Jim L. Mora has the world at his fingertips.
Currently the defensive backs coach and assistant head coach for the Seattle Seahawks, Mora is the designated successor to current Seahawks Head Coach Mike Holmgren, who will be leaving the team after this season.
Poised to become an NFL head coach again without any competition, Mora is in an enviable position.
However, thanks to the firing of Washington Huskies Head Coach Ty Willingham, another job may now be available to him—one that Mora has said he would take anytime, even while he was coaching another NFL team, the Atlanta Falcons.
While Mora said his 2006 comments were made in jest, it's hard to downplay statements like, "I don't care if we're in the middle of a playoff run, I'm packing my stuff and coming back to Seattle [to coach the Huskies]."
What about when the team he's set to take over, the Seahawks, is in the midst of an injury-plagued down year with a record of 2-5, and is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2002?
Granted, the Huskies are struggling even more than the Seahawks, but the question still remains: Should Mora leave a high-paying, guaranteed gig in the pros for the ultimate control of a head job in the college ranks?
On the surface, neither situation seems overly appealing at the moment. The Seahawks' coaching transition, combined with the multitude of offensive injuries and confounding defensive ineptitude, makes the job less attractive than it was after last year's second-round playoff exit.
Personnel-wise, the Seahawks will need some improvements. Matt Hasselbeck is a solid quarterback, but this year's injuries might signal the beginning of the end of his career. Backups Seneca Wallace and Charlie Frye seem like little more than career second-stringers.
Without a true quarterback prospect in training, the team may experience offensive struggles for a few years.
Similarly, offensive tackle Walter Jones is nearing the end of his playing days, and the offensive line doesn't have the consistency or experience for steady play.
On the other hand, it does seem like a step down career-wise to willingly leave an NFL head coaching position, and the dollars that come with it, for the NCAA. Mora would also have a supportive, hands-off Owner in Paul Allen and a crafty GM and President in Tim Ruskell.
Washington's situation, at first glance, is even grimmer. The Huskies have started the season 0-7 and have lost nine straight overall, with the team's best shot at a win this year to come against equally hapless Washington State in the Apple Cup. Mora would inherit a squad experiencing incredible offensive and defensive futility.
The Huskies have a bit of young talent, based on Willingham's last two decent recruiting classes, and possess a dynamic QB in Jake Locker. However, there's no question that UW's next head coach will have to rebuild the program from scratch.
That may be the factor that ultimately lures Mora to Washington—the power to build the program from the ground up in his image.
Mora's personality seems to lend itself well to the college game and recruiting.
He's young and enthusiastic, with a demeanor like a more intense Pete Carroll. His defensive pedigree would appeal to UW's need to repair its broken defense, though that certainly hasn't shown with the Seahawks this season.
There's also no denying Mora's strong ties to Washington and the Seattle area.
His father was an assistant coach both with the University of Washington and the Seahawks, so Mora spent his teenage years in Seattle before attending and playing as a defensive back for the Washington Huskies. He also worked as a graduate assistant for a year at UW after graduating.
Mora seems to be in a win-win situation, albeit with two currently losing teams. He can take on the challenge of creating a new identity for the football program at the University of Washington, or he can lead a usually consistent, strong team in the NFL—a post many college coaches have left very successful programs for.
Either way, he will be a head coach in the city where he spent his formative years.
Will Mora be willing to stay with the Seahawks and start his Seattle coaching tenure in what could be a descent into a down cycle? Will he have faith that, in a few years, he won't take the blame for the end of Holmgren's glory years?
In the end, the call of coaching for his alma mater, with a team that has nowhere to go but up, may be too much for Mora to resist.
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