Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross modeled grief into 5 stages:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

I’m far from an educated physician, but I’d like to add another stage – scapegoating. It could fall under ‘anger’ or fit somewhere between ‘depression’ and ‘acceptance,’ but people search for an outlet to displace their agony.

When it comes to Iowa’s offense, there’s enough metaphorical ‘pain’ to stretch from Muscatine to Council Bluffs. Woeful performance after woeful performance. Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said things needed to improve before, during, and after the season. And ultimately nothing changed.

Iowa’s offense came close to breaking the pain index in 2022, and that’s been well-documented. And quite frankly — there’s a lot of blame to go around. The Hawkeyes finished second to last in the entire FBS in yards per game — ironic.

From my vantage point, there’s many avenues to take to post blame. Quarterback Spencer Petras threw as many touchdown passes (5) as interceptions. Iowa could never get a run game going (2.92 YPC, 124th of 131 among FBS teams). And, my favorite factoid: Cornerback Cooper DeJean has more receiving touchdowns (3, on passes from the other team) than all Iowa receivers combined (2).

But, who do the Hawkeyes blame for their shortcomings on offense? How are they grieving, and who are they scapegoating? The thing is, they’ve already told you.

“I would say I did the best I could this year with the pieces that we had to try to put the team in position to win.” Brian Ferentz said the day before the Music City Bowl.

The offensive coordinator doesn’t call the shots, the head coach — and this case the athletic director does (or doesn’t, who knows anymore). Here’s what head coach Kirk Ferentz thinks about “coordinators” — this is what he told reporters back in November.

“Coordinators are important, but it still gets down to players doing things they’re able to do, ” Ferentz said. “You have to be realistic about who you have, what their experience levels are, things like that. Those are things I’m always thinking about before I formulate an opinion about something.”

When expectations aren’t met there’s always a finger to point.

The Los Angeles Chargers blew a 27-point lead to the Jaguars just days ago. Speculation swirled that Chargers head coach Brandon Staley would be on the hot seat, just for management to show the OC and passing game coordinator the door.

At the end of 2021, the Indianapolis Colts just needed to beat the team with the NFL’s worst record to make the playoffs. Long story short — they didn’t, and their owner wasn’t very happy. Colts head coach Frank Reich made his opinions of quarterback Carson Wentz very clear. Wentz was traded to Washington two months later.

How about the 2019 Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Quarterback Jameis Winston put up astounding numbers: 30 touchdowns — and 30 interceptions. The team finished 7-9, and head coach Bruce Arians had some choice words for his quarterback moments after the team’s final regular season game. Tom Brady joined the team that offseason and hoisted a Lombardi Trophy 10 months later.

Coaches, players, whatever — questions get met with answers. Nebraska got sick of Scott Frost losing close games, just like Wisconsin got sick of Paul Chryst losing not-so-close games. Iowa’s given you yours — the regime is here to stay in 2023.

Iowa took a big swing in the transfer portal and got a shiny new quarterback — Cade McNamara. Iowa didn’t need another, but they flipped another Michigan Wolverine in tight end Erick All Jr. The offensive line gained some much-needed experience with the addition of tackle Daijon Parker, who has two years of starting under his belt.

Running back Kaleb Johnson is set to have a big sophomore season, Iowa’s young offensive line is only getting older and more experienced, and they may have the second coming of Fant-Hockenson in Luke Lachey and Erick All. 2023’s offense should be as minimally painful in quite a while.

Heck, maybe Iowa does make a change at offensive coordinator. Kirk Ferentz did say the team would do a “thorough and detailed comprehensive study” after the season, maybe they’re in that process as we speak. After all, we are all only three weeks removed from the end of the season.

It wouldn’t be the first time the Hawkeyes delayed a staff change. Former QB coach Ken O’Keefe transitioned to an “off-field” role in mid-February last year.

Penn State just fired their wide receivers coach, as Clemson and Iowa State did their offensive coordinator. It’s not too late to get out of the family business — but I wouldn’t hold your breath it happens.

If the Cade experiment fails, we’ll have a different conversation next year. But from everything we’ve seen in the public eye, Cade and Brian will be leading the offense in 2023.

I’ll end with this: Whether you have Ferentz fever, or a Ferentz-induced fever, the case for Iowa to move on from Brian Ferentz becomes exponentially stronger if Iowa remains in the cellar of FBS offenses.

Excuses run thinner than reasons, but Kirk may have bought his son another year at the helm. If performance fails to improve, the black & gold’s case of nepotism will look more like Iowa City’s black plague. Cade McNamara led the Wolverines to their first win over their arch-rival Buckeyes in 10 years. If his play takes a sharp regression, we know who to blame.

Deny it, get angry, fight it, feel the pain, but accept the fact that Brian Ferentz will likely be calling plays in 2023. But if things don’t change this time around, you’ll have a finger to point — and a goat to scape. And he looks a lot like the Iowa Hawkeyes’ 39-year-old offensive coordinator.

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