First things first, I will support our student-athletes every day of the week. This isn't on them. I will root for Coach Mora to succeed. I understand his desire to take the job and compete. Also, if someone offered me $12 mil for a job, even if I knew I couldn't do it well, I'd still sign and and make sure I bring in the best assistants in the world to make it work. Plus, I'm sure Mora really believes he can succeed. So this isn't on him.
This is all on clueless bumbling incompetent Chianti Dan Guerrerror.
As a passionate and admittedly biased fan base, we have hurled a lot of venom at Chianti lately, and deservedly so. We're all angry about what was a short-sighted, unimaginative, and typically conservative hiring process. But it isn't just the U.C.L.A. fan base that is befuddled by this hire. Impartial sportswriters around the country, who have no horse in the race and aren't emotionally involved in the process, are equally confused. And there are plenty of examples. After the jump ...
The Bruins are living in the past, and not the recent past: U.C.L.A.'s mindset is trapped in 2003, when everyone - not just the Bruins - was looking for the next Pete Carroll, an N.F.L. coach with a golden touch for the college game. Unfortunately, it's no longer 2003. It's no longer than 2005, 2007 or 2009. It's 2011, and in hiring Jim Mora as Rick Neuheisel's placement, U.C.L.A.'s football program shows how far behind the curve it really is.
Only U.C.L.A. would hire a coach 27 years removed from a single season spent on the college ranks: Mora has three more years of college playing experience than college coaching experience. That was in 1984, when a fresh-faced Mora went straight from the Washington secondary - he was a solid defensive back for the Huskies - to the Washington sidelines.
It's obvious to a writer across the country that our athletics program is run by someone so apathetic and ill-prepared.
I suppose there was no other way this disastrous coaching search could end. U.C.L.A.'s search started strong, with an offer going out to Chris Petersen and inquiries towards Al Golden, but ended with an unbelievable whimper. Or a shrug, as it's clear that athletic director Dan Guerrero did little homework in his search and cares even less about the future of this football program.
The nationwide perception is that Guerrerror is clueless to make such an important decision as hiring a head football coach and that he had no Plan B after his initial efforts fell through.
These concerns are echoed by Coaches Hot Seat Blog:
....which leads us to the inescapable conclusion that the folks running UCLA athletics don't have a clue what the Hell they are doing at least when it comes to hiring football coaches.
There [are] at least 100 head and assistant coaches in the game of college football that are more importantly coaching in college football RIGHT NOW that we would have hired before we ever got to Jim Mora and that assumes that Jim Mora would have ever been on any list we would have ever drawn up for the head coaching job at UCLA and the FACT is Mora's name would have never been on that list.
Never mind that before the season even began, Bruins Nation discussed in a post (which was partly criticized as being premature and disrespectful) the need to have list of names to succeed Neuheisel should it become necessary. Names like Leach, Meyer, Petersen, Patterson, Malzahn, Mullen and others came up frequently. If Bruins Nation could do that, why couldn't our $700K athletic director? [/rhetorical question]
...how in the Hell can anyone possibly hire that coach for a head coaching position especially at a school like UCLA that needed the Best Damn Coach they could hire at this very critical moment in UCLA football history?
...but the folks at UCLA didn't bother talking to any of those 100 Legitimate Head and Assistant Coaches once they got past their reported initial "dream list" of Petersen, Golden and Sumlin.
Unfortunately for our new coach and for us, Mora is already on the Coaches Hot Seat Blog's radar, ensuring that U.C.L.A. will remain one of their national punching bags going forward.
SB Nation did a profile and ranking of the recent coaching hires with (sorry '66) Mike Leach and WSU at Number One, followed by Urban Meyer, RIchRod, Larry Fedora, and so on. Down near the bottom, next to last, is Jim Mora
This seems like a transparent attempt by UCLA to find their own Pete Carroll, a long-time NFL guy who failed as an NFL coach but has loads of experience and charisma. It worked out quite well for Carroll at USC (sans the NCAA sanctions, ahem), and perhaps the UCLA administration is correct in assessing that charisma comes before resume when it comes to succeeding in Southern California. Still, Carroll is the exception to the rule when it comes to the often difficult pro-to-college jump.
There is a major leap of faith involved with this hire. Mora has certainly paid his dues -- he has been coaching since 1984, when he was a graduate assistant on Washington's 11-1 Orange Bowl squad. Starting in 1985, however, all of his experience has come at the pro level, and his career record as NFL head coach is just 31-33. This was a shot in the dark, and while this type of hire does sometimes work, it goes without saying that it usually doesn't.
Is there a Bruin alive that wants to take "a major leap of faith" with Dan Guerrerror? It's is more like the proverbial jump off the Empire State Building your parents warned you about.
John Wilner who writes for the San Jose Mercury News, and blogs on the College Hotline explains that the Mora hiring is less important than the ongoing failures by the administration to support football.
Whether he's successful or not depends as much on the university's commitment to football as it does on Mora himself. If the school does not increase the salary pool for assistants ... if it doesn't improve the facilities, including the 80-yard practice field next to Pauley ... if there isn't a real push from the upper reaches of the administration to make football a priority (and this includes admissions) ... then nobody will win consistently in Westwood.
UCLA is, always and quite naturally, compared to USC. But in my opinion, the more accurate comparison right now is to Stanford. In 2006-07, the Cardinal had experienced one of the worst football stretches in school history and was at risk of permanent irrelevance due to a lack of commitment by the university. But the hiring of AD Bob Bowlsby ushered in a new era, with the school making an unprecedented commitment to the football program in the form of salaries and housing for assistants, recruiting budget and manpower, even a change in philosophy in the admissions office. Those infrastructure upgrades - the renovated stadium was a separate, earlier development - worked in unison with the hiring of Jim Harbaugh to lift Stanford out of the dark era. UCLA must do the same, or it won't matter who's doing the coaching.
Wilner also hits on the recent administrative fiasco when players were denied stipends and the likely consequences of that snafu.
Far worse, potentially, than hiring your fourth choice is the perception that you are denying players their food money. The situation...will no doubt be used against UCLA in recruiting and fuels the appearance that Bruin football is a mess.
Coaches By The Numbers weighed in. You may recall recent posts by Achilles that discussed CBTN's objective measures for stratifying coaching candidates, and slotting those who have the necessary tools and experience to be successful against those who interview well or just seem like they would make good coaches. Guerrero wasn't reading.
Here is what UCLA Dan Guerrero had to say when introducing Jim Mora, Jr. as the Bruins' next head coach:
"He has been a head coach at the game's highest level and has clearly demonstrated to me that he is hungry and eager to return to the sidelines."
What do you notice about the above? You should notice that Dan Guerrero doesn't read coachesbythenumbers.com. If he did, he would have read our article on NFL-Guys and noticed that coaches reared as NFL coaches have extremely limited success at the college level.
Of the top 50 active head coaches in our system since 2001 with a minimum of three years experience as a head coach, only three could be said to have significant NFL experience (Bo Pelini, Pat Hill, and Dennis Erickson), and two of these coaches were just recently fired. Also, how in the world does being "hungry and eager to return to the sidelines" qualify anyone to be a head coach? Here's a good rule of thumb for AD's to live by: if a coach is more eager for your job than you are to hire him for it, move on to the next candidate.
...hope and luck aren't ingredients for making consistently successful decisions. As we have talked about a lot on this site, when you are playing Blackjack and you hit on 18 and happen to draw a three, you didn't make a good decision (unless you can count cards like Rain Man); you were simply lucky. Eventually, making bad decisions (like hitting on 18) will cost you.
Coaches By The Numbers then graded U.C.L.A.'s hiring process as a D (note: that's for the process, not Mora himself). That's a D, as in Dan.
The NFL and college football are two especially different games, as making the transition from pro to college or college to pro isn't exactly the easiest maneuver.
The other big issue with Mora is that he was quite unsuccessful as an NFL coach.
Make no mistake about it, Mora is quite the football mind and perhaps thinks he will be especially more successful in the college game. It is the numbers and his time away from college football that will make it a difficult task for the former NFL coach to succeed with the Bruins.
Add these thoughts to the post by Achilles yesterday which highlighted a similar report that went out of its way to blast our school for the administration of its football program, and you see the sort of image that the nation's writers and bloggers have of Chianti's decision making process.
As I said up top, this isn't about our student-athletes and it isn't about Mora. This is all about Guerrerror. We certainly realize that Chancellor Block has little interest in U.C.L.A. Athletics, but he has to have interest in U.C.L.A.'s image across the country. And Guerrerror is smearing that image every day.
Call the Chancellor's Office at 1 310 825-2151 and make his job easy for him. Get rid of Chianti Guerrerror, and give this football program a chance to compete in the 21st century.