The Tennessee Titans are pushing to complete a deal, perhaps today, with Norm Chow to lure him from the University of Southern California to be their offensive coordinator.
Titans Coach Jeff Fisher is a USC alum and is seeking a replacement for Mike Heimerdinger, who left the club to become the offensive coordinator of the New York Jets. The Titans offered Heimerdinger, whose contract was expiring, a deal worth about $800,000, but he accepted an offer from the Jets that apparently pays him approximately $1 million per season. The Titans appear willing to pay Chow about $900,000 annually. Chow met with Fisher on Friday in Nashville.
Chow's offensive wizardry has helped USC to the last two collegiate national championships. There has been persistent speculation about his relationship with USC Coach Pete Carroll being strained. Both men have denied that, but Chow has admitted his frustration over the years at being passed over for college head-coaching jobs.
Chow, 58, has been an assistant coach in the college ranks for 32 years. He spent one season at North Carolina State and four seasons at USC following 27 years at Brigham Young. He is best known for developing quarterbacks, and his list of pupils includes Steve Young, Jim McMahon, Ty Detmer, Marc Wilson, Robbie Bosco, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer and the Trojans' current Heisman Trophy winner, Matt Leinart. Leinart recently opted against entering the NFL draft in April to return to the school for his senior season.
If he takes the Tennessee job, Chow would become the mostly highly regarded offensive coach to attempt to make the jump from the college game to the NFL since Steve Spurrier left Florida to coach the Washington Redskins in the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
Coordinator Shuffle Winding Down
The widespread reshuffling of offensive coordinators is almost complete.
Three NFL teams remain in the market for an offensive coordinator -- Tennessee, New England and either Cleveland or Dallas, depending upon whether the Browns complete the hiring of Cowboys offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon.
Ten clubs already have hired new offensive coordinators -- Baltimore, Arizona, Chicago, Detroit, Jacksonville, Miami, San Francisco, New Orleans, Minnesota and the Jets. Offensive coordinators, not head coaches, were the most popular fall guys this offseason, in which only three teams have changed head coaches.
Of the 10 newly hired coordinators, four were offensive coordinators with other NFL teams this season. Heimerdinger went from the Titans to the Jets. Scott Linehan went from the Vikings to the Dolphins. Mike McCarthy moved from the Saints to the 49ers, and Ted Tollner went from the 49ers to the Lions.
Three teams promoted from within -- the Ravens with offensive consultant Jim Fassel, the Saints with quarterbacks coach Mike Sheppard and the Vikings with offensive line coach Steve Loney.
The Cardinals hired Kansas City Chiefs tight ends coach Keith Rowen. And two teams looked to the college ranks, with the Bears hiring former University of Illinois head coach Ron Turner (who had a previous stint as Chicago's offensive coordinator) and the Jaguars going with USC quarterbacks coach Carl Smith.
The Browns appear primed to hire Carthon now that they have completed a contract with Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to be their head coach. If Carthon goes to Cleveland, that would leave 14 of the 32 NFL teams with new offensive coordinators next season.
Dallas has a strong internal candidate in Sean Payton, the Cowboys' assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach who nearly was hired as a head coach in Oakland last winter before his contract negotiations with Raiders owner Al Davis unraveled. The titles might not matter so much in Dallas, though. Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells has been the club's offensive play-caller the past two seasons.
Patriots Coach Bill Belichick has known since December that he would need a new offensive coordinator. That's when his current offensive boss, Charlie Weis, accepted the head-coaching job at Notre Dame. But Belichick couldn't focus on the matter until this week, beginning after Sunday's Super Bowl triumph over the Philadelphia Eagles. Tight ends coach Jeff Davidson and quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels are regarded as top internal candidates to replace Weis. Davidson served as the team's offensive play-caller when Weis missed time during the 2002 preseason following nearly fatal stomach surgery.
Crennel Agrees To Five-Year Deal
Crennel agreed to a five-year contract with the Browns today and is to be officially introduced as their new head coach at a news conference this afternoon. The deal apparently is worth about $2 million per season. Crennels agent, Joe Linta, spent Monday at the Browns headquarters in Berea, Ohio, working out the details of the contract with team president John Collins.
Alliance Lauds Progress
Crennel becomes the league's sixth African-American head coach. Four of the six -- Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, Arizona's Dennis Green, Chicago's Lovie Smith and Crennel -- have gotten their jobs during the three hiring cycles since the "Rooney Rule" was enacted by acclamation of the NFL's team owners under the threat of litigation.
The rule -- named unofficially for Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, the chairman of the league's workplace diversity committee -- requires each team with a head-coaching vacancy to interview at least one minority candidate.
Crennel's hiring in Cleveland came on the heels of the late Fritz Pollard, the league's first African-American coach in the 1920s, being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, and the Eagles' Donovan McNabb becoming the third black quarterback to start a Super Bowl on Sunday.
The leaders of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the group formed a few years ago to promote minority hiring at all levels of the league, said in a written statement that "this weekend marks a momentous time for fairness, equality and diversity in the National Football League."
Harry Carson, the executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, and John Wooten, the group's chairman, said in a joint statement: "We applaud the Hall of Fame selection committee, we applaud the Eagles and Patriots for Super Bowl seasons, and we applaud the Cleveland Browns."
Carson and Wooten made reference to the comments made about McNabb during the 2003 season by Rush Limbaugh on ESPN, saying: "We will be forever proud of him for gracefully and thoughtfully handling racially motivated comments directed at him by an infamous talk radio host. . . . McNabb represents the best of the NFL."
Limbaugh resigned under pressure at ESPN after generating controversy by saying on the air that the media wanted a black quarterback to succeed and gave McNabb too much credit for the Eagles' success. Limbaugh later said that his remarks were meant more as a critique of the media than of McNabb.
Rooney and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue have said they don't favor extending the minority-interviewing rule to apply to teams hiring for key front-office positions, like club president or general manager. The Fritz Pollard Alliance pushed last season for such a broadening of the rule, but since then has been willing to take a wait-and-see approach after receiving assurances from the league that it would push for minority candidates to be considered for such jobs. In its statement, the group said that "the rule has also helped create a change of culture impacting all levels of the NFL [in] coaching, scouting and front-office positions."