Chow may have a choice of jobs

Times Staff Writer

As offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans, Norm Chow spends his life studying openings in opposing defenses.

Now, some schools with openings are studying Chow.

Stanford, Arizona State and North Carolina State are all reportedly considering Chow for their head-coaching vacancies, in part because of the success he had as Pete Carroll's top assistant at USC.

It was Chow who coached quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart to Heisman Trophies. He now devotes his waking hours to drawing up plays for rookie quarterback Vince Young, whose Titans are fresh off a stunning upset of the Indianapolis Colts.

"I'm glad with the job I've got," Chow said Tuesday. "I've got my hands full with that."

But those close to Chow, 60, said he would give serious consideration to competitive offers, especially ones allowing him to become a head coach for the first time in his career. And, although Chow declined to comment on whether any schools have contacted him, he acknowledged interest.

"This job is totally consuming, so it's always flattering to hear your name tossed around," he said. "We'll see what happens."

Titans Coach Jeff Fisher said Tuesday that he expects colleges to court Chow, especially considering his role in the development of Young.

"It's going to happen, and Norm's not the first assistant we've had on our staff to go through that," he said. "What he's been able to do here has added value to him, and I'm happy for him."

Chow has a prior connection to each of the three schools where he's believed to be a candidate. He was an assistant coach at North Carolina State, where he coached current San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers in his freshman season. And the athletic director at Arizona State is Lisa Love, who worked at USC when Chow coached there.

And before Stanford hired Walt Harris, Chow was among the leading candidates for that job. In fact, at the time, that school led him to believe he was the first choice for the job and that an offer was imminent. Stanford instead hired Harris, who coached there for two years before he was fired after a recently completed 1-11 season. Bob Bowlsby, Stanford's new athletic director, hopes to hire a coach within two weeks.

There is no indication that any of the schools have focused solely on Chow. The Portland Oregonian, citing a source close to the process, reported that Idaho Coach Dennis Erickson was in talks with ASU officials about the job that came open when Dirk Koetter was fired. Erickson denied it. And Navy's Paul Johnson reportedly is a front-runner for the North Carolina State job.

Another coach reportedly being considered for various openings is DeWayne Walker, UCLA's defensive coordinator, who helped engineer the Bruins' 13-9 upset of USC.

Not surprisingly, the interest in Chow has coincided with the dramatic improvement of the Titans, who got off to an 0-5 start. Since, however, they've won five of seven games, including consecutive victories over Philadelphia, the New York Giants and Indianapolis in the last three weeks.

Young, who became the starter in Week 4, is as dangerous a runner as Atlanta's Michael Vick, and the Titans' rushing numbers have improved in the last eight games, from 70.3 yards a game to 158.6. Chow and Young also have Tennessee operating more efficiently; the team is averaging 1.3 turnovers in the last eight games compared to 2.8 in the first four.

Young's emergence as a top-notch quarterback is a startling development considering many thought his skills might never translate from college to the pros. There was also widespread speculation that Chow would have preferred to use the No. 3 pick on Leinart, who said at the draft that his former offensive coordinator "was doing everything he could to get me."

Among Chow's strengths is his ability to install a player-friendly offense that makes complicated concepts simple. That, Fisher said, has helped bring along lots of players quickly, among them Young.

"A lot of people make the comparison between Vince Young and the future Hall of Fame quarterback we used to have here, the one who led us to the Super Bowl," Fisher said, referring to Steve McNair, who now plays for Baltimore. "It didn't set in for Steve until his third year, and Vince picked it up in Week 4.

"The difference is Steve is playing under Coach Chow. Had Steve McNair played under Coach Chow, I'm convinced it would have happened much sooner for him too."

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