How much of life comes down to timing?
Too soon? You’re not ready. Lacking the seasoning and wisdom of life to truly take advantage of the opportunity.
Too late? The opportunity is missed. Your best and most productive days behind you.
Norm Chow waited until he was 67 years old and had spent 38 years as an assistant before becoming a head football coach at the collegiate level
Chow first established himself as an offensive guru at BYU in the 80’s. His time in Provo included BYU’s only national title and saw him tutor Ty Detmer to a Heisman trophy in 1990. After being passed over for the head job at BYU upon LaVell Edwards’ retirement, Chow spent a year at NC State before enjoying maybe his most successful tenure as offensive coordinator for Pete Carroll’s USC Trojans.
At USC, along with winning a ton of games, Chow again worked his wizardry turning Carson Palmer from talented malcontent into Heisman winner. And then did more of the same with Matt Leinart.
In 2005, Chow moved to the NFL for the first time running the offense for Jeff Fischer and the Tennessee Titans. Never quite able to translate his success to the professional level, Chow returned to the college game at UCLA in 2008, spending three seasons with the Bruins and another at Utah before finally taking the head job at Hawaii.
When Chow brings his Hawaii team into Ohio Stadium on Saturday, he does so at a critical time for both himself as well as the program. The Rainbow Warriors have not been able to sustain the miracle success of June Jones that once landed them in a Sugar bowl. Budget issues have stretched the program’s already limited resources thin and wins, last week’s victory over Colorado notwithstanding, have been hard to come by.
Assuming Chow can’t get things turned around for the Rainbow Warriors, or simply runs out of time, the question becomes what exactly is his legacy?
Is he a brilliant offensive mind and molder of quarterbacks or is he a career assistant coach, never quite strong enough to run his own program?
The answer is likely somewhere in the middle, however that probably has more to do with timing than actual coaching ability as it so often does in this profession.
Ohio State has seen this and will see it again. In 2011, Luke Fickell wasn’t quite ready to head a program the stature of Ohio State. That’s OK -- his time will come again just as it will for Chris Ash, Ed Warriner, Zach Smith, etc.
Their decision on when and what opportunity to take will define careers. But just as key is the understanding of when an opportunity has run it’s course.
Urban Meyer understood this when he walked away from Florida due to family and health concerns. Pete Carroll turned his back on USC and headed to the NFL before sanctions ravaged his program. Nick Saban moves on, well, whenever he feels like it.
Stay too long in one place and the danger of complacency and regression grow. Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno, and unfortunately, Woody Hayes, learned this lesson the hard way.
That decision looms large for Chow. Finding a way for a miracle win over the Buckeyes on Saturday would put any legacy and job concerns to rest.
Prepare your resumé
The race to follow Tim Beckman and be the second football coach fired this season picked up steam in our first week of actual games.
Mike Leach, Washington State - The pirate era just hasn’t been able to get going and build any momentum in Pullman. Losing to Portland State as a 30+ point favorite will never be acceptable, especially when expectations were growing with this year's team. And while contract and AD issues might keep Leach employed for now, things need to turn around quickly for the Cougars.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt - Mason is only in his second year with the Commodores and has a solid pedigree, but with just three wins last year and a week one loss to Western Kentucky, it’s not exactly trending well. A brutal SEC slate awaits, and while his defense looked feisty, that offense is brutal.
James Franklin, Penn State - For a guy who landed with such great fanfare and built significant recruiting momentum, Franklin’s on-the-field product is that much more disappointing to the Penn State faithful. If he can’t solve the o-line issues and figure out why is quarterback is getting worse, it's going to be ugly for him, sanctions or not. Already, some are starting to question how good a coach he actually his. This isn't a *hot* seat, but losing to Temple is a great way to make anybody uncomfortable.
Paul Haynes, Kent State - The former Ohio State assistant isn’t dealing mega expectations with the Golden Flashes, but their showing against an Illinois team in the midst of their own coaching disaster won’t help matters. Haynes’ team looked at a significant talent disadvantage that won’t quickly be solved. Given the potential for Illinois to have just fallen apart in that game, having lost their coach just a week earlier, the Golden Flashes expected to be much more competitive. With Minnesota, Marshall and Toledo still on this schedule, it's hard to find too many wins. And then what?
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan - You’ve gotta win games. How long can TTUN let this continue?