Chuck Hartlieb: I knew going in that the MAC is not that much of a fall off from the Big Ten, especially this year. There is quite a bit of mediocrity in the Big Ten this year. We are not one of the top 50 programs in the nation, and when you put us in with the rest on the bottom, and another team has 12 days to prepare for you, they put just as much importance on it as you do, they can come out with the win. I was really disappointed in the lack of grit and competitiveness. I thought that last thing I would see would be the line…in my mind, the line lost the battle on both sides. For it to be week 12 and to lose the battle in the trenches against a 3-7 team was deflating.
Q: Last year, Kirk said he was going to go in and reevaluate every aspect of his program. That gave me and a lot of fans a reason to be excited, thinking they were going to go back to whatever formula had worked early in the Ferentz years. I wonder what they do now. Maybe that process is something that is ongoing and wasn't going to be turned around in just one season?
Hartlieb: That is a great point to bring up. 12 months later, we are farther back as far as where this program wants to be. What were the results of that evaluation? We are running the same stuff on offense and defense. The talent level has decreased to a degree. Constant evaluation is critical, but it will be interesting to see if he does anything significant in the offseason, or if he is steady as she goes. I found it interesting that the Western Michigan's head coach in the pregame interview, stating that he had never seen a preparation for a defense that was so straightforward and vanilla, that he knew exactly what the defense was going to do. That is our bread and butter, but for the Western Michigan coach to say that he had never seen a defense be so consistent in their look, and you give them that much time to prepare for, you create opportunities for the other team.
Q: Do you think if Iowa had come back and won on Saturday, and make it to a bowl game, do you think that would have given the staff a bit of a license to not make as many changes as they might have to look at doing now that they probably don't go to a bowl game?
Hartlieb: My personal opinion is that I don't think anything will change. If they would have gone 4-8 or 3-9, they would have been forced to have done something of significance. I think Coach Ferentz believes in his system and the way things are set up with his entire staff and how they approach the game. At 6-6, it's not something they will deal with well. I don't see anything happening in the offseason. Who is to say if that is the right or wrong thing? You have to put trust in a great coach and individual in Kirk Ferentz and trust that he has them on the right path. We talked about things in week three to week five, the core issue being talent. We have to figure out how they can evaluate players better, and get those right players into this program. We just don't have the depth right now or the talent ability to compete to that 8-4 or 10-2 level. There are some strengths in some spots, but from top to bottom, we are in need of greater depth.
Q: Looking at game one and game twelve, on offense in the personnel groups other than running back and I don't think they got enough of a chance this year, did you see growth or improvement in three of the four personnel group being receivers, offensive line and quarterback?
Hartlieb: The thing that comes to my mind, first and foremost, is that Western Michigan caught us in a flat spot. They got their bodies rested with that off weekend, and they came in here with a tremendous focus. We were not at our 100 percent best this weekend. That played to our benefit when we played Illinois and Michigan State. We caught those two teams in trap games and we clearly did not play Illinois or Michigan State at their best. Western Michigan had us in that corner this weekend. I don't want to conclude the success or development of this year based on this game, from the standpoint that for some reason, this game did not get Iowa's best focus. But offensively, through week three to week eleven, the offensive line got better. The receiving corps gained greater experience, Brandon Myers stepped up and improved his game. Unfortunately, I think the quarterback play was flat lined all year. It was not consistent. I wouldn't be surprised if Kirk tried to make it competitive in the spring again. Jake has plenty of ability and can take it to the next level very easily, because he has all of the tools. But it's a matter of accuracy with him and him being as consistent and as accurate as he possibly can as a quarterback. Usually the more difficult things of reading, and making the right plays at the right time. But this is a challenge of him becoming more accurate and hitting open guys. That play has got to get raised up significantly.
Q: As you look at the program, looking ahead to next year, the schedule is favorable. Michigan and Ohio State are not on it again. What taste do you have in your mouth now and towards the future about the program?
Hartlieb: I would be surprised if we are going to be able to immediately turn this thing around. We felt good in the middle part of this season, but it was against some mediocre teams. We referenced last week, I think Iowa State might be a better team than we are at the end of this year. We need to have certain positions elevate the talent level for us to be able to think we can go 8-4 to 10-2. We have to stay healthy, that is critical as well. I don't think this turns around over the course of the year. It will take a few years. As far as thinking you can get nine or tens wins, it will be a challenge here and hopefully some recruits can come in and impact things right away like we saw this year. But it will take a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck for us to get ready to go next year.
Q: You and I have been having these interviews for the past six years. At the start of this year, you had talked about perhaps getting someone from the Kirk Ferentz era to be the ‘Monday Morning Quarterback' and that this might be the right time to transition to another former Hawkeye. You have a lot of things going on with your family and you feel it's time to move on.
Hartlieb: Jon, this is not something that I would have done by any means if I didn't have great respect for HawkeyeNation.com and you as a person. You are a great asset for the Iowa fan base and I think you can be impartial and a good supporter at the same time. I appreciate everything you have done for the Hawkeyes. This has been a lot of fun, it has put me on the spot a little bit and I hope that I haven't rubbed anyone the wrong way. I speak from the heart and I look at it as a guy that played a long time ago. It's probably a good idea to get someone in here that has played under Coach Ferentz and can give an within the program that is different than mine. I think Iowa readers will enjoy a different point of view next year. It has been a lot of fun, and I am sure that our paths will cross again soon in the coming years.
Note from Jon: I would like to thank Chuck for giving us his time and insight through the past six years. His contributions have meant a great deal to HawkeyeNation.com and me personally, and we will certainly miss him. Since I have known about this for the past several months, I have already made plans to fill this ‘position' with another former Hawkeye next year, who is from the Kirk Ferentz era. We will talk about that in the next several weeks, and perhaps even get a ‘look at the program' from this individual during the offseason.