Since I follow Iowa State by the mere of having to go to Ames for work and suffer their bad sports talk radio, I thought it was high time to weigh in on Iowa State football now that Paul Rhoads has been given a contract extension. I find listening to Iowa sports talk radio excruciating; when it was possible the Big 12 would break up, the Des Moines media reacted in the same way Chris Rock says the other type of black people react when they hear that welfare is going to be taken away from them.
For the record, I was happy when Paul Rhoads got hired at Iowa State because Jamie Pollard was hiring “one of Iowa State’s” own, which meant to me, one Rhoads wouldn’t be very good, and two, Iowa State would end up keeping him a year too long. Now, I’m sure many Cyclone fans would probably tell me I’m wrong. I’ll admit that Rhoads was a better coach then I thought at the time, but now that he’s armed with a ten year contract, I do think there’s an even greater chance that Rhoads will remain at Iowa State one year longer than he should, ALA Dan Hakwins at Colorado.
Rhoads inherited a team that had won a total of nine games in the previous three season, and no conference games the year before. His first year, he went 6-6, with one huge upset win on the road at a 10-4 Nebraska team (game I attended, to my chagrin),The next year, he went 5-7, but did beat a 5-7 Texas team on the road while the Longhorns were ranked. Through his first two years, Rhoads was 3-4 in games decided by a touchdown, a stat he would improve to 5-1 this year.
This year was arguably Rhoads’ best year. Iowa State was an underdog 10 times, and more than half of those times were by more than a touchdown. Rhoads did a great job getting his team up in the spots were they had to win: first at home against in-state rival Iowa, Rhoads’ first victory against the Hawkeyes; then going on the road after that win and playing up against UConn on a short week; and finally, in the home finale against No. 2 Oklahoma State, the highest ranked team the Cyclones had ever beaten. In the first three games of the season, Rhoads had to overcome multiple turnovers, and then had to go with a freshmen quarterback late in the season. If Iowa State had the benefit of a Big 12 North schedule and an extra non-conference game, they could have gone 8-4.
So Rhoads finished three years at 18-20 after yesterday’s loss in the Pinstripes Bowl, and now he gets a ten year extension. Yes, he over-performed expectations against the talent he had, but say it Iowa State fans: loosing record, and you’re giving him a ten year contract. If you can’t smell the fish, you’ve got a clothespin on your noose.
Let me do this in vacuum: Rhoads is a great coach in the moment. The Youtube clips of his post-game speeches. Getting his team up when they played Texas Tech the week after they beat Oklahoma, and again against Oklahoma State the week right before the Cowboys played Oklahoma. Rhoads even said in his ESPN interview after the OSU game that he’d told his team about that very opportunity before the game. Rhoads, much like Rex Ryan, who is flamboyant, gets his players to play hard for him, and gives the media good quotes. Granted, that personality works better in college than in the NFL, but the potential for his act to wear thin is there. But there’s enough good with Paul Rhoads, so you definitely want to keep him since he’s selling out your stadium.
But here’s how I would have negotiated: I would have started at about $1.7 or $1.8 million in annual compensation, and been willing to work my way up to $2, perhaps $2.2 million. But there is absolutely no way I would give Rhoads more than eight years: I would have started at six, and hoped I could settle at seven. I would have even given him more money and bonuses, if it meant not giving him more years. The reason: Iowa State plays nine conference games, plus a tough non-conference game every year against Iowa. This year, Rhoads got most of the breaks to go his way, and he still went only .500. The question will be, if Iowa State goes 4-8 each of the next two years, will Rhoads still be able to sell out the stadium just because he grew up within twenty five miles of it?
There is a direct precedent that should worry Iowa State: Notre Dame quickly doled out a ten year contract to Charlie Weis after he’d been in South Bend two years. Two years later, they knew Weis was the wrong guy, but they had to wait him out another year because of the contract. And remember, they’re Notre Dame; they fill their stadium every Saturday.
Yes, Iowa State fan, you may end up getting snookered by this deal, but this may be the bright side: by locking Rhoads up for ten years, they wouldn’t have to add years to back end of the contract for a while. If Rhoads does end up going to a bowl game every other year, Iowa State may have him locked in at a bargain price for the next six or seven years.
But here’s what I wonder: did Iowa State look over at Iowa City and what Kirk Ferentz makes per year, and say, let’s get Paul Rhoads locked into a long term, low rate. Yes, the low rate is great, but even if you succeed, you’re just going to have overpay him again when he gets other offers.