A busy week in NFL coaching news has claimed another victim.
The Seahawks fired head coach Jim Mora on Friday after just one year on the job and are already making a move for a replacement. "We’ve made a tough decision today," Seahawks chief executive Tod Leiweke said. "It became apparent after conducting an extensive internal audit, that a new direction was needed to provide an opportunity for the organization to be successful."
Leiweke called Mora "truly a standup man, who gave his full effort to our franchise."
Who will take Mora’s place? USC head coach Pete Carroll has surfaced as a hot candidate. The Seahawks have offered Carroll a significant amount of money and he is absolutely interested, according to two people close to Carroll. The Los Angeles Times Web site is reporting that Carroll was offered a five-year contract at $7 million per year. However, Carroll was also interested in the Falcons job before they hired Mike Smith in 2008.
With news of Seattle’s pursuit of Carroll, minority candidates such as Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier are reluctant to interview for the job as they do not want to be used as simply a Rooney Rule candidate rather than a legitimate candidate.
A Seahawks spokesman inside the team’s headquarters Friday refused to comment on Carroll. Carroll did not return a phone message left by The AP.
Leiweke did not respond to an e-mail from The AP asking about Carroll, who was 6-10 in 1994 with the New York Jets and then 27-21 while twice reaching the playoffs from ’97-99 with the New England Patriots.
University of Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, who left his friend Carroll and the Trojans 12 months ago for his first head coaching job, chuckled when asked if he’d like to be a head coach in the same city as his mentor.
"That’d be kind of fun,” Sarkisian said.
Leiweke, acting on the orders of owner Paul Allen, fired Mora during a morning meeting at team headquarters, ending a four-week internal evaluation the CEO conducted of his floundering franchise.
Mora took over a 4-12 team, and this year’s squad was decimated by injuries and had to endure a general manager leaving during the year.
The Seahawks finished 5-11 this year, third place in the NFC West. They finished the year on a four-game losing streak during which they failed to score more than 13 points in any game.
"This team, more importantly this community, means so much to me that it hurts not being able to see this through," Mora said in a team statement. "I am disappointed I did not get the chance to complete my contract. This is a tough business that sometimes demands immediate gratification."
GM and president Tim Ruskell took the initial fall for the Seahawks’ flop when he was fired on Dec. 3. Leiweke noted then that Mora was steward of a rocky transition in 2009 from Mike Holmgren’s regime to one with a new offense, new defense and almost entirely new coaching staff.
Mora said "maybe I oversold" optimism before the season.
"It was harder than we thought," he said. Seattle has already called for permission to interview other assistants.
Mora previously coached the Falcons from 2004-2006 and was an assistant head coach with the Seahawks from 2007-2008 before taking over the head job.
Mora’s first season following Holmgren’s mostly glorious decade in Seattle was in sharp contrast to his rookie season as a head coach in Atlanta in 2004. That year, Mora took what had been a 5-11 Falcons team to the NFC championship game.
This time, the Seahawks’ injured and ineffective offensive line wrecked new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s running game – and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s health. The three-time Pro Bowl passer missed 2 1/2 games, then played through broken ribs, a sore passing shoulder and thumb injury, while throwing a career-high 17 interceptions.
The defense, under rookie coordinator Gus Bradley, failed to generate a consistent pass rush and the small secondary often looked overmatched.
The 48-year-old Mora, who grew up and attended high school and college in the Seattle area, returned in 2007 to become Holmgren’s assistant head coach and defensive backs coach with the Seahawks. He then replaced Holmgren, with the announcement coming in early 2008 a year before he took the job in what the team said was an effort to smooth the transition.
So much for smooth.
On Wednesday, Mora said he considered it a civic duty of his to bring the Seahawks their first championship.
"This is where I plan on living the rest of my life,” he said, "and I want to be able to walk around this city and feel proud of the work I did for the Seattle Seahawks.”
The news comes at the end of a week that has featured plenty of NFL coaching headlines. The Bills dismissed their entire coaching staff, the Redskins replaced Jim Zorn with Mike Shanahan and Charlie Weis became the Chiefs new offensive coordinator, to name a few. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.