EUGENE, OR - DECEMBER 02: Coach Mora, the guy with the ball is LaMichael James. He plays for Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
In 2000, Pete Carroll was not the first choice to become USC's head football coach. For those interested in who was, I suggest Google, it's not important here. Just know that Carroll was not a shoe-in for that job and had to impress USC's then-athletic director Mike Garrett. Garrett, in case you didn't know, was (I guess still is) a Heisman Trophy-winning running back who played at Southern Cal and later with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was (I guess, still is) a football guy.
Carroll to that point was an NFL coach (sound familiar) who had been with the San Francisco 49ers (sound familiar) as an assistant and had also had two relatively unsuccessful stints as a head coach (sound familiar) in the NFL.
When Carroll got his interview from Garrett, it was reported that he presented detailed game plans for how he would attack and defend USC's Pac 10 opponents. This supposedly blew Mike Garrett away. Even if that interview has evolved a bit mythically, Carroll clearly had been thinking about what he would do if he ever became USC's coach. He was prepared.
UCLA's new head coach Jim L. Mora -- whose resume today is eerily similar to Carroll's circa 2000 -- said today that he was looking forward to figuring out how to defend college offenses.From Gold's transcript:
"The other challenge will certainly be adapting to some of the unique offenses we have seen in college football that are different than you see in pro football. You see things out of Oregon and some other teams that you don't see in pro football. I'm excited about having the opportunity to learn how to defend those offenses. I've coached defensive football my entire life, I've coached on some outstanding defensive staffs, and I look forward to the challenge. I look forward to the newness of it."
Translation: He hasn't really thought about yet. He's looking forward to thinking about it. It's pretty clear he didn't present Dan Guerrero with a detailed plan on how he would attack and defend all of UCLA's Pac 12 opponents.
I'm not sure if this is a strike against Mora or not. It's definitely not encouraging that he doesn't really know how he's going to stop the offenses of Oregon's Chip Kelly, WSU's Mike Leach, Arizona's Rich Rodriguez, SC's Lane Kiffin and so on. It would have been much better if he'd said he spent his years out of coaching sketching game plans for collegiate spread offenses.
It is though, a strike against Guerrero and the coach search "process." Because, seriously, what good would it have done? How long would the conversation have lasted if L. Mora had offered to present his detailed game plans for Pac 12 opponents?
Think about that in a larger context. Would a law firm ever in a billion years let someone who was not a lawyer interview a lawyer to join or lead a law firm? Would a hospital hire a new surgeon without him or her being interviewed by doctors, querying them about how they would handle certain cases?
Basically, UCLA's athletic director basically made this hire by reading the resume (Coached football? Check!) and then assessed how L. Mora came off in the interview. There couldn't have been much discussion of how you would defend certain offenses or how you would attack certain defenses.
Naturally, a college athletic director who is responsible for 20 or so teams in a dozen or so different sports can't be expert in every sport. And, not every athletic director at a school with a successful football program is expert in football. I get that. But -- how many of these directors has demonstrated not once, but twice, that they can't hire a successful football coach. I would bet there isn't one AD on the job for less than a dozen years who has already fired and hired three football coaches. Who knows, maybe there is another, if there is, I don't know who it is.
What's bothering me, and maybe I speak for others, is not just that we hired a new head football coach whose on-paper resume reveals not much to recommend him for the job; a guy with no real college experience, who has never recruited a high school player, who has never game planned against a college offense, who was not particularly successful as a head football coach in the NFL. No, what's really bothering us is the process.
We tried to hire Chris Petersen and it didn't work out. No one should really label that as failure; others have tried to lure Petersen from Boise but clearly the man just likes Idaho. Fine. But if the head cheerleader turns you down for the senior prom, you don't immediately ask your cousin to be your date, especially if you have four million dollars to spend, I mean, your dad said you could drive his Porsche.
L. Mora was not mentioned as a contender for any other college job. There was no reason to hire him now, you could have hired him in a month. But, you could have spent that month trying to hire someone with some very basic qualities, such as experience coaching in college or maybe compiling a winning record in his prior coaching gigs or some experience game planning against college offenses. It simply seems inconceivable that there was no more qualified candidate willing to come to Los Angeles and coach at UCLA for 4 million bucks.
I hope my last point doesn't come as a surprise, but I really want L. Mora to succeed. I'm intrigued by the fact that he coaches defense and maybe he'll pick the lock on college offenses. I honestly would not be shocked if he did well, at the very least he appears to be a smart guy. But that doesn't change the fact that the process that brought him to UCLA was flawed and that the odds of him succeeding appear at this point longer than they needed to be.