It was on this month, ten years ago that the Seattle Seahawks officially named Jim Mora as their new head coach. Mora was handpicked to replace the retiring Mike Holmgren, who went out with an equal parts awful and unlucky 4-12 disaster of a season. If the Holmgren era had grown stale, Mora was supposed to be the fresh face who would lead the team back to playoff appearances and Super Bowl contention. After all, he led the Atlanta Falcons to within a game of the Super Bowl in 2004!
“We have a guy that everybody likes and we’re united in the organization from top to bottom,” Former GM Tim Ruskell said at the time of Mora’s hiring. “What precipitated this was Coach Holmgren’s decision.”
Optimism was abound. The Seahawks signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh to a huge contract. Nate Burleson was returning from injury. Notoriously awful safety Brian Russell was cut before the regular season started. They shut out the St. Louis Rams 28-0 on opening day and unleashed this trick play? The SeneCat! Shotgun! Matt Hasselbeck split out wide!
Theeeeeeeen Matt Hasselbeck hurt himself the following Week 2, but returned just in time for another shutout win! This time 41-0 over the Jacksonville Jaguars, featuring the legendary freak of nature known as Nick Reed capping off the scoring with a scoop and score.
Aaaaaand they lost 27-3 to the Arizona Cardinals at home the following week. You know the rest of the story. A 5-11 record in which John Carlson was responsible for all four touchdowns in the final four games of the season. In the meantime, Hasselbeck looked like Dollar Tree Russell Wilson out there with one of the most embarrassing turnovers I’ve ever seen.
Through all of that? Mora was an unmitigated disaster. You may recall in the 2009 “Lime Green jersey” game that Olindo Mare missed two makeable field goals against the Chicago Bears, who would win by six points. Mora showed off his great leadership by trying to bury Mare under the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
“There’s no excuses for those. If you’re a kicker in the National Football League you should make those kicks – bottom line. End of story. Period. No excuses. No wind, doesn’t matter. You’ve gotta makes those kicks.”
He turned his ire towards the offensive line, demanding more dirtbags after they were obliterated by the Houston Texans 34-7.
“If you’re going to be a good offensive lineman … you’ve got to be a little bit of a dirtbag. Not as a person. But on the football field. Because in the pit where all that stuff goes down, man, if you don’t have some frickin’ toughness, you’re going to fail, you know?”
“There are teams out there that say if you walk into Seattle and punch them in the face, they won’t react,” Mora said. “I know that’s what I always said [when he coached elsewhere]. I know that’s what Mike Singletary said on Saturday night before we played [the 49ers] two weeks ago.”
As for the play on the field, Mora’s forte was allegedly defense. He coached the defensive backs prior to getting his promotion to head coach. The Seahawks ranked 30th in pass defense DVOA. On offense, Matt Hasselbeck was seemingly impossible to bench despite so many poor performances, such that a sub-section of fans on this very site were calling for Mike Teel to get playing time.
Ruskell, whose signing off on Mora was basically his own death sentence after a series of bad player personnel decisions, would step down in December 2009. On January 8th, 2010, the Seahawks canned Mora after one unbelievably ugly season in which Mora showed a level of incompetence that has probably rendered him unemployable at an NFL level for the rest of time. He helped crater UCLA into irrelevance and had his contract bought out in November 2017.
But the unsightly demise of the squad that won four consecutive NFC West titles and won an NFC Championship had its benefits. The end of Mora and Ruskell is what sparked the beginning of Pete Carroll and John Schneider. There might not have been broad acceptance of the Carroll/Schneider partnership — I was certainly one of the skeptics — but it was obvious that Ruskell’s days were numbered and that Mora was in way over his head. Just imagine what would’ve happened if the 2009 Seahawks had somehow scraped an 8-8 season or had shown enough quality that they’d have seen it fit to not make any necessary changes.
So in a roundabout way, thank you to Jim L. Mora for being so unbelievably bad and divisive that it led to a kaboom and the dawn of the Legion of Boom. I suppose the saying that things have to get worse before they get better is an apt description of what happened a decade ago.