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O/NSO: Calling Norm Chow edition

The Obvious: With “former” USC Trojans’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kliff Kingsbury off to the NFL as the Arizona Cardinals’ new head coach, the Kingsbury-to the-NFL coaching fiasco is mercifully over but not for USC athletic director Lynn Swann and Trojans’ head coach Clay Helton, both of whom must quickly and carefully figure out where to go next, muting the merciless laughter and anger directed at both of them and that may not be as easy as hiring Kingsbury in the first place.

The Not So Obvious: Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the Trojans are in desperate times no matter the message out of the John McKay Center. The whole situation is the proverbial dumpster fire and if it isn’t, is sure looks like it. The Trojans are desperately in need of a qualified and name recognition new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. They need a coach that is beyond reproach regardless of age, a proven winner as an OC and play-caller, somebody who does not need to be in the spotlight but is an excellent short-term fix based on the unpredictable future of current head coach Clay Helton. That offensive coordinator would need little to no time to relocate and little time to no time to adjust to the USC environment and would be knowledgeable of the current talent on hand. And that’s why the O/NSO is serious about Lynn Swann and Clay Helton giving serious consideration to interviewing Norm Chow (photo above on left with Pete Carroll on right), who is available and checks all the boxes.

Why not Chow? Show the O/NSO somebody else with Chow’s track record both as a play-caller and a quarterback coach. Ya think the Trojans’ QBs would improve under Norm and respect him, so help me Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart?

The Obvious: When you look at it, the positives vastly out way the negatives when considering Norm Chow as the Trojans’ offensive coordinator and QB coach.

The Not So Obvious: Forget about the two negative factors when considering Dr. Chow. First, age is not a problem. Chow, 72, is sharper now than most 40-year-olds and probably knows more about offense than – yes – even Kliff Kingsbury or anybody else that could pop up. Chow is instant credibility. Secondly, those who point out that Chow was a failure as the head coach at Hawaii and is yesterday’s news is a flimsy argument at best. Chow’s not being considered nor should he be as a head coach at USC or anywhere else, but he would be a tremendous quick fix to a horrendous situation. Who would you rather have calling plays and having an explosive offensive passing system with strategic running in the renovated Coliseum in 2019?

The Obvious: Hiring legendary Norm Chow would at the very least bring back a ton of credibility and offensive enthusiasm to the Trojans’ offense and just as importantly to the players themselves.

The Not So Obvious: Does the O/NSO really think that the Trojans’ brass will consider Chow? Probably not, but they should at least interview him. Show us another candidate that has the cachet that Norm brings to the table. Why not give him an interview? Who wouldn’t trust Chow’s passing game system, play-calling, and temperament? Clay Helton certainly wouldn’t need to feel that Chow was breathing down his neck. Norm would be no threat to Helton. Chow would work with the current offensive staff on hand, and current wide receiver coach Keary Colbert, who played for Chow at Troy, would be there to assist in the transition. It would be a win-win for everybody, and spring practice and marketing would get a serious injection of enthusiasm and momentum. Like we said, would an interview hurt this late in the game? And if you still think that Chow is too old, then look at former Trojan assistant and Hall of Fame coach Bill Snyder, 79, who was pretty successful as the head coach at Kansas State until he retired after this past season. Would Chow consider or accept the position as the Trojans’ 2019 offensive coordinator and quarterbacks’ coach? Well, give him a call and find out.

The Obvious: Some may consider the Norm Chow nomination as just another “retread” and who wants that?

The Not So Obvious: College football staffs and sports in general are full of “retreads.” The difference is that some retreads are still outstanding football coaches. Ohio State’s recently retired head coach Urban Meyer had no problem hiring former head coach retreads like former defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, who had failed as a college head coach. Does anybody believe that if current LSU head coach Ed Orgeron was available as a D-line coach he wouldn’t be outstanding?  And, lets be honest, former Trojans AD Mike Garrett hired an NFL retread by the name of Pete Carroll, and we all know how that turned out.

The Obvious: The O/NSO is from the 60s – you know: Peace, Love, and Happiness, so not intending to be mean, cruel, and heartless, but with just limited coaching changes from the 2018 season and now Kingsbury’s very messy odyssey resolution, this certainly can’t be the heralded football post-season renovation “plan” that both athletic director Lynn Swann and head coach Clay Helton promised Trojan fans.  

The Not So Obvious: Swann has already provided a mea culpa to the USC fan base regarding a laundry list of areas Helton’s program needed to dramatically improve. With Kingsbury’s departure, unleashed again are the questions of coaching, schemes, and culture. After this week’s chain of events, you can certainly make an argument that nothing of dramatic change has taken effect from the end of last season. Everything seems somewhat the same, and it’s possible that recently hired running backs coach Mike Jinks may join Kingsbury in Arizona, which means another Trojans coaching opening. Unfortunately, the Swann/Helton masterplan has evolved into the old cliché of “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Norm Chow could change the offense, schemes, and vastly improve the culture, and that would be a step in the right direction.

The Obvious: Fair or unfair, Kliff Kingsbury’s departure has refocused the Trojan nation’s anger towards Lynn Swann and Clay Helton, and what a national perception hit as it pertains to the once proud USC football program.

The Not So Obvious: On one hand, Trojans fans are probably happy that if Kingsbury doesn’t want to be a Trojan, then good riddance and don’t let the John McKay Center security doors hit you on your way out. But let’s be honest, how many of you wouldn’t have done the same thing as Kingsbury if an NFL head job opened up and you were offered? And by the way, the Arizona Cardinals are saying that Kingsbury resigned before they actually talked with Kliff. So much for granting permission to talk to the NFL. Details, details, details. The bigger picture now is that Trojans fans are pointedly pissed at the unending negatives that seem to flow from the athletic leadership and its storied football program. And folks, let’s not blame the media over these recent sordid events; you’re only killing the messenger. We’re just reporting the events and trying to interpret them the best we can. It’s actually painful to have to write and comment about it all. Hint: Norm Chow would make a great Plan B.

The Obvious: Ironically, the biggest winner of this twisted tale, besides Kiff Kingsbury’s wallet and career advancement, may be Trojans’ head coach Clay Helton.

The Not So Obvious: With Kingsbury now out of the picture, Helton may get back his authority to oversee the Trojans’ offense by reassuming play calling duties, quarterback depth chart decision-making, and control of his old offense. Helton will no longer have to look over his shoulder to see if Lynn Swann is ready to fire him and replace him with “interim” Kingsbury in waiting. And who could blame Helton for this self-preservation perspective? Let’s face it, if your job was on the line, would you want somebody else (Kingsbury) dictating your fate? If the O/NSO was going down with the ship, I wouldn’t want somebody else being the captain at the wheel. However, Norm Chow might be the exception to the rule, and somebody that both Swann and Helton could trust.

The Obvious: And finally, most Trojans fans were hoping the Kliff Kingsbury story would have a positive outcome.

The Not So Obvious: Although that scenario is no longer in question, Lynn Swann and Clay Helton will have one last opportunity to get it right with no drama attached. Can they manufacture a viable alternative in the post-Kingsbury debris, or is that again the proverbial rhetorical question? Give Norm Chow a ring. What do you have to lose…except games.



Greg Katz
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Greg Katz

Katz started off at WeAreSC in the early 2000's with his "Obvious-Not-So Obvious" column, and is a member of the Football Writer's Association of America.


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