Iowa CITY, Iowa - Here we go again.
It's almost a new year. More often than not during the last decade that means talk of Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz heading to the NFL.
It hasn't come to pass during his 14-year run as Hawkeyes head man. His luxurious contract at the school makes it as long shot to happen now.
The past doesn't determine the future, however. With his good friend ,Scott Pioli, employed as the Kansas City Chiefs GM, there's a presumptive connection there. The recent coaching carousel in KC also factors into the picture and the job figures to be open within the next 48 hours when Romeo Crennel is expected to be relieved of his duties.
It shouldn't have surprised anyone that Sunday morning social media blew up with word that Ferentz was a candidate in Kansas City. That sparked conversation about it on the NFL pre-game shows by "insiders" like Fox's Jay Glazer, who mispronounced the coach's name.
It's fair to say that the Ferentz speculation isn't sitting well with Chiefs fans on Twitter. The reaction of the Iowa faithful is much more mixed. Search his name on the social network for your entertainment pleasure.
It's hard to imagine Pioli, if he is retained, having the ability to hire whomever he wants to coach the Chiefs (2-13 heading into Sunday's season finale). However, if owner Clark Hunt thinks enough of his GM to bring him back despite dismal results, he might as well let him bring in the guy he feels is right for the job. By many accounts, that would be Ferentz.
Ferentz would need to walk away from a contract that pays him around $4M annually until 2020. He won't get that type of security in the NFL and likely would have to take a pay cut. He also would have nowhere near the control he enjoys at Iowa, where he calls the shots ahead of everybody, including AD Gary Barta.
While most of us schleps can't afford a reduction in salary during these tough economic times, Ferentz has enough shekels banked to be free of money concerns. He won't have to worry about digging in the couch cushions for change to buy milk for his cereal in KC. He could slip by at $2M annually.
The other thing keeping Ferentz at Iowa would be his youngest son, Steve Ferentz, a true freshman tight end on the team. He's a walk-on who dressed for all of the home games last year and probably wouldn't have the opportunity he has here at any other high major school in the country.
Ferentz also employs his oldest son, Brian, as his offensive line coach but that's unlikely to be a hinderance to moving to the NFL. Kirk could either bring his offspring with him or help him find another job. He has experience as the Patriots tight ends coach.
At the very least, this talk about Ferentz will do Iowa no favors on the recruiting front. Verbal commitments Malik Rucker and Damond Powell are looking around. Other schools competing for prospects with the Hawkeyes can use this to their advantage.
Ferentz has dealt with this before on the trail but recruiting is much more fluid and unstable now than it ever has been before. And during most of those other seasons, he could sell success. That's not the case when you're home for the holidays.
Iowa has been good to the Ferentz family and it to the school and state. After a long run as a Hayden Fry assistant in the 1980s, Kirk took over for his mentor in '99, leading the Hawkeyes to a BCS bowl three years later and three Top 8 national rankings in a row. He has conducted himself with dignity and given back to the community in spectacular fashion.
Ferentz has earned the right to return Iowa to national prominence, a place it sits far away from now coming off of a 4-8 season this fall. He has said all of the right things the last few months as he tries to convince people that the program can turn it around. What he saw on the field in '12 has to have planted at least some doubt in his mind that he can lift it up for a third time.
As he approaches retirement age, perhaps Ferentz feels he has taken the Hawkeyes as far as he can after 14 seasons of learning the limitations of the landscape. Ohio State and Michigan appear to be on the upswing again and the addition of Nebraska, Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten increases the challenge for Iowa.
Ferentz spent six seasons as an NFL assistant before replacing Fry at Iowa. He's well regarded in professional circles and is one of the most successful coaches in the country at putting players into the league.
Some might believe that the NFL window has closed on Ferentz. If he was going, he would have left during the height of his success at Iowa. While that might be true, maybe the time is right now.
Consider when Ferentz was rumored to be a hot commodity back when his team went unbeaten in the conference in 2002. The Pennsylvania product interviewed for the head coaching position with Jacksonville. In November of that year, this is what he said about leaving Iowa:
“I don’t know what it would take to get me out of here. The NFL? If you pinned me down, maybe the NFL when I’m 58. If you get your butt shot off when you’re 58, who cares? You’ll be 60 soon."
Ferentz will turn 58 in August.
Taking into consideration Pioli's unsettled situation in KC and Ferentz's security at Iowa, odds are that this speculation ends with the Hawkeyes having the same head coach in '13. It just might not be as cut and dry as it appears on the surface.