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Wilner: UCLA Football Epically Underperfomed Under Jim Mora

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With the talent UCLA had, the Bruins should have won a lot more games under Jim Mora.

Arizona v UCLA Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Over the past few months, one of our members Victor E Bell has insisted that Jim Mora’s biggest problem at UCLA was that he didn’t recruit enough talent.

With thanks to Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, I think we can finally put that argument to bed for good.

Last week, Wilner wrote an article for his Wilner Hotline column which sought to compare the performance of Pac-12 teams to the number of NFL draft picks each school produced.

In terms of on-field performance, Wilner looked at two stats. He looked at conference win totals and conference winning percentage. He opted not to look at overall win totals and overall winning percentage because those could be skewed by the strength of a team’s non-conference schedule.

But, by focusing on the conference win totals and conference winning percentages, he could more effectively compare the job that the Pac-12 coaching staffs have done.

Then, he looked at the total number of five-year draft picks by school and what percentage of the Pac-12 draft picks a school had.

For anyone who has followed the UCLA Bruins closely during the Jim Mora era, the results should not come as a surprise.

When it came to Pac-12 win totals for the past six seasons, UCLA was sixth with 29 wins. The Bruins trailed Stanford, Southern Cal, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona State while edging Washington State by 3 games with Arizona, Utah, Oregon State, UC Berkeley and Colorado trailing.

Now, if the talent that Jim Mora was recruiting to UCLA really was inferior as Victor E Bell has argued, you would expect UCLA to rank sixth or probably even worse.

However, when Wilner looked at the total number of NFL draft picks by each school, believe it or not, UCLA came out first in the Pac-12. In fact, it isn’t even really close. UCLA had 25 players drafted in the timeframe Wilner examined while Stanford and Southern Cal were tied for second with 22 each.

And, if you add in this year’s picks, UCLA’s advantage after two subpar seasons actually increases. The Bruins had 5 players selected this year while the Cardinal and the Trojans each had 4 players selected.

So, over six years, UCLA has had 30 players drafted while Stanford and Southern Cal have each had 26.

What does all this mean?

In last week’s article, Wilner wrote:

Combine UCLA’s documented incoming talent (recruiting) and the apparent outgoing talent (draft picks), then factor in the tepid on-field success, and it’s difficult to make the case that the Bruins maximized their personnel over the course of the Jim Mora era.

That led Wilner to dive in even deeper to the situation at UCLA in an article published today.

In today’s article, he compares UCLA’s on-field performance and number of draft picks to other schools who have had similarly high-rated recruiting classes. He ignored Alabama because, you know, Roll Tide. He notes that only four schools not named Alabama (LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Florida State) have produced more draft picks than UCLA.

Wilner notes:

Judged by recruiting analysts and NFL general managers, the Bruins have been in rarefied air when it comes to raw talent.

And yet, the on-field performance craters in comparison.

Those four schools have averaged 10.7 wins per season over the past three years and the four programs directly behind UCLA (Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Auburn) have averaged 9.3 wins per season while UCLA has averaged just six wins per season.

The last piece of info that Wilner looks at is the last season of play for Pac-12 quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.

To find a team that didn’t have a winning record in their QB’s final year, Wilner had to go back more than 30 years. THIRTY YEARS! Oregon’s Chris Miller was the last Pac-12 QB chosen in the first round despite his team not having a winning record in his last season and the year was 1986.

All this data leads Wilner to conclude that UCLA should have won a lot more games than it did under Jim Mora and that Jim Mora’s Bruins underperformed tremendously.

Tell me something I didn’t know.

After reading both articles, it is abundantly clear that Jim Mora and his coaching staff at UCLA deserves the blame for the Bruins’ failure to perform on the field.

While Victor E Bell has argued that bad recruiting has been the reason why Mora failed and that recruiting services had overrated the players Mora recruited to UCLA, that argument fall apart when you mix in the fact that NFL teams have selected more Bruins in the NFL Draft than any other Pac-12 team over the past six years.

It should also raise the hopes of Bruin fans as the Chip Kelly era begins as UCLA has had some of the best recruiting classes in college football over the past few years. Hopefully, Coach Kelly and staff are able to do a much better job than Coach Mora did as soon as this year. Of course, that depends on the players’ ability to learn the new offense and defense while also executing those strategies come game time.

Here’s to hoping that Jon Wilner decides to offer the same kind of analysis of Pac-12 basketball as the NBA Draft approaches.


Go Bruins!!!