Iowa CITY, Iowa - Welcome back, old friend. We've been so miserable without you, it's almost been like having you around.
Yes, the Kirk Ferentz to the NFL story resurfaced recently and it could be on the brink of picking up steam. The Kansas City Chiefs, the Iowa coach's last reported dance partner in the league back in '09, have been reported to be thinking about change.
Ferentz has mentioned in the past that if he ever did leave Iowa for the NFL, he would want there to be a strong relationship with the general manager. Well, one of his closest friends in the business, Scott Pioli, has held that position in Kansas City for the last three years.
Pioli and current Chiefs coach Todd Haley reportedly have a strained relationship. Some folks who follow the team feel like a coaching change could come in season. And even if it's just talked about, Ferentz's name likely would continue to be mentioned as a possible replacement.
"That (talk) is going to get pretty hot," said Nick Athan, the Publisher of WarPaintIllustrated.com, a website that's covers the team. "Right now, he's probably in the Top 4 of the candidates to potentially replace Todd Haley. I was surprised (Pioli) didn't initially offer (Ferentz) the job in ('09)."
Athan had heard a possible stumbling block for Ferentz to the Chiefs three seasons ago was that the Iowa coach's son, James, was starting his college career with the Hawkeyes.
"The rumblings were that he didn't want to leave until (James) graduated," said Athan, who is a columnist and covers games and press conferences in Kansas City. "I know he just got a contract extension, but the buyout is pretty manageable. He's absolutely in the mix to be the Chiefs new coach."
Athan believes a coaching change is likely in Kansas City, which sits at 0-3 with Minnesota coming to town this Sunday.
"It's a turbulent relationship (between Pioli and Haley)," he said. "Expectations were higher this season and some players are certainly doing their share of rumblings about the head coach. It's made to a pretty difficult situation."
The Chiefs finished 10-6 last season under Haley. His critics have said that happened in large part because of a soft schedule and the offense being run by Charlie Weis, who's now with the Florida Gators.
"I think Todd Haley has always been on a short leash with the Chiefs," Athan said. " I think many people believe that Todd Haley was a short term solution with the Kansas City Chiefs. I'm one who's always maintained that."
Ferentz appreciates the realtive autonomy he has at Iowa. He has the freedom to run his program as he sees fit within the rules. He also is well paid at over $3 Million annually.
Athan believes Ferentz would be in position to have say in personnel decisions because of his friendship with Pioli. Ferentz probably wouldn't received much of a pay raise, if any, Athan said.
"Josh McDaniel is another guy rumored to be coming to Kansas City, too, potentially," Athan said. "(McDaniel and Ferentz) would have the best relationship with (Pioli) because of the friendships. (Pioli) and (Bill) Belichick (in New England)seemed to work well together and there's no ego bigger than Belichick's. Pioli wasn't just a yes man like a lot of people think."
Athan speculates that Chief fans would be hoping for a perceived home run to replace Haley. Names like Bill Cowher, John Gruden and Jeff Fishers seem to top the wish list, Athan said.
"I don't know if those guys are going to be willing to play ball with Pioli," Athan said. "It hasn't worked with Haley. His relationship with Ferentz would be similar to what he had with Bill Belichick (in New England).
"I don't know if (Ferentz would) be a popular candidate. He'd be someone respected by the people in the Midwest. He was instrumental in Ricky Stanzi coming here and Tony Moeaki last year because of that relationship with Scott Pioli. He clearly has an eye for talent."
Athan said one aspect of the Chiefs' franchise that needs an upgrade is in the strength and conditioning program. Ferentz has one of the best in Chris Doyle at Iowa.
"I think (Ferentz) would bring (Doyle) with him," Athan said. "I know a lot of NFL players work out with him in the offseason."
Ferentz has been mentioned as an NFL candidate throughout his 12 plus seasons as Iowa's head coach. In the end, he's stayed in Iowa City.
"I don't know what it would take to get me out of here," Ferentz said back in the early 2000s. "The NFL? If you pinned me down, maybe the NFL when I'm 58. If you get your butt shot off when you're 58, who cares? You'll be 60 soon.
"I'm not going to worry about it then. I know this: Players last an average of 3.3 years in the NFL, and head coaches are probably under that."
Ferentz would be 57 at the start of the next NFL season. His son, James, would be entering his senior season at Iowa at that time.
If Ferentz, who spent six years as an NFL assistant, has an itch to try being the head guy at the highest level, the timing would seem to be right. The hang-up could be missing James' senior season.
Ferentz interviewed with Jacksonville after the 2002 season. He did so in large part because his friends - Phil Savage and James Harris - were among the Jaguars GM candidates with the latter eventually ending up with the gig.
Will Pioli finally be the one to pull away Ferentz from Iowa? Chances appear good that it could be a topic of discussion this fall.