Seattle, Shouldn't We Feel a Little Bad for Jim Mora?
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Until now, I have been surprisingly undecided on my reaction to the swapping of Jim Mora Jr. for Da Trojan King, Pete Carroll. I am finally becoming more firm in my assertion a complete cut from the failed Tim Ruskell era is the best way for the franchise to go.
Seattle could do a lot worse than give some control of the franchise to a guy with a winning record in his first NFL stint, which was a full decade ago. The fact he had a winning record his first time around puts him with the rare few who experience success transitioning from college to NFL head coaching.
Keep in mind that that this is his second return to the NFL, something that is never duly noted when comparing him to college coaches making the transition for the first time.
(For his accomplishments after the NFL, go to his wiki page, because it's too long for me to care to type.)
Mora was Ruskell's hand picked replacement for our favorite walrus, knowing full well Mora would go after his former Atlanta buddy Greg Knapp to run the offense—that inadvertently makes Knapp his hand picked offensive coordinator as well.
Ruskell's defensive hire, Gus Bradley, also fielded a defense that finished 26th, 24th, and 30th in points, yards, and passing yards. The best thing they accomplished was finishing 15th in rush defense, but keep in mind that figure is only mediocre because of the fact teams shredded them in the passing game.
In the end, the Seahawks in the Ruskell tenure reached from the peak of 2005 to a slow decline, going from NFC Champions, to one and dones in the playoffs, to holding the fourth and sixth picks in the draft.
With his bad drafting and ineffective free agent signings (one Pro Bowler, Julian Peterson, who was signed largely because of the fact Ruskell popped some ecstasy and forgot Steve Hutchinson was the best offensive lineman in football), firing him was fine with a restless fan base. A fun fact, the only Pro Bowler Ruskell ever signed, he ended up trading for Cory Redding.
Now, ringing Mora out to dry and making him a scapegoat? That, I felt, was unfair regardless of the porous output of 2009. He worked with what he had, and Ruskell hadn't given him much.
Just think of what he went through in a year:
- Gets his dream job, but faces the daunting task to take over for the most popular Seahawk ever, Mike Holmgren.
- Inherits an aging roster that just went 4-12 in 2008.
- Has arguably the worst starting running back in the league.
- Has arguably the worst starting offensive line in the league.
- Has to start five different left tackles, and watch as assumed starting left guard Mike Wahle retired.
- Deals with injuries that cost them games in San Francisco and Chicago, (not excusing the 10 double digit losses, but we would've beat Chicago even if just a couple of the nine injured starters were healthy).
- Has to face the press at the end of every blowout loss without the man who assembled the roster he was working with, Tim Ruskell, taking any brunt of the stinging critique towards the end.
- Still improves the team by one game.
- Goes into the postseason press conference, while Tod Leiweke has already Smeagoled his way to Los Angeles to lure Pete Carroll to the Hawks.
- Gets slapped in the face with the news he was the first one and done Seahawks coach ever.
- Then finds out that they had been shopping for his replacement well before they told him he was likely done as an NFL coach.
While I am beginning to support the Pete Carroll hiring, that does not make how they treated Mora right; It was dead wrong.
Although his results were not impressive, he deserved another year, but at the same time, you can't make a case against the firing. It's a unique conundrum.
Even though I believe how Mora was treated was wrong, I still see Pete Carroll and his staff being more successful guiding the Seahawks.
Instead of Greg Knapp, we will have Jeremey Bates, who has piloted some high-octane offenses in Denver.
More importantly, instead of someone who professes to be gifted in the art of zone blocking, we have the professor coming to town in Alex Gibbs. He was THE guy who made that zone blocking scheme in Denver you could actually put anyone behind and be great at running the ball.
Remember all three of those USC linebackers who have had fantastic rookie seasons? We're getting their coach, Ken Norton Jr. (reminds me of Talladega Nights), to be in charge of our linebackers, another good move.
I don't expect the Seahawks to make the playoffs next season, that usual assumption of mine died when even a healthy roster this season got blown to pieces by other squads. Finishing 9-23 the last two seasons, to expect a quick rebound would be foolish.
They have completely turned the page from the failed Ruskell era, dumping his prominent coaching hires, and likely dumping some of his failed draftees and signings, as well (bye Chris Spencer, Kelly Jennings, Deion Branch, and Cory Redding).
The Seahawks have some good pieces in place. Matt Hasselbeck can still be a top 10 passer if he has an offensive line in front of him (finished 17th in passer rating, better than 15 other starting QBs, could be worse). TJ Houshmandzadeh, Nate Burleson, John Carlson, and Deon Butler are good weapons in the passing game.
Justin Forsett appears to be more than capable of being a starting running back in this league. Screw the odds, who cares if he is a seventh rounder, the guy's a playmaker. And, didn't the Seahawks just shell out $8 million for a former seventh round wide receiver?
One mistake that I resent Mora for was being too damn stubborn to start Forsett over Julius Jones. I think Carroll is going to let Forsett loose this year, and Julius' days of starting are over. Carroll has watched plenty of film of Forsett carving up Pac-10 defenses and is familiar with his explosive playmaking ability.
Yet again, the rest of the Seahawks' capable weapons will be able to start rolling once the offensive line is addressed. One name I firmly believe the Seahawks will be taking in the draft is Oklahoma State OT Russell Okung. Unless something drastic changes with an injury or a bad combine, he is the best tackle, and the dominoes appear to fall with him being a perfect fit for the Seahawks at No. 6.
St. Louis picked tackle Jason Smith at No. 2 overall last year.
Detroit has more pressing needs on defense as opposed to the offensive line, so passing up Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy is unlikely.
Tampa Bay also need to address the defense after purging several prominent starters, including future Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks, last season.
Washington appears to be turning the page at QB and will likely be looking to address that as opposed to the offensive line.
Kansas City, much like last season, appears to be the only threat to Seattle for stealing Okung (a la Aaron Curry potentially going to KC). Brian Waters is getting old and getting a player to pair with Branden Albert is an option for KC to seriously consider for the future.
Addressing the secondary and upgrading their defense (30th in yards allowed) do seem to be more pressing needs; I still think they pass on Okung and the offensive line at No. 5.
With the 14th pick, the Seahawks have many routes they can go depending on how the dominoes fall.
What if Sam Bradford is still there? Can the Seahawks pass him up at No. 14?
What if CJ Spiller falls in their lap?
What if Joe Haden fell out of the top 10?
Pairing Trent Williams with Russell Okung?
Whoever they decide to draft, they have a nice duo of picks to start rebuilding around. The offense should start clicking once the offensive line gets rolling, but they are a dismal unit and it could take more than a season. Don't assume otherwise, or you'll be getting your hopes up.
On defense, linebacker David Hawthorne emerged and the idea of a 3-4 to utilize him has been tossed around. Marcus Trufant, Josh Wilson, and Brandon Mebane are also nice pieces to build around.
I need to see this hyped unit of Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill, and Aaron Curry, play like a top linebacking crew before I anoint them that, 'nuff said. Curry and Hill just got outplayed by a former undrafted free agent rookie. Hawthorne just eclipsed any of the three's single season tackling totals in any season at any level, in less than a full season of starting (14 games).
Upgrading the pass rush should be their first concern, maybe the lure of Carroll, a fresh start, the best facilities in professional sports, and loads of wealth can entice a Richard Seymour, Julius Peppers, Aaron Kampman, or Elvis Dumervil to come play for us.
Regardless, the dazed and confused Seahawks seem to be righting their ship and heading in an actual direction. Regardless of the way Mora was treated, the future seems brighter rid of the influence of Tim Ruskell and his coaching choices.
Only time will tell, and everyone needs to understand we are not likely going to be in contention next season. Sure, we might have "fringe hopes" at some point being two games back or one-and-a-half games back of NFC West contention. But this is an NFC West crown going to either the Cardinals or 49ers in 2010.
If the Seahawks were to, say, finish second place, that would be a much more attainable and reasonable goal to set if you're being optimistic: 7-9 or 8-8 would be a huge step forward for a rebuilding team that finished 5-11 the previous year and is installing a brand new front office and coaching staff.
Think of a 9-7 record as being extraordinary. That's almost doubling their 2009 win total. That's fitting the mold of the 2008 Falcons turnaround—not remotely probable, but barely possible.
A fresh start, a rock star coach, the best run blocking guru the game possesses (for real this time). The Seahawks future looks a little brighter with Pete Carroll at the helm.
But playoffs! You kiddin' me, playoffs?...
He will never hear the end of that one.
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