Monday Morning Kickoff

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Last updated: 12/31/2012 7:21 AM
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Monday Morning Kickoff: Picking, Choosing, Winning and Losing
By Tony Gerdeman

* Now that the NFL regular season is over, several coaches are going to be getting fired today. That also means that several NFL teams will be looking for new head coaches. Two names that popped up this past weekend were Penn State's Bill O'Brien and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that O'Brien is on a few teams' short list, and the NFL Network's Albert Breer said that Ferentz is a candidate for the Chiefs' job.

Ferentz is connected to the Chiefs' through their general manager Scott Pioli, who has been friends with Ferentz for years. According to Breer, Pioli wanted to hire Ferentz back in 2009, and is now entranced by him all over again.

Given the way the Iowa football program is trending (19-19 the last three years), and the $18 million still owed to Ferentz, I have to wonder if maybe Iowa shouldn't quietly hope that this actually happens.

Sure, a brand new life can be scary for everyone involved. The unknown is rarely enticing in these types of situations, but compared to the trends of the known, sometimes it's just best for everyone to move on.

Iowa is stale right now, and I don't see it getting much fresher next year. If the Chiefs actually want Ferentz, Iowa should congratulate him, shake his hand, wish him well, and move into the next period of their football program's life.

Fear of the unknown shouldn't really exist in college football. All you need to win at a level of Iowa is a high-powered offense (and anybody can have a high-powered offense), and a defense that isn't Rich Rodriguez's.

And it's not like there aren't candidates out there on Iowa's radar. Perhaps the top candidate would be soon-to-be-40-year old Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. Diaco just won the Broyles Award for best assistant coach in the country, and he just happens to be an Iowa alum. In fact, he also started his coaching career as a grad assistant for the Hawkeyes.

He is probably the hottest assistant who isn't an offensive coordinator in the nation. And he's probably only 60% as expensive as Ferentz. Iowa needs new life breathed into the program, and Diaco would provide that, and he's just the first guy on the list.

* O'Brien, on the other hand, is in a much different situation. If an NFL team is going to offer him a job, according to David Jones with the Patriot-News, somebody will have to fork over $18.4 million to take care of O'Brien's buyout.

Obviously, nobody is going to do that. However, there is a question of whether or not O'Brien feels misled by Penn State's assurances that NCAA sanctions would never get as bad as they did, and whether his contract was signed under false pretenses.

It's all really just a big mash of marvelous drama.

Ultimately, if O'Brien really wanted to leave, I don't see Penn State holding him hostage. It's not healthy for anybody.

Many people view this as simply an opportunity for O'Brien to get a raise. Jones believes it could be a ploy to get the buyout lowered, with an agreement that O'Brien stay for the immediate future in exchange for a realistic buyout should he eventually want his freedom.

O'Brien is currently making $2.3 million per season, and despite all of his coaching awards, that salary is plenty for him. There are some dark days ahead for this football program, and having to pay a coach $3.5 million a year to go 6-6 at best makes absolutely no sense. (Just ask Iowa.)

If this is simply a ploy for a raise, and Penn State falls for it, it would rank right up there with Notre Dame giving Charlie Weis a 10-year extension for losing to USC in 2005.

Penn State can certainly afford to give O'Brien a raise, but why should they? The Nittany Lions went 8-4 in a season where the Big Ten was terrible, and they were fortunate enough to avoid both Michigan schools.

If O'Brien wants to go back to the NFL, then let him go. Penn State got him from the NFL, and he took the job without any idea that such a stiff punishment would be handed down. His legs were cut out from under him immediately. Coaches don't forget that sort of thing. In fact, most would take it personally.

O'Brien appears to be the right fit for Penn State, but the real question is whether Penn State is the right fit for him.

* Do you want to know how good recruiting is going for the Buckeyes right now? At Ohio State's Friday Night Lights last summer, Frankfort (KY) athlete Ryan Timmons won the "Smokehouse" race to determine the fastest camp attendee. It was thought that it may be enough to earn him an offer, but it wasn't.

Following a junior season where Timmons (5-11 180) rushed for 1,382 yards on just 62 carries (22.3 ypc) and caught 38 passes for 1,100 yards (28.9 ypc), he was just as good as a senior, rushing for 1,364 yards on 83 carries (15.7 ypc) and caught 33 receptions for 1,004 yards (30.4 ypc). He scored 45 touchdowns this season, including each of his three kickoff return attempts.

Yet, despite these arcade numbers in Kentucky's second-highest level of competition (no, Kentucky does not play great high school football), Timmons is still without a coveted Ohio State offer. There is little doubt that he would fit Urban Meyer's offense perfectly, as he is being recruited as both a running back and slot receiver. However, at the moment he is essentially a Plan C prospect for the Buckeyes. Meaning, if they miss on a couple of other receivers that they like better, then they will likely extend on offer to him, which he would be expected to accept.

Timmons has his Ohio State official visit scheduled for January 11th, and the Buckeyes should know by that time where they stand with the players in front of him. Right now, it looks like there won't be room for him in this class, but it gives you a glimpse into the type of talent that the staff is having to "slow play".

* If you would like to get an idea of what an Ohio State recruiting pitch sounds like, you have to check out this Youtube posted by the father of Buckeye running back commit Ezekiel Elliott.

In the video Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs does exactly what you would expect him to do. He goes full blast and speaks from the heart, talking about what is ahead for the young men who choose to become Buckeyes.

It will get your blood pumping, but more interestingly to me, it also gives a glimpse into what Urban Meyer considers Ohio State's ultimate foe, and it isn't "that team up north".

* Oh, by the way, speaking of Charlie Weis and his 10-year contract extension, he still has three years left on it.

And you thought your agent was good.

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