INDIANAPOLIS — If Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien had his way, Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz would have worked alongside him at either of his last two stops.
Or, preferably, both.
“I tried to hire him at Penn State,” O’Brien said Wednesday at the 2017 NFL Combine. “His dad (Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz) wasn’t letting anybody hire him away. I tried to hire him early on in Houston. Very, very smart. Very competitive. A hard-working guy, really good staff guy. Understands his role. Really helped me a lot at New England in a lot of different ways.”
Brian Ferentz, 33, assumed multiple tasks in New England from 2008 through 2011. O’Brien worked alongside Ferentz and became the Patriots offensive coordinator in 2011. That’s when they really formed a bond.
The 2011 Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl and produced one of the NFL’s most dynamic offensive seasons. New England scored more than 32 points a game, and quarterback Tom Brady threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, whom Ferentz coached, notched career highs with 90 catches for 1,327 yards. Gronkowski set the NFL record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end with 17.
“Brian Ferentz, my last year in New England, coached the tight ends and was the quality control guy on offense,” O’Brien said. “He had Gronkowski and that group. And he was breaking film down on the side. That tells you everything you need to know about his work ethic.”
Neither returned to the Patriots following the 2011 season. O’Brien became the Penn State head coach in 2012 and later bolted for the Texans in 2014. Brian Ferentz became Iowa’s offensive line coach in 2012, added run-game responsibilities in 2015 and was named offensive coordinator in January.
The respect is mutual. At his news conference introducing him as offensive coordinator, Brian Ferentz called his New England experience “invaluable” and touted his relationships with O’Brien, head coach Bill Belichick, administrator Scott Pioli and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
“You absolutely try to take pieces from every one and you try to learn and be a sponge,” Brian Ferentz said in January. “I remember one of my first lessons in New England walking into Scott Pioli’s office empty-handed, and in a very not-so-subtle way, I was reminded that you should have a notebook at all times. And he was right. And since then, I’ve had a notebook at all times. Because you’re always learning. You’re always taking things in.”
As for Brian Ferentz’s new role, O’Brien has confidence his former protegé will succeed.
“He’s a bright guy, and he’ll do a great job for his dad,” O’Brien said. “I just have to say about his dad, I just think he’s one of the best coaches in the country. He does a great job. A lot of respect for the Ferentz family.”