The Tennessee Titans fired offensive coordinator Norm Chow was fired after three seasons in the position Tuesday.
There also appears to be a possibility that Mike Heimerdinger, who preceded Chow, could be among potential candidates to replace him.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher issued a statement on Tuesday regarding Chow’s ouster, saying the team has decided to go in a different direction, as whispers of potential issues between Chow and Vince Young surfaced.
“Over the last week, we have done a lot of self-evaluation, and I think we still have work ahead of us to reach our ultimate goal,” Fisher said in the statement. “I have informed Norm that he will not be retained as our offensive coordinator. I appreciate all of the hard work and contributions he made to the organization during his time here, but I have decided to go in a different direction and will start the process of finding a new offensive coordinator. We wish Norm and his family the best in their future endeavors.”
Speculation on Tuesday was that Heimerdinger might be a candidate, but Tennessee would have to get permission to interview him from the Denver Broncos, where he is assistant head coach. Heimerdinger held the position from 2000-04 with the Titans and had success in turning Steve McNair into an MVP while improving Tennessee’s passing attack with a timing offense.
Heimerdinger was reached by The City Paper while on vacation Tuesday and said, “I’m under contract, so I can’t comment. I have no idea if anything has been done [regarding permission by the Titans] or not.”
According to a source, a decision on Chow’s fate may have been reached as early as late last week, but Chow apparently not notified until Tuesday when he was back in his off-season home of Los Angeles, where his wife still lives.
Chow, 61, was hired in part because the Titans were nearing the end of McNair’s run when he came on board in 2005, and they were set to draft a young quarterback to take his place. Tennessee then took Young with the third overall pick in 2006.
Chow had groomed such standout quarterbacks as Steve Young, Jim McMahon, Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers in 30-plus seasons on the college level.
Young had won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2006, but regressed in 2007, throwing just nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions in the regular season. Though there were few visible signs of a rift, there were rumors of differences between the two that emerged this season.
After a home loss to Jacksonville, Young said he said he didn’t know “if the guys don’t trust me” and comments attributed to Chow on the Titans’ Sunday Night Football appearance at Indianapolis on NBC, saying Young was a “pouter.”
A league source indicated that Chow was unhappy with Young’s preparation, maturity and commitment to the team’s off-season program last year as far as learning the playbook and becoming proficient in the terminology of the offense.
Last week, on WGFX-FM 104.5’s “The Wakeup Zone,” after the Titans’ playoff loss at San Diego, veteran center Kevin Mawae said Young needed to be more well versed in the offense and have a better overall knowledge of the scheme and personnel groupings in the huddle.
The Titans finished 27th overall in offense this season. Tennessee’s red zone offense efficiency was last in the NFL this past season and the team’s nine touchdown passes was also the lowest figure for any team in the NFL.
Running backs coach Sherman Smith, who is also an assistant head coach on offense, was sorry to see Chow leave.
“It was a great pleasure to work with Norm to see why he was successful in college ranks,” Smith said. “He was definitely very innovative. The thing I loved about him was that he relied on his assistant coaches input. He respected your opinion, and I think he was a great guy to work for.”
Among the in-house candidates who could get an interview are quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson, with whom Young has a strong relationship, as well as offensive line coach Mike Munchak.
Recently fired Miami Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron is also an intriguing name currently available.
Whoever the next offensive coordinator is, it will be his charge to help mold Young into a standout quarterback.
“We need to bring someone in that can help our quarterback develop. Who can help Vince Young become all that we want him to become and all he wants him to become?” Smith said.
As for Chow, he will likely land back in the college ranks. His wife and family remained in Los Angeles, while he was in Nashville, and new UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel has publicly said he would like to have Chow as his offensive coordinator.
Efforts to reach Chow were unsuccessful on Tuesday.
SCHWARTZ UPDATE: Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz apparently is not a front burner candidate now for any of three openings he has interviewed for. The Atlanta Falcons have turned their attention to Jason Garrett and Rex Ryan.
Gregg Williams is the favorite in Washington, while Tony Sparano is the leading possibility in Miami.
In Baltimore, where Schwartz has not interviewed, Garrett is believed to be the front-runner.