Thursday, January 5, 2006
Ferentz high on NFL teams' wish lists
Analysts: Houston to court Kirk, though move to NFL unlikely
By Pat Harty
Iowa City Press-Citizen
ESPN's John Clayton said Wednesday afternoon that he expects Kirk Ferentz to withdraw his name from consideration for NFL job openings in the next day or two.
But Clayton, an NFL analyst, said that would only delay the inevitable.
"You know at some point Kirk is going to find the right NFL job and go," Clayton said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon. "I just get the feeling it's probably not going to be at this juncture, but I think what they're doing is his people are trying to get his name out there.
"'OK, what's there? What are we going to do?' And then all of the sudden it will vanish in about 24 or 48 hours."
There currently are eight NFL teams looking to hire head coaches. However, Clayton said he thinks Houston is the only one that has a realistic chance of landing Ferentz, 50, who just finished his seventh season as the Iowa head coach.
There is speculation Ferentz might interview with Houston this weekend or early next week.
The annual NCAA coaches convention will be held in Dallas this weekend, which could make it easier for Ferentz to interview with the Texans.
"My way of thinking is the only opening he's even going to consider would be the Houston thing," Clayton said. "But I think he's going to pull his name out."
If Ferentz is interested in the Texans, he's being discreet. He was in Utah Wednesday night with Iowa assistant Lester Erb, making an in-home visit with running back recruit Stanley Havili.
Havili has Iowa, Arizona State, USC and others on his list of schools. He is a cousin of Iowa freshman tight end Tony Moeaki, who was also at the Havili residence Wednesday night when Ferentz and Erb arrived.
Midway through the two-hour meeting, Havili's older brother, Sione, said the NFL topic came up.
"He said he's very content in Iowa City, and he felt the future is bright there and he reiterated his sentiments with Tony as well," Sione Havili said. "He said, 'These are just the set of rumors coming around this year, and this is just an occurrence that comes around every year.'"
Clayton said the possibility of Ferentz leaving Iowa was reduced significantly when Phil Savage was kept as the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. Ferentz and Savage worked together for the Baltimore Ravens and are close friends.
"What I said late last week when that Phil Savage thing happened, Savage and he would have been a package because he would have his personnel guy," Clayton said. "But with Savage now back in Cleveland, Kirk's not going to come without a personnel guy.
"So my guess is, he's got his name floating out there, and he's probably going to pull it back reasonably soon."
Clayton said he could see the Houston job being attractive to Ferentz because the Texans have a respected owner in Bob McNair, who is willing to spend money to sign players. The Texans also are in line to select USC running back Reggie Bush with the first pick in the 2006 draft.
What Houston doesn't have, though, is a personnel guy like Savage in place.
"If he doesn't have Phil or anybody else, then he'll just vanish because he's not going to go to Detroit to work with Matt Millen," Clayton said. "He's not going to go to the Raiders or any of those other jobs.
"That's not him. It's got to be something really good."
Ferentz is in a position to be selective. Clayton compared Ferentz to Nick Saban, who left Louisiana State after the 2004 season to coach the Miami Dolphins.
Saban waited until Miami offered him close to $5 million annually and final say on personnel before leaving.
The Dolphins finished 9-7 in Saban's first season.
"He'll go to a place like Nick Saban," Clayton said. "He'll pick his personnel (director) whether it's Phil Savage or somebody else.
"He'll get five to six million a year, probably $5.5 (million) or something like that. He'll get the top deal with the top power because he's more of a sure bet than Nick Saban, and Nick Saban was a sure bet to be successful."
Ferentz coached for six seasons in the NFL before coming to Iowa in 1999. He has since turned Iowa into a national power by winning two Big Ten titles and by playing in four consecutive January bowl games.
The Hawkeyes finished 7-5 this season and lost to Florida 31-24 Monday in the Outback Bowl.
"It's not like Kirk is sitting there saying, 'Oh, God, I've got to do this to get a job,'" Clayton said. "He'll have four offers anytime he throws his name out.
"It's been like that for three years. In my opinion, he's the only sure bet left."
Saban's success with Miami this season could make Ferentz more attractive to NFL owners. Saban showed that a college guy could make the transition.
"Kirk Ferentz is a great people person," Clayton said. "He's a phenomenal teacher. He's able to take guys who have less and make them more.
"And he's got the meticulous and kind of discipline that you need. I mean, he's got it all. He's got everything to be successful."
Ferentz likely will have to make a decision in a hurry or the Hawkeyes could suffer in recruiting. The national signing day for recruiting is Feb. 1.
"The idea to think that he's going to interview next week; he's not going to hurt his recruiting," Clayton said.
John McClain of the Houston Chronicle confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the Texans are trying to set up an interview with Ferentz. He also said that Ferentz and Denver offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak are at the top of Houston's wish list.
Ferentz's agent, Neil Cornrich, was unavailable for comment Wednesday, and Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby said Ferentz hadn't informed him that he will interview with any specific organization.
"The Texans are interested in him because, obviously, he's the Nick Saban of this season if he wants to go," McClain said. "I just know they want to talk to him.
"If he tells them no, he's not interested, then they're not going to do it."
Houston already has scheduled interviews with several current NFL assistant coaches that will last throughout the week.
Miami offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was scheduled to interview Wednesday followed by Kansas City offensive coordinator Al Saunders today, Kubiak on Friday, Buffalo defensive coordinator Jerry Gray on Saturday and San Diego offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on Sunday.
Philadelphia offensive coordinator Brad Childress also is expected to interview with Houston, though nothing was set as of Wednesday.
"They wouldn't be able to talk to him before next week," McClain said. "As of (Tuesday) night, they did not have an interview set up with him.
"I'm not saying they even will, but I know they're interested in him, and I know they like him a lot. He can always turn them down, but I think they'll interview him sometime next week."
McClain said Houston is looking for a specific kind of head coach.
"They're looking for an offensive-oriented coach and they're not ruling out a college coach with NFL experience," McClain said. "Now that Saban's in the NFL, Kirk Ferentz is the No. 1 target to any team in the NFL.
"When he wants to go, he can go."
And though Ferentz has a good thing going at Iowa, including an annual salary of about $1.6 million, Houston owner Bob McNair is highly respected around the NFL.
"In this day and age, he's got much more stability than he would ever have in an NFL job," McClain said. "But the owner here, Bob McNair, I can't imagine working for a better guy.
"Also, the city's great, and their record does not indicate their talent. So anybody that does a good job could turn the team back into seven or eight wins in a hurry and look like a genius.
"And they're going to draft Reggie Bush. There's no question they're going to take him."
McClain said working for McNair might be the one thing that could entice Ferentz to leave Iowa.
"If he's interested, it will probably be because of McNair, because there is nobody in the league who doesn't like him," McClain said. "When Ferentz talks to McNair, he's going to be impressed just because the guy is committed, he's got money and he'll spend money."
The Press-Citizen's Andy Hamilton contributed to this story.
Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org