Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mora Says It All and Then Some

by: William P. Tomisser

Yesterday, most of you listened to the first words of our new leader and were either impressed, disinterested like you’ve heard it all before, absolutely man-crushed by what you heard, or positive we’re totally doomed. I saw all of the above opinions expressed yesterday and probably every degree in-between.

I had been on Mora’s bandwagon for some time and I had made some points about why I thought he had a good chance to succeed as the coach of the Seahawks in response to other poster’s comments made on the topic of how good a coach Mora was likely to be for the Seahawks. These comments were made over the last two or three months.

Imagine my surprise when Mora himself launched into those same exact points like he had been reading my posts. Do you think he reads SA? After reading your comments yesterday, I was surprised that no one mentioned what Mora’s own assessment was of why he was going to do better this time around and how Holmgren had helped.

To Continue……………

The biggest criticism that I heard concerning Mora that came out of his first coaching job in Atlanta was that he lost control of the team due to the fact that he got too close to his players. He was unable to maintain that distance that any leader has to keep from those he leads so that he can remain objective and maintain the confidence of his following. Nothing will kill an organization faster than thinking the boss is playing favorites and all the innuendo that follows.

Michael Steffes had written an article and backed it up with real examples of coaches who had not done well on their first head coaching job and then had gone on to have much better success with their second job and in some cases spectacular success. I’m sure most of you read it.

I had referenced that article and expanded on the situation with Mora by suggesting that he was in an even better situation than a lot of second time head coaches because he was getting a chance to tutor behind a future hall of fame coach for a couple of years and even better yet, that coach was an absolute master at keeping his distance from his players and maintaining iron fisted control of the team which was the very lesson Mora needed to learn.

Additionally, Holmgren was also known for being a very compassionate coach towards his players and treating them almost like his own children which is a very difficult set of circumstances to juggle. Mora said that he’s also a compassionate man and cares deeply for his players like Holmgren does. For a coach with the reputed problem Mora had with his first job, Holmgren was the absolute best example he could have spent two years observing and learning from.

When he started out by talking about Holmgren and said that his two years of working for him had given him invaluable insight into how to keep his distance from the players, I was astounded. He talked about still caring about the players and being available to talk to them if they had problems either concerning the team or of a personal nature but still keeping his distance. He spent a considerable amount of time talking about that problem too. He says as a result of observing Holmgren, he expects to be much better at it this time around and I believe him.

He said that he had also learned a great deal on how to conduct meetings, address the press, and relate to the players as well as other aspects of the head coaching job. He gave Holmgren a lot of credit when he talked about having the chance to observe him in action for being very professional on the field yet warm and endearing to the press. He called it a great learning experience for him more than once.

He also said that the two years had given him a chance to reflect on what went wrong in Atlanta which was another point I had made in some comments a while back. He said that when a coach goes right from his first head coaching job to his second, he hits the floor running and has to push any reflection of what happened at the first job out of his mind. He really doesn’t have time to reflect on what went right and what went wrong and absorb those feelings and lessons.

He went on to say that he was fortunate to have been able to reflect on what went wrong in Atlanta as well as the already mentioned perk of having a future hall of fame coach to watch in action and observe closely for two years before taking up the reins of command again.

I thought that all of that was a real important point given that he chose to devote some time talking about it and how glad he was that he had the chance to work under Holmgren these last two years. I think that time spent will make Mora a much more effective coach and give him an even greater confidence taking over the Seahawks.

He also said that the two years spent as the secondary coach had given him a tremendous advantage with the opportunity to study the players and coaches currently on the team. He said it gave him the ability to put the right coaches with the players on the team to get the best out of those players and their talent as he made his selections on which new coaches to hire. He doesn’t intend on making sweeping changes.

He said that one of the reasons that Knapp was hired was that he was well grounded in the WCO offense that was currently being run in Seattle. He expects Hasselbeck to be healthy and very much in charge of that offense he has played under for his whole career. He wants Seattle to be right back in the thick of things next season and to that end he is trying to maintain continuity with the team from the Holmgren era. He said it was important not to make drastic changes.

To that end, he said that they had retained 12 coaches and only changed 4.

On offense they kept:

Mike Solari, OL
Kasey Dunn, RB
Bill Lazor, QB
Mike DeBord, TE
Chris Beake, will work with the offense

On defense they kept:

Zerick Rollins, LB
Larry Marmie, DB
Mike Phair, quality control and assist with defensive line
Tom Headlee, quality control and assist with defense

On special teams they kept:

Bruce DeHaven ST
Mike Clark, strength and conditioning
Darren Krein, strength and conditioning

Newly hired coaches included:

Greg Knapp, OC
Casey Bradley, DC
Dan Quinn, DL
Robert Prince, WR

The defense backs coach is yet to be hired. Jim Lind, John Jamison (both retired), Gil Haskell, and John Marshall were not retained.

I had expected much more turnover and the possibility of some scheme changes. However, as a lot of us had talked about when Mora was announced as the next head coach, it would make for a smooth turnover since most of the coaching and players as well as the offense and defense would be in place and Mora would be familiar with them. It looks as if Mora is doing the smart thing and keeping a team who won 4 division titles in a row before last season’s injury plagued campaign intact and held the changes to a minimum. That gives him the maximum chance to get the team back into the race next season. Good move as far as I can see.

He said that even though he might not be calling the offense or making special teams calls or even the defensive calls whether it comes out of his mouth or not it would all come through his headset. The inference is that he’ll remain involved with all aspects of the team on game day and not just be turning over parts of the team to someone else to run without his monitoring what’s happening. I would assume that means he can and will override calls from time to time. I like that notion myself. A head coach should be involved in all aspects of the team on the week leading up to game day and especially during the contest.

However things ultimately turn out with Mora when reality sets in next season and we see what’s really going to happen on the field, at this time, how can you not fall in love with a guy whose father was the defensive line coach for the Seahawks in the seventies and who used to sell hot dogs and sodas in the Kingdome as well as working in the visitors locker room.

How could you not get behind a real home town boy who wants to be here with all his heart and is living his personal dream of being the coach of the Seahawks? Have you ever seen a new head coach with more enthusiasm, a brighter outlook, or more confidence that the team will be intense and relentless in their pursuit of a Super Bowl victory?

That was the longest press conference for a new head coach in the history of the NFL according to KJR. Going for almost an hour, Mora said it seemed like 15 minutes during his KJR interview afterwards. He was having a real blast and says he enjoys answering questions about his team. I wonder how that will play out after his first big loss.

Later in the year when we see the actual result, we may feel differently but I can’t see how everyone wouldn’t pause and put a smile on their face right now and consider the possibility that he could make it all happen just as he laid it out. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an more upbeat start to a new regime in football or any other sport.

It’s way more fun to think positively and dwell with pleasant thoughts that the Seahawks can come back stronger than ever in 2009 than to wallow in despair that everything will turn out badly and make yourself miserable before the verdict is even in. That’s just being depressed for the sake of being depressed.

How many of you would really want to not give Mora a chance to see what he can do with the franchise at this point? How many would fire both Mora and Ruskell right now and bring in a whole new management team and coaching staff and go in a completely different direction without even waiting to see if they could pull it off? How many are excited by the prospects unveiled yesterday and can’t wait to see how well Mora and Ruskell can do as a team?

Paint your own picture in the comments.