I’m knee deep in papers filled with statistics trying to figure out exactly what went wrong this year for the Seahawks when I get a text from a buddy telling me that Mora is gone. My first response is “No way!” That the response is in the tone of a kid that just opened the top of his Christmas List present should tell you how I feel about the news.
Jim Mora had a lot of things going for him coming in. He seems intelligent, is a local boy, grew up in football with his dad, went to the University of Washington, coached a playoff team in Atlanta and turned down a chance to coach UW to take the Seahawks job when Mike Holmgren was put in lame duck status in 2008.
I was high on Mora coming in, but by the end of the Chicago game, game three of the season, I was coming down hard. In his postgame press conference, Mora threw kicker Olindo Mare under the bus for the loss because he missed two of the six field goals he attempted. I had a problem with it then and it still bugs me. First of all, Mare made four of the six. Second, if your team is attempting six field goals in a game, don’t you think it would be better to be looking at why you weren’t scoring touchdowns instead of field goals?
As the season progressed, the scores got worse. I felt like the team quit on Mora during the Houston game on December 13th. The camera caught Mora raging at his defense while the players sat with their heads hanging. The body language was unmistakable.
After the game Mora claimed that the team hadn’t quit and they would continue to play as hard as possible. Getting manhandled 24-7 by a Tampa Bay team that only had one previous win showed fans that Mora was either full of shit or was watching a different team’s film. This team quit on Mora and it showed in the last weeks of the season.
Part of the problem was a complete lack of identity for the team. Mora came in preaching a run-oriented offense. He hired Greg Knapp, his former crony in Atlanta, to force feed the run game to a team that was still built in the Mike Holmgren West Coast Offense style. The run offense was putrid, managing only 1,566 total yards for the season, 265th in the NFL. The opponents gained 1,776 total yards against the Seahawks. Compare that with 2008 when Holmgren was a lame duck and the team had more injuries than I’ve had hot meals. Seattle gained 1768 total yards while opponents managed 1899. Focus on the run game?
The passing offense wasn’t any better. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck mentioned late in the season that he was still having trouble working through the playbook. Combine the confusion with a broken rib and it’s questionable what Hasselbeck was doing on the field at the end of the season. It must have been to run all the drive killing running back and wide receiver screen passes that Knapp seemed to love.
Statistics wise, the Seahawks gained 3,503 (15th) versus the opponents 3,927 (30th) through the air in 2009. In 2008, when the wide receivers were Billy McMullen, Koren Robinson and the peanut vendor, the Seahawks gained 2,617 versus 4,149 for the opponents.
Mora was asked repeatedly as the season spiraled down the drain why he wouldn’t replace Hasselbeck with Mike Teel, the rookie from Rutgers, for a look at whether he could be the future for the team. Mora would reply every time that not starting Hasselbeck was throwing in the towel on the season. Matt only has a couple more years left in him. The time to find a replacement is now. If that is going to be Teel, getting some real game time in blowouts is the best way to find out. Then future draft choices can be used on other positions. When the Packers were grooming Aaron Rogers to replace Brett Favre, that’s how they did it. You can’t simulate game situations well enough to tell, it has to be a game situation. Mora’s refusal to look to the future had to contribute to his demise.
I have to believe another contributor to Mora’s demise is his loyalty to his coaches. He purposely picked Knapp for his offensive coordinator. The absolute mess that Seattle’s offense devolved into must have put Knapp’s head on the block. I’m guessing here but it seems highly likely to me that Mora was asked to wield the axe and refused.
I think Mora just couldn’t see that this team was not progressing. After getting completely blown out in week 16 by the Packers 48-10, Mora stated in his press conference that he saw things they could build upon. Really, like what? Because what I saw was a team that rolled over and quit. I saw a game plan that couldn’t beat a high school team and a coach that was so far from reality he couldn’t get a reality show because no one would believe it was real.
Some have said you shouldn’t fire a coach after one year. I say you should when the it’s called for. I love Jim Zorn but do you think the Washington Redskins wish they had 2009 back without him at the helm? In three years as head coach in Atlanta, Mora’s record got worse every year. If the Seahawks already sit at 5-11 this year, how would 2010 look if Mora stayed?
In the end I am happy my Seahawks had the balls to make this move because I really didn’t think they would. I expected a long drawn out hunt for a new general manager that would agree to keep Mora. I expected the hunt to fail as the good candidates ran away. I could see Seattle finally getting a subpar GM and a 2010 season mired in mediocrity or worse. I felt real dread at the prospects for the future as Seattle bounced along the bottom of the league.
I don’t expect a complete rebound to the Super Bowl next year. Not yet anyway. What I do expect, what I feel again for the first time since week three, is hope for the future. I feel the franchise is back on the rails again, headed for competing with the Cardinals and 49ers next year for the NFC West championship rather than with the Rams for the cellar.
Yes Seahawks, you surprised me today. I was one step out the door on my team but dammit you got me back in the 12th Man fold again. It feels good to be home again.