AFC South: Norm Chow

As the Indianapolis Colts have installed their offense with Andrew Luck at quarterback, any issues regarding how much and how soon have not revolved around the rookie quarterback.

Luck
“He can handle the entire playbook and no huddle, everything,” offensive coordinator Bruce Arians told Dan Pompei of the National Football Post. “We’ve been taking baby steps with the no huddle part of it because of the rest of the guys. I have to watch myself. I fall into this trap with a smart quarterback, go head over heels, putting stuff in.

"The rest of the coaches say, ‘Hey coach, my guys can’t learn that. You have to slow down man.’ We can’t judge it off him because his learning curve is so fast. I have to judge it off the tight ends and receivers and running backs so we don’t get the quarterback killed.”

Just because Luck can take things on at an accelerated pace, doesn’t mean the guys around him can. And those are the guys who set the pace.

During Norm Chow’s brief stint as the Titans offensive coordinator, I had a conversation with him about this sort of thing.

He said one challenge in the meeting room, perhaps the biggest challenge, is installing stuff only as fast as the slowest guy can really get it, while not boring the fastest guy.

It sounds like that’s what Arians has reminded himself to do with the Colts’ no-huddle.

To whatever degree all the Colts have it down, the next question is how much they want to use it.

It serves to set a pace and create favorable matchups by not allowing the defense to substitute. But it also prevents Indianapolis from altering its own personnel and serves to get the Colts more snaps -- something they won’t always necessarily want depending on the shape of a game.

Mailbag: Once around

November, 7, 2009
11/07/09
8:09
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky

Jim in Tallahassee, Fla. writes: One problem I have with Greg Garber's article on the Jags attendance is that he makes no real link to how hideous the Jags home schedule has been. The first four teams to visit Jax are a combined 7-22 with four of those wins coming from Arizona. The two teams most likely to draw fans are the last two games on back to back weekends in December when no one will care because the season is shot. Put the Miami game and the Indy game in the first four games and you likely have at least one sellout and one near sellout if not a sellout. Would you agree the schedule maker did no favor for the Jaguars?

Paul Kuharsky: The schedule maker, of course, draws up what games are played when. Not what team plays what teams.

I understand your position though defending NFC champ Arizona as the home opener and Tennessee, which was the best team through the NFL's regular season last year, looked like appealing games when the schedule came out, no?

The other position would be that with these "bad" games early, the Jaguars were handed easier games to win and they could create more buzz with the better record they could build if they beat teams like St. Louis, Kansas City and Buffalo in matchups before Thanksgiving.



Joe in West Virginia writes: Do you think the Colts should bring back Edge to help with the running game?

Paul Kuharsky: I don’t. I think the Colts running issues are more related to the blocking than the backs and I feel like if both Arizona and Seattle think James is done he’s probably done. Fans can be too sentimental when they automatically put a player back with his old team.




Craig Jackson in Culloden, WV writes: I am a Steelers fan, but like the Texans cause of Steve Slaton by way of WVU. Of course that is why I like him cause I had the pleasure of watching him for 3 years. People say that his fumbling was a problem coming into the draft, but I have seen him play a lot and he doesn't normally fumble like that. Except his sophomore year when he needed wrist surgery after the year. All I can say is that I wish people would get off his back. If Ryan Moats was always this good he would've been the starter all along and he is not. So what does that tell you?

Paul Kuharsky: It tells me that your declaration that “he doesn’t normally fumble like that” isn’t really relevant, as he’s normally fumbled like that seven times in eight games, including the last three in a row. Think what you will of Moats, he’s coming off an excellent game and put the ball on the turf zero times.

People should get off his back because you both have ties to WVU? If seven fumbles in eight games doesn’t mean a guy deserves grief, what does?



Ryan in Palm Desert, CA writes: After Vince Young's game on Sunday where he checked down on receivers and ran when things broke down do you think Norm Chow may have in fact hindered VY's development by trying to mold him into a pocket passer?

Paul Kuharsky: While Fisher and Chow certainly didn’t build an offense around Young, they didn’t ask him to be a pocket passer either. He’s the one who seemed determined not to run at times, which drove them all crazy.

One game in his second act is hardly enough for us to make any big pronouncements.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

When the president and CEO of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes kneels to pray in his office, he does so on a thick blue rectangular pad that's about 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep.

 
  AP Photo/Larry Salzman
  Les Steckel, Steve McNair's coordinator from 1997-1999, nicknamed the quarterback "Silk."
Each time Les Steckel uses it, he thinks of its origin: It's the pad Steve McNair knelt on in meetings in 1999, when the Tennessee Titans quarterback struggled to find a comfortable position for his ailing back.

McNair had surgery that year because of a ruptured disc, missing five games but returning to lead the team on a run to the franchise's lone Super Bowl.

The former Houston/Tennessee and Baltimore quarterback was shot and killed on Saturday. Since the terrible news spread, old teammates, coaches and others who knew McNair have been reminiscing as they try to come to terms with his passing.

As an Oiler and Titan, McNair played for four coordinators: Jerry Rhome, Les Steckel, Mike Heimerdinger and Norm Chow. Heimerdinger has since returned to the post.

Monday, Rhome, Steckel and Chow took some time to talk about the hard-nosed signal caller who was widely respected for his humble personality as well as his strong arm, excellent mobility and ability to produce on Sundays even when injuries sidelined him for practices.

Rhome held the job for the team's final two seasons in Houston, 1995-1996. McNair, who was drafted third overall in '95, missed the bulk of training camp as a rookie while his contract was being ironed out and was way behind. But he showed a real commitment to football in the early months of 1996.

"He came in four days a week for about three, three-and-a-half hours to my office, February all the way to May," said Rhome, who got a "yes" from McNair anytime he asked him to visit with underprivileged kids. "I would teach him and I'd test him. Then we'd go out on the field and work. He was a very hard worker, made up a whole lot of ground and learned a lot that spring. ... That was the beginning of Steve McNair and pro ball."

Steckel called McNair "Silk," because when his sons once called their father's attention to McNair in an Alcorn State game on TV, Steckel's review after four or five plays was that the "kid is smooth as silk."

"I've never seen an athlete like that," Steckel said.

Just as he had private work with Rhome, McNair had a lot of one-on-one time with Steckel.

"Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, he would be at our house, having dinner and we'd be talking football and looking at film," Steckel said of the spring of 1997. "We watched tape, and then we would set up drills behind these high hedges there in Houston, where nobody could see us work out or bother us, and we'd work out a couple hours, just he and I against the air, and eventually we'd bring in a receiver or two. Just to see his incredible athleticism take shape was pure joy as a coach. I mean, nothing is greater than working with great athletes getting better. And that's what happened with Steve."

Amid all the talk of McNair's toughness, Steckel might have a broader context in which to classify it: He spent 30 years in the Marine Corps and said he's been around "some very strong and tough, warrior kind of people."

"But I've never seen a body built like his where he just had the highest threshold of pain," Steckel said. "I was told he once did a root canal without medication, I still struggle with that one, but somebody swore to that."

Steckel said the only player he'd been connected with who qualified in McNair's class as a physically tough football player was O.J. Simpson.

While Rhome and Steckel had McNair on his way up, Chow had him as a veteran quarterback who was beaten up and was trying to lead a team depleted by a salary-cap purge in 2005.

"I quite admired the guy," Chow said. "Here I'm some guy from college coming in for his first pro job, and he tried to do what we asked him to do. He was set in some of his ways which was fine; he'd been in the league a long time. ... Despite my inexperience, he was very willing to kind of share and to respect what we were talking about. He never gave you an ounce of trouble or disrespect or anything like that."

 
  Joe Robbins/Getty Images
  Former Titans coordinator Norm Chow remembers Steve McNair's "tremendous heart."
Chow, now coordinator at UCLA, has long preached to his quarterbacks that when feeling pressure they didn't have to give up on the possibilities downfield. "Over one and up one," he still preaches: Take a side step and step up and you can do a lot to keep a play alive.

"A lot of guys when they feel pressure want to get out of there," Chow said. "I still use one play of Steve on a training tape, where he went over one and up one, dodged a guy, stepped up and rifled a corner route to I think it was Brandon Jones. It was a perfect example of what a quarterback should be like. I show young quarterbacks: 'That right there is just like you would draw it up in a book.'"

Steckel and Chow both talked of McNair's manner, the soft and sincere personality that won so many people over.

"He was always gracious," said Steckel, whose son Luke wore No. 9 as a high school player because of McNair and whose daughter, Leslie, babysat McNair's kids. "I think about how he was so humble and so gracious. ... He was so coachable and so obedient. It was a lot of fun to work with him and to see him grow as a professional quarterback."

"He was really a respectful, kind, gentle guy," said Chow, who once complimented a golf shirt McNair wore and then saw the quarterback bring him a boxful a few weeks later. "He had a tremendous heart and played awfully hard. ... [He was] very candid, very open, very respectful and you could tell that people responded to him."

It's been 10 years since Steckel called plays for McNair. The old coach's prized blue praying pad surfaced as McNair worked his way back from back surgery in 1999.

"He would just kneel down on this big thick pad -- he couldn't sit; his back was still recouping," Steckel said. "I kept that pad; he gave it to me, and I said I could put it to good use. ..."

"I think of Steve every day when I pull it out."

Weekend mailbag: Touch 'em all

June, 13, 2009
6/13/09
12:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Bert in Danville wants to know who I see as the Colts third wide receiver and if I think they might get one in free agency.

Paul Kuharsky: There are no free agent wide receivers that would be especially attractive, and the Colts don't usually go that direction. They expect a solid third guy to emerge from Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Roy Hal.

Here is something I wrote in them during the recent minicamp:


Kingpin in Grinnell, IA writes: Paul - I know you've been visiting/covering other teams lately, but any word who might be returning kicks and punts for the Titans this year?

Paul Kuharsky: They are a long way from replacing Chris Carr. They'll be looking at a lot of people for a good while before deciding. Mark Jones probably gets best chance, but he's got to be able to play some WR too. Rafael Little could be interesting on kickoffs if he makes the team.


Ted LaDue in St. Augustine, FL writes: Hi Paul. You seem almost apologetic about having little to report on the Jags for the last several days. This time of year I think that is a good thing. My wife's birthday was a few days ago. I went to one of the local college/pro sports wear stores to purchase the new styled Jags Jersey for her. As you might imagine, the selection was very limited. Uniform design changes cost those places a lot of money. I was talking with the manager of the store about the Jags. He was dropping a few names and talking about how good things look. My reply was that the Jags are one big question mark, but I am really looking forward to the season because of that. He replied that he didn't really agree with me, and he thought the Jags were going to be much much better than last year. He seemed a bit irritated. I took another angle. I told him that I'm not a guy that would show up at a game wearing my Leftwich or Taylor in Teal Jersey, but I would wear my Mercedes Lewis in White even though it is the old style jersey. Bearing in mind that I am a thrifty individual, and what we know about the Jags today, who's jersey would you pick other than MJD, or Monroe? Based on what we know right now, who's jersey can I purchase that can most likely be worn during the 2010 campaign? He couldn't give me an answer and went back to dropping more names. Like I said, we have a lot of question marks. Can David Garrard bounce back, and can he learn to throw the deep pass? Can Drew carry the load? Henderson? Will Meester hold up for more than 1 season? Will Manawaui be effective in his key run blocking duties following his knee injury? Nelson has to have a good season. Mercedes Lewis has to have a good season. Why is Williamson still on the team? Will our 2nd year D ends develop or will they bust? Is this Cox kid going to be any good with the pads on?

Paul Kuharsky: Interesting stuff on your conversation with the store manager.

Good questions too, all to be answered.

I can say this about Williamson:

If he wasn't an attitude problem, why cut him early instead of late? You haven't paid him anything in 2009 yet. What if none of the draft picks do anything in camp or Holt falls down the stairs between now and the end of the preseason?

Why not keep options open and give the guy a continued chance? Don't cut for cutting's sake. Cut because you don't want a guy, don't need a guy, really don't like a guy or can't fit a guy.


Jon in Silver Spring, MD writes: Good god almighty! The Texans actually SIGNED Sexy Rexy? what the hell?! *slaps forehead*they are morons.

Paul Kuharsky: Easy killer. Rex Grossman's not starting. He's not even in line to back up. You can do a lot worse at third if you are looking to be three deep. I don't love him at all. I have no problem with him at that position on a depth chart, though.


Adam in El Paso writes: Hi Paul, I am a avid jaguars fan and enjoy reading your coverage on the jags (and AFC south in general). I was wondering what your take is on the recent rift that has developed between Jack Del Rio and John Henderson. Do you believe this will effect Henderson's playing time on the field? If it continues will he be traded/released? How would this affect the team in general? Thanks in advance for answering!

Paul Kuharsky: Henderson is not getting traded or released. Release him, and teams are lining up to sign a guy with that size. If he's then determined to show you what a mistake you made, you look horrible. They need him to play and play well. They are trying to light a fire however they have to, which is fine with me.


Ryan M. in Tullahoma, TN writes: Hey Paul, All this concern over teams possibly getting sponsor patches on their jerseys seems like nothing new to me...The Titans have a patch from Baptist Sports Medicine on theirs, and have had it for as long as I can remember...see here: http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/04bu3Wp7iR5al/610x.jpg
So, did the Titans get away with it simply because the practice at Baptist Sports Park?? or am I right to think that this is not a new concept? Thanks Paul, love the blog, I check it everyday. Ryan

Paul Kuharsky: Thanks, Ryan, I appreciate the loyalty.

It's not a big deal, I agree. Titans have worn them for a long time. There may be a new rule allowing it, but there was never a rule disallowing it either.


Michael in California writes: Afternoon Paul, First off, I wanted to say I thoroughly enjoy your blog. I'm a huge Steelers fan, so the AFC North is where I go to first, but of all the division writers you are my favorite. Now that that's done my question. Do you think Jeff Fisher even wanted Vince Young when the Titans drafted him? I've never felt that he was the style of quarterback Fisher desired. In hindsight, which is 20/20, it seems they would have been better off taking D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Just wondering if you had any insight. Thank you for your time, and all the best. Michael Elliott

Paul Kuharsky: In hindsight, I certainly they wish they'd taken Cutler. They couldn't have not taken one of the quarterbacks when they were needy at the position.

I don't think Young was Fisher's first choice. I think he would have preferred Leinart (who his Norm Chow also wanted).

But I do believe Fisher thought all three QBs were going to be good and that any of the three would be a long-time solution for him.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Former Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who coached Vince Young in the NFL and Matt Leinart at USC, shared his thoughts on both Thursday on "The Opening Drive" on SIRIUS NFL Radio. Chow, now offensive coordinator at UCLA, talked with host Randy Cross.

Cross: "You look at that 2006 draft class that included [Vince Young] and Matt Leinart -- besides the opportunity and either taking advantage of it or not taking advantage of it -- for these young quarterbacks, what are some of the stumbling blocks coming into the professional game from the college game?"

Norm Chow: "I think there are a couple [or] three of them in my mind, and one is the actual maturity level because the season lasts for such a long period of time that there really has to be some staying power to it all. And I'm convinced, and obviously no one really listens, but you need to stay in college for four, five years because it takes so much to be an NFL quarterback and the more mature and the more certain you are, and that's becoming obvious with that class that Matt and Jay Cutler seem to be advancing quicker than Vince. And I tell you what, I love Vince and we had a nice time together but he needed more seasoning. He needed to see more coverages. He needed to see more football before he goes into that high level of NFL play. And I'm convinced that young guys should stay, especially quarterbacks, because the more reps, obviously, the more ready you're going to be..."

Cross: "When you look at the quarterbacks, you had Matt Leinart at USC, you had Vince Young at Tennessee. If someone was to tell you that Matt Leinart could still be a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, could still be a quarterback with a long, successful career, do you believe that?"

Chow: "No question. I don't think there's any doubt in my mind once he gets that opportunity. I think Vince can go a long way. I think the best thing that happened to Vince is what's happening to him right now, that he gets to sit behind a veteran and hopefully he'll learn from it. Hopefully he'll use this, not as a time, 'Well, I'm just waiting my turn,' but rather a time to study and to learn behind a pro like Kerry [Collins] and for Matt to do the same. I think they will take it over. I really do. Carson [Palmer] did the same thing, right? He sat for a year behind, was it [Jon] Kitna? And he spent four years in college besides. And then sat a year behind Kitna and then his career took off. I really believe that. I think Matt and Vince have bright futures."

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans' No. 1 goal for 2008 was to get in the end zone a lot more often.

Touchdown troubles were a big share of the reason Norm Chow was removed as offensive coordinator, Vince Young faced a lot of criticism over his second-year production and Rob Bironas had a Pro Bowl season.

Coach Jeff Fisher said the Titans set annual goals of a ratio of about 40 touchdowns to 25 field goals for the season.

The 2007 Titans scored just 28 touchdowns (with only nine through the air) and kicked 35 field goals. That was 301 points, 18.8 a game.

The 2008 Titans scored 41 touchdowns (with 13 through the air) and kicked 29 field goals. That was 375 points, 23.4 a game.

Only twice in the last 18 years has the franchise scored more -- 435 points in 2003 and 392 in 1999.

"We set out last year as a goal to improve our offensive efficiency in the plus territory, improve scoring," Fisher said. "I think we've had the [third]-highest offensive output in the last 15 years. We kind of have an in-house goal of touchdowns to field goals. You want to score more touchdowns than you do field goals. We recently surpassed that. I thought we were very good there. We're going to continue along those lines."

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Our late morning spin around the division. The mailbag is open.

Houston Texans

Dale Robertson takes a look at recovery for Dunta Robinson, the physical cornerback who hopes to return from his right knee and hamstring injuries for the seventh game.

Indianapolis Colts

Peyton Manning "moved effortlessly and threw with precision" in his first practice back after knee surgery, says Mike Chappell. Tony Dungy said Manning will be on a pitch count in the early days of his return.

More from Chappell: Jeff Saturday is weighing his options with a damaged the medial collateral ligament in his right knee suffered Sunday night. Agent Ralph Cindrich said: "He could have surgery or he could strap it up and play." Surgery would mean he'd miss at least a significant piece of the season.

Jim Sorgi's knee injury has him immobilized, which means Thursday night against Cincinnati we're likely to see Quinn Gray and Jared Lorenzen try to improve on their poor work Sunday night in the loss to Buffalo.

Jacksonville Jaguars

In case you missed it, Derrick Harvey finally signed. I think the Jaguars won this fight.

Vito Stellino looks at the drop-off of left tackle Khalif Barnes.

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams returns to Washington Thursday night to work against the team that passed him over as Joe Gibbs' replacement. Also, Jerry Porter did not practice Tuesday and it appears likely he will not play in the season opener at Tennessee on Sept. 7.

For receiver D'Juan Woods, the final preseason contest amounts to the game of his life, writes Vic Ketchman of Jaguars.com.

Tennessee Titans

A cool tour of Keith Bulluck's locker brought us by Jessica Hopp. Look on the right for the video with Bulluck talking us through everything.

Titans notes with a bit on linebacker Colin Allred. I'll write more about him today or tomorrow.

This morning on "The Wake Up Zone" on Nashville's 104.5 FM, a show I am part of three times a week, former Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow was a guest. UCLA's offensive coordinator had a zinger at the end of the interview when the conversation was about Matt Leinart and Vince Young: "Everyone knew who I wanted and... the minute that they took Vince I told my wife, 'I think my days are numbered here.'"

Clifton Brown of the Sporting News reports on his visit to the Titans' complex.

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