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Monday, December 12, 2011
Ferentz-to-NFL rumors sure to crank up

By Adam Rittenberg

The Kirk Ferentz-to-NFL rumors are as common to December as holiday shopping and frost on your windshield.

They had died down for a year or two, but now they're back.

The Kansas City Chiefs' firing of coach Todd Haley earlier Monday once again will pose the question of whether Ferentz would leave Iowa for an NFL job. When the Kansas City Star published its list of candidates to replace Haley, from "the realistic to semi-realistic, to just-plain-crazy," guess whose name appears at the top? Colleague Bill Williamson also lists Ferentz as one of the Chiefs' top candidates.

Ferentz has been mentioned for NFL coaching vacancies before and has always opted to remain at Iowa, where he makes incredibly good coin and doesn't need to win 10 games each year to keep his job. His connection to the Chiefs job is general manager Scott Pioli. Ferentz and Pioli have known each other for more than 20 years and worked together in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens organization, Ferentz as an assistant coach and Pioli in scouting. Both men have ties to New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Pioli has drafted several Iowa players for the Chiefs, including quarterback Ricky Stanzi and tight end Tony Moeaki.
"The thing about Kirk is he's one of the finest human beings I've met in my 25-plus years in this business, in this game," Pioli told The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette in August. "He's a great family man. He' got an incredible wife and his five kids, I've known them all since they were young. His ability to prepare people is the fact that he cares about his kids, how he cares about his players. He understands things in the big picture of football and the big picture of life. I think he does a great job of preparing kids and getting kids to trust him because he's so genuine. He's one of those people when you look at football and you see how he does things and how he does his job, it makes you proud to be in the same industry because he's a first-class act."

Bottom line: Pioli has a lot of respect for Ferentz, and few would be shocked if he inquired about the coach's interest in the Chiefs job.

The bigger question: Would Ferentz leave?

He has plenty of reasons to stay in Iowa (more than 3.8 million, actually). He makes top 10 money without having to finish in the top 10 every year, a currency most coaches would cherish. He has tremendous influence at Iowa, which prides itself on coaching continuity (Ferentz is the Big Ten's longest-tenured coach, in his 13th year with the Hawkeyes). His son, James, a Hawkeyes center, will be a senior next year. His youngest son, Steven, is a high school senior.

Ferentz, 56, easily could finish his coaching career in Iowa City, where he's held in high regard by the administration despite some disappointment both on and off the field since the 2010 Orange Bowl. Fan criticism seems to be increasing, but it doesn't seem strong enough to discourage Ferentz from staying.

It comes down to his NFL curiosity. If he's curious about how he'd fare coaching at the highest level, this might be the job and the time to make the jump. Coaches want control, and Ferentz would be working with a general manager he knows and trusts. It's also fair to ask how many opportunities Ferentz will have to coach in the pros.
"Scott typically comes through at some point in the season like a lot of GMs do," Ferentz told The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. "... I'm always amazed at what he sees about everything and everybody that he'll share with me at some point. I don't know that our conversations were that much more extensive. He values what we say, but he likes to do a lot of work on his own. He and his staff are very thorough, very professional."

Will Ferentz become part of Pioli's staff in the near future? I tend to think he won't, as his situation in Iowa remains very comfortable and advantageous. But if the NFL pull is still there, this might be the time to move.