Such upheaval rarely occurs with men who were not head coaches, but a case can be made that when offensive coordinator Norm Chow left USC to go to the NFL, the move sent some in and around the program reeling, and caused outsiders to predict the downfall of the two-time defending national champions.
After all, Chow had the type of profound and mystical impact on the USC offense that Phil Jackson brought to the Los Angeles Lakers (at least the first time around). Chow was a maharishi of offensive football who built a legion of devoted followers and left a trail of baffled foes. He didn’t just think out of the box, he thought out of the realm in which the box resides.
But as Albert Einstein once said, “Progress is impossible without change.” Of course, when Chow was allowed to depart for a job with the Tennessee Titans, no one was comparing athletic director Mike Garrett or head coach Pete Carroll with Einstein. Yet here are the Trojans, at 12-0, riding a 34-game winning streak, and one victory away from an unprecedented third straight national championship.
The guru is gone, but the wisdom remains.
The Trojans are second in the nation in scoring with a 50 point average. They’re fourth in rushing at 264.3 yards per game and fifth in passing at 316 yards per contest. And thanks to Reggie Bush, USC became the first school to produce back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners since Ohio State’s Archie Griffin won two in 1974 and ’75; before that, you’d have to go back to Army’s Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis in 1945 and ’46, respectively, to find two separate individuals.
Even though Chow was revered, that doesn’t mean he escaped criticism. His play-calling sometimes came under fire, although play-calling usually does when the plays don’t work. The major difference between the old regime and the new is in the perception of the running attack. Some at USC felt Chow didn’t stick to the run enough, although the Trojans still finished third in the Pacific 10 Conference in rushing last season, averaging just more than 177 yards per game. They passed for an average of 271 per game in 2004.
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