Johnson/Chow update

Hey guys,

Sorry for the radio silence, but I was working on two non-UCLA related features/columns for the Daily News today that kept me out all day. I’ll have a column from this morning on the Dodgers tomorrow; if interested, check tomorrow.

Here’s where we’re at:

This morning,’s Tracy Pierson wrote that UCLA has come to an agreement with former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Johnson to take the same job with the Bruins.

As of now, UCLA is denying that a hire has been made, but sources have confirmed that that is the plan, and that the reason for the delay of the announcement was because of the uncertain future of Norm Chow.

Attempts to reach Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow have been unsuccessful. I spoke with Chow’s agent, who said that he hasn’t been advised of anything regarding Norm Chow by Rick Neuheisel or Dan Guerrero, nor spoken to them in quite some time.’s Tom Reinhardt is reporting that Chow will accept the offensive coordinator position at Utah, but I’ve also been told that San Diego State was interested in Chow as well.

I don’t think Chow got a fair shake at UCLA given what he’s had to work with, but I understand why a change was thought necessary. I really wouldn’t be surprised if Chow had success once more – particularly at San Diego State, where he’d be working with fantastic QB Ryan Lindley – but things clearly are not/were not working with Neuheisel.

Regarding Johnson, he is an established offensive coach who most recently took over as 49ers offensive coordinator midway through the season, with middling results. Johnson has had several stops on his relatively brief coaching career, including stints as quarterback coach for Michael Vick with the Atlanta Falcons from 2003-05 and with Oregon State in the late-90s.

Johnson is said to be a talented, energetic recruiter, something that UCLA sorely needs right now.

Once the hire is official, I’ll have more thoughts.

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  • David

    I so hope this is not true. The 49ers’ offense has been awful so UCLA hires him? WTF? So what if he has been in the NFL – I really doubt he has what it takes to turn around the Bruins quickly. Plus, so many NFL coaches that move down to the college level struggle to devise a successful playbook for college-level players. They tend to make things too complicated for college players. Not saying that Johnson would fall into this trap but I’m not confident that he won’t.

  • Tracy Pierson

    While Jon was out busy eating a sandwhich. I was out eating his lunch. Again. Mama Gold makes good kosher subs.

  • daggybruin

    Perhaps “Tracy” can go eat some humble pie and pay out some bucks for a “sub”-scription to Bruin Report Online, where the real Tracy reports. Jon’s blog, as far as we know, is free. Last I checked, you get what you paid for.

  • Ley

    Everybody (David) quit your whinning and sniveling!!! The hiring was made and done so lets back him up and hope for a REAL offense now!!! Chow was not producing!
    GO BRUINS!!! Now lets get a solid Defensive Coordinator!!

  • Anonymous

    My question is this……What exactly does an OC for the 49ers know about our PISTOL offense? What happened? All of a sudden Rick doesn’t believe in the PISTOL anymore? I’m sorry but I’m tired of his act. We need a real HC not necessarily a name. We deserve better and our team deserves better than this clown.

  • Mike in SJ

    Speaking as a Bruin fan who lives in the Bay Area and has to listen to 49ers fans whine on a daily basis, it’s not clear that you can judge Mike Johnson by what happened up here. He was jumped into the OC role when Mike Singletary fired the previous OC, and a lot of people believe that Singletary never let Johnson run his own show. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Rick now has someone he knows really well in the OC role, so so he has absolutely no excuses if the offense doesn’t improve next year. (By the way, the time to panic would be if Rick hired Mike Singletary as his OC.)

  • Anonymous

    Chow had success as offensive coordinator in any other schools but UCLA… maybe the problem is the head coach… just food for thought.

  • 74ucla


  • INawe

    Anon 6:40 – Mike Johnson has extensively studied/was groomed under numerous offensive philosophies including: West Coast Offense, Pistol Offense, Air-Coryell, Spread Offense, and The Spread Option (Which again, Mike Johnson heavily endorses from the Illinois college football program). Oh btw, he was the QB coach for the Atlanta Falcons for a little known QB named Michael Vick. Spread enough for you???

    How about you do some research before you spewing ignorant rants.

  • Anonymous

    @INawe… if Mike Johnson is so good, why is still bouncing around the teams and not being a HC?

  • Coach Thom

    Not every coordinator wants to be a HC, and some admit that they simply aren’t qualified to run the whole show. Wisdom is knowing your limitations and excelling within them.

  • INawe

    Oh Anon… now you are just trolling. Have fun trolling on your own.

  • The hiring was stated matter-of-factly on KNBR this afternoon up in the Bay Area. There was no speculation in how it was presented.

    As for the 49ers, I don’t think one can judge a half year interim coach based on the team’s performance. It’s pretty clear that the OC did not have complete reign on the style of play.

    With UCLA, things weren’t working…that’s life as a coach. Changes needed to be made whether it was Chow’s fault or not. I know Rick has the skills to pull us out of the dive, it’s just a matter of whether he does or not.

  • SpencerStueve

    Chris Foster wrote today that he believes that CRN will be calling the plays next year despite the hiring of Johnson. Anyone else know anything about this? If true, I love it. Ricks ass is on the hot seat. He might as well do everything he can to personally turn it around. He’s a great offensive mind. I can’t wait to see how this plays out.

  • Anonymous

    Terrible development; Chow was the glorious hire, and now Neu is dumping him? After all the drama of the past season, Chow’s firing is an admission that the Titanic is sinking.

    Neu’s just rearranging the chairs on-deck.

    (What an injustice to the players!)

  • Bruin Zealot

    I agree next year is make or break for CRN, if all this is true. Normally, I don’t like to call for coaches heads, but with this development, no more. No more gimmicky stuff, get the job done and no more post game apologetic speeches.

  • Are you kidding me?

    Great, we just hired an OC who has never been an OC for a full season before, and has done poor in the partial seasons as the OC. I wouldn’t expect anything less from UCLA.

  • tdbruin

    People here seem to think Norm Chow’s Resume is UCLA’s head coach.

  • BruinFaithful

    To all the critics:

    In 2005 Houston Nutt, while at Arkansas, hired a HS FB Coach by the name of Gus Malzahn. Imagine what the cirtics said back then? Any of you who know anything about FB, not many of you on here, will know what he was doing on Monday Night. I guess we can agree it was a home run hire. Can you imagine if Neu had hired a HS coach?

    My point is this, maybe you should take a wait and see approach,as I am. Many times Big name coaches don’t work out, and sometimes no name coaches are home runs, for various reasons. At some point, every talented no name coach needs a shot. By all accounts, Mike Johnson is a very talented recruiter and well versed in various offenses. He is also known to be an aggressive and innovative OC. Now, I ask ye of little faith, isn’t that what we need? What we have been clamoring for?

    Remember what it was like watching Cal’s offense this year? I mean, Tedford threw freaken EVERYTHING at us. He ran Pro, he ran the wildcat, he ran some spread, he ran some option, he ran some wishbone. I mean, he threw everything at us but the kitchen sink. And isn’t that what it’s about, keeping defenses on tilt?

    Now, I don’t know why Chow didn’t work out. But I am well aware of the product that was on the field. I know that our offense was very one dimensional and extremely inneffective. I know that Chow hated to recruit. I know that Randall Carroll tweeted last year that Chow didn’t trust the young talent we had on the team. I know that Chow while talented and intelligent is very stoic. I know that Chow didn’t do well in Tennessee and that before that Chetey Petey demoted him in favor of Kiffin. I also know that Chow not only hand picked the QBs we recruited, but also decided the depth chart.

    I’m not trying to put all the blame on Chow, but a change needed to be made. Only time will tell if it was the right change. Let’s see how Chow does at his new destination and how Johnson does at UCLA.

    Throughout the season there was a constant in terms of what we came on here and complained about, the QB’s, the Passing game, the inconsistent D, and the dropped passes by the WR’s. CRN has done his job to address those issues through change. Ultimately, CRN will be held accountable for these decisions. If anything, I will give CRN credit for not mailing it in, many coaches would have done so by now.

  • Ley

    Well put Bruin Faithful!!!
    If you put down ANONYMOUS you dont deserve to post.

  • Glass Ben

    As a Niners fan, I have had to watch crappy QBs get nowhere, despite the OC (considering there have been like 6 in the past 6 years). Now, not including Hundley, we have crappy QBs at UCLA in need of some real guidance. If Norm Chow, a renowned QB coach, could not help them, what will Johnson do? Don’t forget, he was the QB coach before he was OC, and Alex Smith, Troy Smith, and David Carr all sucked this season.

    People may rave about Michael Vick’s coach, but remember how undisciplined Vick was with the Falcons. He made some great plays, but also made some stupid plays.

    Hopefully, Johnson was over his head in the NFL and he can coach up college QBs (and if he’s a great recruiter, even better).

  • Glass Ben

    As a Niners fan, I have had to watch crappy QBs get nowhere, despite the OC (considering there have been like 6 in the past 6 years). Now, not including Hundley, we have crappy QBs at UCLA in need of some real guidance. If Norm Chow, a renowned QB coach, could not help them, what will Johnson do? Don’t forget, he was the QB coach before he was OC, and Alex Smith, Troy Smith, and David Carr all sucked this season.

    People may rave about Michael Vick’s coach, but remember how undisciplined Vick was with the Falcons. He made some great plays, but also made some stupid plays.

    Hopefully, Johnson was over his head in the NFL and he can coach up college QBs (and if he’s a great recruiter, even better).


    Jon, I love the blog and respect your work. However, the comment CNC didn’t get a fair shake is bogus.

    1 – Chow nearly got Prince’s head taken off last year against Tennessee with the designed rollout instead of running a play up the middle to kill time.

    2 – All the horrible playcalling on short yardage situations. How many 3rd and 1’s did we fail on.

    3 – The refusal to give RB a look earlier in the season.

  • The Wall is the Soul

    I am quite surprised that CRN hired this guy; I assumed that since she was the one who convinced Neuheisel to change the offense last season, that the job would automatically go to Mrs. Savage.

  • Anonymous

    I have no doubt that Norm Chow is a great offensive mind, and capable of doing great things in the circumstances that best suit his talents. I’m not sure that he has been willing to show the patience to nurture talent, especially when he isn’t fully committed. I remember during the fall season, when Kevin Prince was injured, there were comments in the media that, if they were correct, indicated that Coach Chow didn’t fully like or support Richard Brehaut as quarterback. It’s the job of the OC to nurture all the players on the team, even if they aren’t his first choice to play the position. I never felt that Richard Brehaut was given the tutelage that he needed to get better by Coach Chow. That’s not in the best interest of the team. I felt that Coach Chow expected his players to come up to his level, but wasn’t ready or able to help players to get there. That’s why I think we needed a new OC. That said, best of luck to Coach Chow in the future.

  • UB (Ultimate Bruin)

    This makes no sense . . .UNLESS

    There is no doubt that Chow is a great OC. There is no doubt that he has had pure sh!t to deal with insofar as talent goes. There is no doubt that a change needed to be made at DC because Chuck was grren and made poor in game adjustments. Chow made good adjustments that were poorly executed. He made good calls that resulted in picks, poorly thrown balls, dropped passes, fumbles, etc. You fire Chow and hire a nullo with a 6-7 record as an OC??? ETF??

    So, why not just fire Chuck and move on? Because there is more to this than just making a head roll. Rick knows that by firing the DC AND OC, he places himself directly on the hot seat. He is sending the message that he is in control of the program and not any coordinator. He is going to clean house and start again with new Coordinators and he will then accept the glory of pay the price.

    Rick, this is a BOLD move on your part. I hope that at the end of next season I will be giving you all the glory and not asking you to pay the price.

  • UB (Ultimate Bruin)

    Sorry for the typos! But you know what I meant to type! šŸ™‚

  • ley

    Look, even great teams go through reactional Coaching changes. For instance Texas (always in the top 5)OC stepped down after only one bad year (im sure he misses Colt and Vince, or Chow misses Reggie) and dont think players make the coach because they do. Does any one know the name of Boise’s OC or TCU’s. There are always young great offensive minds out there who just need a chance!!! If this guy is hired we support him as one of our own!

  • PV Bruin

    If UCLA really let Chow go…

    I’d like first thank you coach Chow for trying to turn UCLA program around.

    You are a great coach and you have proven it in your lengthy and successful resume.

    Wish you the best of the success in all your future endeavor.

    **please discard this message if you end up staying. UCLA needs you more than you need UCLA.

  • Anonymous

    Did Hundley enroll yet?

  • Reformed Droog

    Jesus, it’s only 10 posts below this one…

    Yes, Hundley is attending classes.

  • Blitzed

    That’s a shame. Norm’s a legend and never really got the kind of talent to do anything with. Meanwhile they hire a guy who ran an offense in San Fran that couldn’t score against a high school JV team? Put up or Shut up Ricky.

    How on Earth is this an upgrade?

  • UglyBruin

    I really don tlike this has played out. Kinda embrassing. Are we taking a pay from the Miami Dolphins HR book?????

  • Reformed Droog

    The way I see it, we bought a Ferrari, but couldn’t afford 91 octane gas. We hoped it could make do with 87, but, three years later, we’re not seeing the top performance some thought was guaranteed.

    Fine. Shit happens. But the fact of the matter is that we’re not going to be able to afford 91 octane for a while, nor do we have any in the tank. It’s all 87 and 89 in there.

    So, do we hold on to the Ferrari knowing that it’s not capable of flourishing with the gas it’s got? I mean, the hot girls (Media) stopped giving us handjobs long ago just because we’re driving last year’s Ferrari…

    …or do we admit that the Ferrari is just not a good fit for us, for the gas we have, and trade it in for a Civic – a car that loves 87 octane – and hope that we strike rice rocket riches? I mean, Jesus, have you seen some of those import models? The possible rewards seem to outweigh the risks.

    And maybe, just maybe, we’ll earn those polished shift knobs after all.

  • PV Bruin

    @Reformed Droog… good point… but can Civic with 91 octane run faster than a Ferrari with 87 octane?

    Besides, trading a Ferrari (no matter how old it is) for a Civic will always be consider a downgrade from recruiting stand point.

    The problem may lies on the driver? can we get a F-1 instead of a Go-Kart driver? …or instead a Civic, how about at least a Camaro SS?

  • Reformed Droog

    @PV Bruin – Time will tell if the Civic can perform. Anything else is conjecture. Can’t judge a guy fairly when he’s thrown into a position mid-season without time to prep things his way.

    Can we afford a Camaro? Why would someone established come to a position that is, for all intensive purposes, a 1 or 2 year gamble? That might be enticing if we were a Texas, Oklahoma, or Ohio State, but we’re not. Most guys would jump for an opportunity at Google, but how many want to risk it all for Blockbuster?

    Those issues notwithstanding, the fact still remains that the driver isn’t going anywhere just yet and we know exactly what we’re going to get with the Ferrari (and, fair or not, it’s not good enough).

  • PV Bruin

    @Reform Droog… another good point… well, lets wait and see… in the meantime, I leave my UCLA flag off my front yard pole until September…2013 maybe lol