Northwestern is coming off an embarrassing 40-10 loss to Iowa, in which the Wildcats were dominated worse than I've ever seen in the trenches, and with some glaring issues facing this 5-2 team, fans are becoming restless, worried that this coaching staff can no longer produce.
Ironically, that's the exact same attitude Iowa fans had up until this 7-0 start, and I documented that less than a year ago, as I watched Iowa blow a 24-7 lead against Nebraska to fall to 7-5 in yet another season. Things have turned around for the Iowa program — the Hawkeyes have a ton of young talent, a new facility for recruiting leverage and an improved attitude that seems to have struck Kirk Ferentz at 59 years old.
Ferentz's son, Brian, who is a member of his staff, could be a big part of that, and he went on an Iowa podcast (can you imagine an NU coach agreeing to do a half-hour podcast?) where he said some very interesting things that relate well to the situation at NU.
What we were doing wasn't working, and that's a really hard thing to be honest with yourself about, I believe. But when you get beat however we got beat in the bowl game, I don't even know what the score was, but I was pretty sure they were gonna rename it the Hawkslayer Bowl, I don't know if they have or haven't yet.
When you get beat like that, I think you really have to be honest with yourself. And what it was, it was symptomatic of bigger problems. That's what we felt like. And when you look at the season and look at the games we lost and the ways we lost them, if you're not honest with yourself, then you have no chance to improve. So whatever we were doing wasn't working.
We say Iowa is tough, smart and physical. We say Iowa is a 60-minute program that's gonna finish games. And when you're honest with yourself, we hadn't done that.
Being honest with yourself is always the first step in fixing a problem, and to Ferentz's credit, he was able to admit he needed to change 15 years into his career in Iowa City. For Iowa, it meant getting better in the weight room, choosing a quarterback with a higher upside who wasn't so risk-averse and the elder Ferentz spending more time watching film and meeting with coaches across the country to learn more about the game. He even changed how he dealt with the media (interestingly, Brian says Kirk was embarrassed by how he acted with the media at times).
So, Northwestern, time to be honest with yourself. This team has gone 5-7 for two straight seasons. That is bad. This season has the potential to go down the drain fast. The offense, despite recruiting so well, has been terrible over the past few years, from the wide receivers to the offensive line. The scheme has been bad and players haven't executed.
Why is all of that the case?
Perhaps the coaching staff has gotten complacent. Maybe the players haven't committed themselves like they need to. Maybe the coaches have been stubborn and arrogant in refusing to adapt their scheme to the players they have, or perhaps they've refused to accept new information as the world of football has gotten more innovative. Maybe losing Larry Lilja has been a huge hit on the development of offensive linemen.
Maybe it's all of those things. Maybe it's some of them. Those inside the program know best, and they're the ones who have to be honest with themselves about what's going wrong in order to come up with solutions to fix it.
Northwestern has recruited well, and the Wildcats have a new facility coming that should help recruiting even more. Yet the offense is still very bad, the player development has tailed off and the results have been sub-standard.
What Northwestern is doing isn't working. Time to accept that before it's too late.