At about this time in 2006, I lamented the absence of Norm Chow and expressed my belief that USC was worse off without Chow. I had hope after the Nebraska game that USC might finally be learning to fill the void, but the 2007 season since then has killed that hope. This column by Jon Wilner makes many of the same points I made in 2005 to argue that USC has not adequately replaced Chow's skill sets:
USC should not be scoring 23 points against Stanford, 20 against Arizona and 17 against Oregon. It should not be committing 10 turnovers in those three games (the Trojans are last in the league in turnover margin). There’s too much talent, way, way too much talent on the USC side of the ball. And those other teams, Arizona, Oregon and Stanford — they aren’t very good defensively (fifth, seventh and ninth in the Pac-10, respectively).
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In Year One A.N. (After Norm), the Trojans had arguably the best array of offensive talent in Pac-10 history, and there have been some pretty good offenses in this league:
A Heisman-winning quarterback, the best tailback of his generation, another tailback who scored 26 touchdowns, plus two NFL receivers and three first-team all-league linemen. The Trojans averaged 49 points and almost 600 yards per game and play-callers Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin looked like they were little Norm Jrs. But you didn’t need to be an offensive mastermind to Get the ball to Reggie.
The past two years, the Trojans have gotten progressively sloppier, more predictable and far less effective. Some of the decline has to do with personnel, but not all of it — not even close to all of it.
[. . .]
Chow would never run when everyone knew a run was coming, he’d never call all those swing passes and bubble screens, all those quick outs that are easy to see coming and even easier to defend. He’d be throwing downfield – and doing it effectively.
I believe that Steve Sarkisian is a smart coach, and I believe that he will learn from his mistakes, but he is relatively inexperienced and it is hard to not think of what might have been had Pete Carroll conducted a nation-wide search to find a replacement for Chow. I hope that promoting first Lane Kiffin and now Sarkisian to Chow's former position pays off in the long run for USC, but the USC football program should not be in the business of providing on-the-job training!