Offensive Genius

How is it that someone who has been considered one of the top assistant coaches in the nation for decades hasn't made the move to head coach somewhere?

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  • Paul Johnson: The Innovator
  • Bill Cowher: The People's Choice
  • Jim Donnan: Donnan is a Winner
  • Jimbo Fisher: Fisher Groomed For Success

    Norm Chow, a 60-year old native-Hawaiian, has been in coaching since 1970 when he started out as the head coach at Waialua High School in Hawaii.

    After three years as the head man at Waialua, Chow became a graduate assistant at Brigham Young. Much of Chow's praise comes from his work in more recent years, but it was at BYU that he established his reputation as an offensive mastermind.

    "It was at BYU that he established his reputation as an offensive mastermind."

    In 1982, after spending time coaching wide receivers and handling recruiting duties, LaVell Edwards promoted Chow to co-offensive coordinator. For almost 20 years Chow would occupy positions such as offensive coordinator, assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.

    He would coach some of the highest-scoring offenses in the nation. With Chow in Provo the Cougars had arguably the best quarterback play in the nation, year in and year out. The names are impressive – Gary Sheide, Gifford Neilson, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Robbie Bosco and Ty Detmer. Detmer won the 1990 Heisman Trophy, and BYU passers finished in the top five in the balloting an unbelievable eight times.

    NC State fans are most familiar with Chow because of his brief stint in Raleigh during the 2000 season. Philip Rivers was a freshman, Koren Robinson was still in town and Chow orchestrated an efficient offense all year. The Pack scored 32 points per game and scored more points than any NC State team since 1972.

    Chow bolted for Southern Cal the following year and had a lot to do with the Trojans' turnaround under Pete Carroll. In 2001 Chow's offense moved the ball but was still adjusting to a new system. The transition paid huge dividends. From 2002-2004 the Trojans would score more than 38 points per game, using a balanced attack. Chow continued to churn out excellent quarterbacks, with Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart each winning a Heisman Trophy. Chow was named the top assistant coach in the nation in 2002 and USC won at least a share of the national championship in both 2003 and 2004.

    "The Pack scored 32 points per game and scored more points than any NC State team since 1972."
    In 2005 Chow took on a new challenge, becoming the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans. Despite a lack of talent relative to other NFL franchises, in his first year Chow's offense ranked No. 9 in the league in passing and in the middle overall. This year he has helped groom rookie Vince Young, who is now 5-4 as a starter.

    What Makes Him A Viable Candidate: NC State fans remember the Philip Rivers' years. After two years of spotty quarterback play and offensive woes Chow would almost certainly improve production on that side of the ball. He has been a part of winning teams everywhere he has been, serving as offensive coordinator of three teams (once at BYU, twice at USC). He is respected as an ethical man who is among the best, if not the best, at what he does.

    Chow's success should help with recruiting. While some coordinators are brilliant X's and O's coaches, they lack in recruiting ability, and although Chow isn't known as a great recruiter he should be able to attract talent as a head coach. Chow served as recruiting coordinator at BYU and his style of play has been a big reason his teams have signed big-time talent throughout the years. While we aren't sure how he would fare bringing in talent at positions across the board, his record would speak for itself to offensive recruits. With a solid staff in place, recruiting shouldn't be a concern under Chow, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

    While he has not served as a head coach, he has been around the college game almost as long as anyone. He coached in the college ranks during four decades and his offense consistently adapted to keep defenses off balance.

    Why It Might Not Work Out: At 60 years old Chow might not be a long-term choice. He seems to love coaching and might be in this profession for another decade, but many coaches that age consider moving on to the next stage of their life.

    "Chow has not served as a head coach since the early 1970's, and that was at the high school level."
    Chow has not served as a head coach since the early 1970's, and that was at the high school level. That's tough to understand, as Chow has been widely regarded as one of the best offensive minds in the nation throughout his coaching career. Fowler may look at Chow as a career assistant, and it might be difficult to change gears so dramatically at 60 years old.

    Chow may not even be interested in being the head coach at NC State. He would get a salary increase, but he might know that he's a better offensive coordinator than head coach, and he could be looking for a position back out west. Some guys are just cut out for one and not the other. And who is to say Chow isn't perfectly happy in the NFL now, as the Titans have turned around their season?

    Pack Pride's Take: If offense is what Fowler is looking for Chow should be near the top of the list. Chow may be the best offensive mind in all of football, and it's very likely he would field high-scoring offenses even as a head coach.

    However, with so many younger candidates available (including many with head coaching experience), Chow is by no means a lock. He'll probably get a close look, and Fowler might try to get a read on the interest he would have in the job.

    Most NC State fans would certainly be happy if Chow was the next head coach of the Wolfpack.

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