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Spaulding Roundup: Rushing Into Mediocrity With Mora?

I suppose the headline is a bit misleading, as anyone that has followed the UCLA Football program over the past decade or more can tell you that under the directorship and coaching hires of Chianti Dan Guerrero, mediocre is the right way to describe the program's present status. After failing in his last two coaching hires, the case for Wholesale Regime Change in Westwood should be clear. Nevertheless, Chianti Dan is being given a 3rd shot at getting the football program on track. The past week has again shown the level of competence present with Morgan Center, misjudging the probability of Chris Petersen and family making the move to LA, while other leading coaches began to leave the market.

With names such as Leach and Fedora gone, and others such as Golden, and even Sumlin turning down the job, Chianti Dan has started hitting up the retreads and washouts. While Mike Belotti had been the leading retread candidate, a new contender has entered that less-than-distinguished field. Jim Mora Jr, former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks coach and lifetime NFL assistant. Even worse is the appearance that Chianti Dan is pursuing these fallback coaches now, when there is little competition for their services and nothing else that would prevent them from being candidates later on, if other more promising candidates fall through. Odysseus and tasser began to lay out the case against Mora yesterday, but it is hard to stop when an incompetent administrator is said to be looking to bring a guy with this history into Westwood to lead the football program.

At the time of Jim Mora Jr's firing in Seattle, one of the bloggers at 'The 12th Man' laid out 10 reasons why Mora was fired after 1 year on the job. Some of his reasons should sound familiar to a UCLA fan of recent vintage.

Don’t forget, the Seahawks WERE 5-11.

After a miserable season in the National Football League, no one’s job is secure. In a "what have you done for me lately?" environment, this decision shouldn’t have shocked any of us. An undefeated preseason isn’t enough to keep a coaching gig in the NFL.

And it didn’t look like things were going to get any better.

The Seahawks didn’t improve at all, and most of the season was an absolute failure. After watching the Seahawks get outscored 123-37 during the last four games of the season, the 12th Man was left pretty hopeless moving forward.

A bad record AND players that did not get better as the season progressed? When can he sign?

Veteran loyalty is overrated.

I understand that being loyal to your experienced players is important, but what if your veterans are noticeably inferior options? Why did Julius Jones continue to receive carries instead of Justin Forsett? Several players were overused while more youthful and capable players waited on the sidelines. Sometimes this was frustrating to witness.

Favoring the veterans that are not getting the job done over younger, more talented athletes? Where have we heard that before?

The inmates were running the asylum.

As the season came to an end, it appeared as if the players had lost respect for the coaching staff. There was an obvious rift between coaches and players. You know it was getting bad when some of the players began to question the plays being called on the field. I mean, come on; could you even imagine T.J. Houshmandzadeh pouting on the sidelines and/or yelling into the face of Mike Holmgren?

No presence on the sidelines.

Did you ever watch Mora wander around on the sidelines? He looked like a small child lost in public. With his arms folded, he quietly gazed into nowhere wondering why his team was down by two scores in the first quarter. The only time Mora ever showed any real emotion was when the referees made a questionable call – then the pouting began.

There certainly is a difference in the power dynamic between players and coaches in the NFL, but there is still a basic respect that players tend to have for the coaching staff. Having come from someone who closely follows the Seahawks, Mora lost that respect. And as for Mora's sideline presence, I am not convinced that Karl Dorrell 2.0 is the approach that the team needs on game day. Heck, the Seattle blogger's take on the firing makes Mora's time in Seattle look like a cross between Rick Neuheisel and Karl Dorrell. Not what the program needs to get over the state that those 2 coaches left the program in.

Head Coaches often have one signature moment that the football world (or beyond, if it is really memorable) knows them for. Dennis Green has 'they are who we thought they were', and Jim Mora Sr. has 'PLAYOFFS!...'. Jim Mora Jr's signature moment in the league comes from having thrown one of his players under the bus after a loss.

As a going away present, Seahawks coach Jim Mora threw him (Olindo Mare) under a bus during his post-game press conference. Then put in reverse. Then honked so everyone was paying attention.

..."We’re not going to fight our ass off, and have a field goal kicker go out there and miss two field goals and lose a game. It’s not going to happen."

Background: Seattle lost by 6 points to the Bears early in Mora's lone season coaching his hometown Seahawks. Mare was 4/6 in kicking field goals in a game where Mora's offense struggled whenever it reached the opponent's side of the 50. Blaming the kicker for not having sent the game to an overtime period for his offense to choke away is certainly easier than dressing down the QB to the press, criticizing the execution by his offensive line or even stating that the other team did a good job in neutralizing his team's game plan. Who is the first Bruin that he would choose to rip to TJ Simers in a postgame presser?

The Mare incident, as well as the points raised above are just some of several factors, not to mention his mediocre-at-best work product as a head coach, that has influenced the fans of numerous NFL teams to have despair when he was considered for assistant coaching positions in the last offseason. One of SBN's Phily-area bloggers shared these thoughts when the Eagles were considering Mora:

To quote my friend on Twitter whose a 49ers fan (Mora, Jr. was DC in San Fran): "Mora is a con artist. He was born on 3rd base and thought he hit a triple. Those defenses were constantly inconsistent." I have another friend who is a Seahawks fan (Mora, Jr. was HC in Seattle) and he could not stand him. In Seattle, Mora constantly blamed players and threw guys under the bus and never blamed himself for anything. After he was fired, he was doing an interview and whispered "Pete Carroll cheats" when talking about how he was fired and replaced by Carroll and how he (Mora) did things the right way and Carroll apparently does not in the eyes of Mora. But the point is he has never had great success and he is immature. His at-best mediocre coordinating does not compensate for his immature attitude, either. Mark my words, if we hire Mora, Jr., you’ll be real sorry.

The fact that he had Pete Carroll pegged shows that Mora Jr. has some ability to view reality, but that does not excuse the performance that got him fired from Atlanta after 3 seasons, and Seattle after only 1 year. Also keep in mind that the Seahawks fired Mora so that they could give his job to Pete Carroll. Don't think that the folks across town would not remind us of that fact at every opportunity.

In bowl news, Stewart Mandel published his ranking of this year's bowl games, from best matchups to worst. Good news, UCLA is not last. Bad news, the Kraft Bowl's UCLA/Illinois matchup is 3rd from last on his list, finishing just above SMU/Pitt in the BBCA Compass bowl, and the Beef O' Brady's bowl featuring FIU and Marshall.

33. Kraft Fight Hunger (Dec. 31): Illinois (6-6) vs. UCLA (6-7). Two teams with interim coaches meet in a baseball stadium on New Year's Eve. One squad just lost six in a row, the other just lost 50-0 to its archrival. Is it 2012 yet?