Plot thickens with UCLA's Chow, Neuheisel

The odd and uncomfortable tango between UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow may be at an end.

It appears that Chow is out in Westwood, and San Francisco 49ers assistant Mike Johnson is in. Further, Chow is talking to Utah about a job, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

So, if you are keeping score, the problems with Chow came to a head when Neuheisel wanted to change to a pistol offense this season. Now Neuheisel is dumping Chow and going with an NFL coach who isn't a pistol guy either. Whither the pistol? And Chow may be headed back to the archrival of the school (BYU) where he built his reputation as an offensive guru, a program he left because he wasn't going to replace LaVell Edwards in 2000.

Moreover, Chow could end up at an incoming Pac-12 school that presently has two offensive co-coordinators. Complicated!

UCLA is at Utah on Nov. 12, by the way.

And, by the way take II, UCLA is confirming nothing. Calls to Chow and Neuheisel on Wednesday were not returned.

Johnson and Neuheisel worked together with the Baltimore Ravens, and Johnson was a backup quarterback at Arizona State in the mid-1980s before transferring. He's also coached at Oregon State.

Part of the complication here is money. As the Orange County Register notes, "Hiring Johnson could be expensive. Chow and Neuheisel agreed to two-year contract extension last summer that includes a payout worth about $1 million."

That leaves open the option, though it sounds uncomfortable to the point of unworkable, of Chow remaining on staff as the QB coach working under Johnson and Neuheisel.

Neuheisel also has to hire a new defensive coordinator, and two top candidates are likely off his list: Rocky Long, who was Brady Hoke's defensive coordinator at San Diego State this season, was promoted to Aztecs head coach after Hoke bolted for Michigan. Vic Fangio, Stanford's defensive coordinator this season, has a number of coaching options that appear more promising and lucrative than a job at UCLA.

Chow also may have some options at San Diego State with Long.

Neuheisel enters the 2011 season on the hot seat after producing a second 4-8 finish in three seasons. When he was hired in 2008, his coaching staff, with Chow and defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, was seen as a major coup for the program. As the L.A. Times said:

Chow was considered a coup for the Bruins when he was hired in 2008. UCLA immediately began selling Neuheisel, Chow and defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker as the trio that would bring an end to USC's dominance in football and make the Bruins a power. The three were introduced in a coming-out ceremony during a UCLA basketball game in January 2008.

Only Neuheisel remains, and the Bruins are 15-22 in his three seasons.

UCLA made little effort to retain Walker, who left to become the head coach at New Mexico State after the 2008 season. Chow became the focal point of frustration by some high-end boosters after the Bruins finished this past season by losing six of their last seven games.

Some more background from Jon Gold of the LA Daily News here.

At this point, it's fair to say this "super-staff" was pushed on Neuheisel when he was hired. Things didn't work out, and Neuheisel's own job security is now at stake. So Neuheisel is trying to put together a staff of his own making, one that he trusts. A bit late in the game? Maybe. Hard not to see desperation in the moves, but it also seems that Neuheisel has decided that if he goes down, he's going to go down swinging.

There is probably a lesson in here for head-coaching candidates in the future, don't you think?