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Wednesday, February 9, 2005
Chow leaves Trojans to give pro game a try

Associated Press

Norm Chow
Chow

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher might have given quarterback Steve McNair another reason to return for the 2005 season.

Fisher lured Norm Chow away from Southern California, where he helped the Trojans win two straight national championships, to become Tennessee's offensive coordinator.

Fisher said Wednesday that he has no doubts 58-year-old Chow can handle NFL defenses despite spending 32 years coaching in the college ranks.

The Beginning Of The End For USC?
The departure of offensive coordinator Norm Chow from USC to the NFL will not be the end of the Trojans' dominance. It may not be noticed at all this season, when the offense loses only two senior starters and returns a Heisman Trophy winner.

But it is the beginning of the end. To pretend that Oakland assistant Steve Sarkisian (should he return to USC) can churn out quarterbacks like a coach who has developed three Heisman Trophy winners (Ty Detmer, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart), not to mention Philip Rivers, Steve Young, Robbie Bosco, Jim McMahon and Gifford Nielsen, is foolish.

Chow is a singular talent, and coach Pete Carroll decided, for reasons so far unknown, not to work to keep him. You can't help but think that a clash of egos caused Chow to leave. What's not to like about winning 33 of 34 games?

One of the more interesting hidden stories this season will be the progress of John David Booty, Rocky Hinds and Matt Sanchez, the three quarterbacks who will jockey to replace Leinart.

History tells us that dynasties can begin to crumble from within as well as without.

-- Ivan Maisel

One of Chow's top priorities is "to keep a quarterback on his feet and keep him from getting knocked down," Fisher said at a news conference. "Obviously, we share similar opinions. So that's one thing that's going to be a paramount priority of ours is to keep the pocket clean and keep Steve from getting hit."

McNair had bone grafted onto his sternum Dec. 28 after missing six starts and parts of two others last season. He has said he will wait to decide whether he should retire from the NFL after 10 seasons.

Fisher said he believes McNair will return. The quarterback met with Chow on Friday, and McNair's recovery is nearly complete.

"I believe that this decision put a little more bounce in his step than he's had," Fisher said of McNair. "He's doing very well right now, and I know he's excited about this."

Chow said the timing for this move was right. His hiring comes a week after the Trojans signed a recruiting class ranked among the best in the nation.

"Everybody understands it's an opportunity for me and my family to get to the highest level of football, and they understand the excitement that we have," Chow said during a conference call.

He replaces Mike Heimerdinger, who was hired as the New York Jets' offensive coordinator last month.

This is Chow's first job in pro football after 27 seasons at BYU, a season at North Carolina State and the last four at USC. Chow had some NFL opportunities in the past, but never pursued them.

Asked about reports of friction with USC coach Pete Carroll, Chow said there was nothing to that talk.

"All of that is exaggerated. I owe a lot to Pete Carroll. He knows that. He knows how I feel. I know how he feels. We can't control anything else," Chow said.

A USC alumnus, Fisher also interviewed assistant head coach George Henshaw and quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson from his own staff. He initially met with Chow for four hours a few days before national signing day Feb. 2, then had a lengthy final interview in Nashville on Friday.

Fisher said he was impressed with Chow's ability to teach young players and pointed out that Chow has coached three Heisman Trophy winners, including the most recent in Matt Leinart. He also noted that Chow's offense has ranked in the top 10 nationally in 15 of the last 21 years.

"We know which direction our offense wants to go, and I felt without any question in my mind that he's the right guy to get us there," Fisher said.

Chow tutored quarterback Philip Rivers at NC State in 2000, then groomed Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Leinart at USC.

At BYU, Chow worked with Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer, soon-to-be Hall of Famer Steve Young and Chicago Bears QB Jim McMahon -- a former teammate of Fisher's.

"Coach Chow and I feel ... the potential to win here is still there and in a short period of time will be greater than it ever has been," Fisher said.

The Titans are at least $21 million over the 2005 salary cap and facing a tough offseason. If McNair returns, that means the Titans might consider making one more run at a Super Bowl before cutting expensive veterans in favor of younger, cheaper players.

"As we enter some lean times or some challenging times over the next couple of years," Fisher said, "we're going to have some younger players playing, and it makes sense to be able to have an offensive system where you can have younger players on the field and get them productive as soon as possible."