It's that time of the month again for some in the press...
The time for them to pine for the past when USC doesn't live up to expectations. We hear it constantly from the insufferable Scott Wolf. We recently heard it from the insufferable Matt Hayes. And now Chris Dufresne has joined the chorus (circus?). It really is a spectacle to watch, a supposed impartial press he can seem to get over the fact that the two big egos in the room were never going to last.
This week Dufresne opens up the mailbag...it just so happens that all of the answered mail seemed to always want to discuss Norm Chow or Pete Carroll's deficiency with running the offense. Of course Dufresne led with the Chowista's to set the tone for effect.
My first response was Really? No Kidding?
There was no second response because I wasn't really shocked at all.
Here is a sample...
Question: Do you think Norm Chow was chuckling to himself at some point on Sunday? You know, we never see people wide open with regularity at USC since Norm departed. The art of the mismatch has left the building.
Patrick K. Gallagher
Answer: Norm isn't that kind of guy, but if it was me, I'd be Chuckles the Clown.
What's playing out in Los Angeles right now is fascinating. USC has not won a national title since Chow left the staff after the 2004 season, and we know why he left.
Pete Carroll had two young whiz kids on his staff, Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin, who were getting antsy for larger roles as outside job offers were coming in.
So Carroll took Chow to lunch in the South Bay and said he wanted to promote him to assistant head coach.
Hey, that's terrific! Except, he was going to take away play-calling duties -- the thing Chow does best -- and make the kids co-coordinators.
Next thing you knew Norm was in Nashville.
For what it's worth, now back in town, Chow called a nice game Saturday as he nursed backup quarterback Kevin Craft to UCLA's victory against Kansas State.
Also, in the critical moments of this year's Tennessee game, Chow called a quarterback sneak for Kevin Prince on third down with UCLA holding a six-point lead pinned against its own end zone.
Rick Neuheisel overruled Chow and ordered the bootleg play that ended up getting Prince's jaw broken in two places.
Hindsight is always perfect, but Rick should have listened to Norm.
Q: USC's problems Saturday were symptoms of very poor hiring decisions by Pete Carroll that began after Chow was pushed out. . . . As it is, the most successful period of the Carroll legacy is the "Chow Era." Ironic, isn't it?
A: I don't know if it's ironic or interesting. I always get that mixed up.
These sorts of questions, of course, is what some of the USC fan base thinks...those who can let go of the past. Those who constantly dream of what if's. Those who think Norm Chow would have cured all the ills of USC's bad performances the last few years.
I don't claim to be a football expert but digging up the numbers on some of USC's past bed wettings point to some things that Chow could have had very little to do with...lets come back to that later.
Lets pick the one game that gives the fan base the most angst...the one game that would have cemented Pete Carroll's legacy forever...Texas. If USC wins that game Chow was as good as gone, Chow would have leveraged that into a head coaching job.. Sure the voices in the wilderness would have said that there was nothing more that Chow had to prove that the time was right for him to go to stake his own claim. IF everything else stayed the same there would still be in the some out in the wilderness claiming that PC had not won anything without Norm Chow.
We are where we are...
There are some that continue to whine and cry about Chow's departure claiming it all because of Sarkisian and Kiffin. Whatever...Chow has some mud on his shoes here too...like trying to woo Mark Sanchez away from USC when he thought he had the 'furd job locked up. Say what you want about Sark or Kiff running Chow out there isn't one specific reason that led to Chow leaving...it was a little bit of everything. People seem to forget (or miss) that BOTH Pete Carroll and Norm Chow have big egos so there is no guarantee that Chow would have lasted much longer than 2005.
This whole situation is symbiotic...Pete Carroll went out and got the talent and PC, Ed O and Chow (with others) worked together to get it firing on all cylinders. Chow has never done it on his own. He always needed someone to go out and get his players. He is not a recruiter. Nothing wrong with that but lets not make the man something more than he really is...
So lets look at those game I mentioned.
The MNC against Texas - USC scores 38 points and gains over 500 yards. If not for a patchwork defense that was put together with spit and toilet paper because of youth and injuries I am not seeing how much more Chow would have or could have done. Yes, there will be those that say that not having Bush in the game on 4th and 2 was a critical miscue but SC ran that play all night with success. Texas knew it was coming, SC knew Texas knew and the Texas defense held, case closed. We could dissect that until the end of time...
Against Oregon St. 2006 - USC scores 31 points and gains almost 500 yards...it was the 4 turnovers and a punt return for a TD that sunk USC that day...Not sure how Chow being in the booth changes that.
Against ucla 2006 - Last time I checked Norm Chow didn't coach the O line and that game saw Booty on his back a lot in that game. If the QB doesn't have any protection you might as well throw the play book in the trash.
Against Stanford 2007 - USC scores 23 points but gains over 450 yards. You could make the argument that SC could have made better use of its time in the redzone but 5 turnovers and the USC defense allowing a conversion on 4th and 20 is what killed them that fateful night.
Against Oregon St. 2008 - That was a complete defensive debacle in the first half. SC never recovered...I am not sure that Chow knows anything about defense in regards to coaching it.
As good as Chow is, I am not sure he would have addressed some or any of those issues listed above...I simply refuse to think that Norm Chow would have cured all of SC's ills in those games. I can understand and accept some of the criticism that has been heaped on Pete Carroll for letting his ego get in the way of how this team is perceived to be run. I can see where some will criticize some of his coaching moves as OJT for some who have come and gone from the staff but that is a different issue. The issue I am addressing is Norm Chow.
Everyone wants to point to the fact that Pete Carroll has won nothing since Norm Chow left...
I will take the flip side to that coin, what has Norm Chow won or accomplished since he left Pete Carroll and USC?
Until I actually see a crystal ball in the Morgan Center I am not convinced that ucla will ever be a national contender...I mean one MNC (split) in 50 years does not make you a national power house. I don't care who the HC or the OC is. There are already rumblings that Chow and Slick Rick are having some clashes...not surprising. When Chow took the job across town my 3-year old could have pointed out that sooner or later there would be tensions between the two. Slick Rick's ego is as big as Pete Carroll's...we already know Chow has a big ego.
Only time will tell...but I have moved on.