someone ask why we look lethargic and ill-prepared every week?

"So, Coach, Northwestern's a football team, huh?"

It's time to start asking questions. And I'll offer the first one: Why do O'Keefe and Parker (and Dolphin and Potilak, for that matter) still have jobs?


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