UCLA taps Mora to replace Neuheisel

December, 10, 2011
12/10/11
2:37
PM ET
Jim L. Mora, a two-time NFL head coach with almost no college experience, is UCLA's new football coach, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com.

And UCLA made the official announcement a short time later.

Mora, 50, is currently an analyst for the NFL Network. He was fired from his last coaching job -- a single season with the Seattle Seahawks in 2009 -- after going 5-11. His only college coaching experience? He was a graduate assistant in 1984 at Washington, where he played from 1980-83.

Are Bruins fans going to immediately embrace this hire with buzzing enthusiasm? Probably not, particularly after Arizona and Washington State made splashier hires with Rich Rodriguez and Mike Leach.

I like how ESPN LA's Peter Yoon describes things here:
True, Mora isn’t exactly the splashy, big-name hire many UCLA fans were hoping to land, but there are reasons to believe his hire makes a lot of sense.

First, he has no UCLA ties in his past. Second, he is a defensive-minded coach. Third, he has no noteworthy experience as a college coach.

That bucks the trend of the past three UCLA coaches who are seen as the holy triumvirate of mediocrity. Bob Toledo, Karl Dorrell and Neuheisel were all Bruins assistants at some point before they became head coach; Dorrell and Neuheisel were UCLA players.


Before joining Seattle, Mora served as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons from 2004-2006. In his first season with Atlanta, the Falcons went 11-5 and made it to the NFC championship game. His teams went 8-8 and 7-9 the next two seasons and he was fired. But keep in mind, he was dealing with QB Michael Vick -- a stellar talent with a terrible work ethic and attitude at that time, something Vick has owned up to after he got out of jail.

[+] EnlargeJim Mora
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesJim Mora takes over the head coaching position at UCLA, his first on-field job since coaching the Seattle Seahawks in 2009.
A former Washington Husky reserve who played for Don James, Mora is a defensive guy with a strong resume working with secondaries.

That last part should be encouraging for Bruins fans. His area of specialization is stopping the pass. There, you might have heard, is a lot of throwing in these parts.

Mora also has the potential to be a charismatic recruiter. The parallel UCLA folks are surely thinking of -- whether they want to or not -- is USC's hire of Pete Carroll in 2001. Carroll had little college experience and was generally thought of as a mediocre-to-bad NFL head coach. Just about everyone panned his hire and mocked then-athletic director Mike Garrett's bumbling coaching search (which was a true comedy of errors and sloppiness).

Trojans fans eventually changed their feelings. There's a possibility that Mora will do the same.

"As someone who has been around the game of football my entire life, I have always held the UCLA job in the highest esteem," Mora said in a statement. "Given its location and its tradition, UCLA is truly a sleeping giant and I realize that an opportunity of this magnitude doesn't present itself more than once in a career, so I jumped at the chance to be a Bruin."

It's fair to say Mora was the Bruins' third choice. Boise State's Chris Petersen and Miami coach Al Golden both rejected previous entreaties.

I know UCLA fans don't always appreciate using USC as a measuring stick, but, again, Carroll was the Trojans fourth choice after an 18-day search. He was widely seen as a lightweight.

So this is an outside-of-the-box hire. At the very least, skeptical Bruins fans can grab hold of that.

Further, it's worth noting that a massively negative reaction would serve no useful purpose for the program. In fact, 11 other Pac-12 programs are likely poised to print out such reactions and use them against the Bruins in recruiting.

Meanwhile, the Bruins will play Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 31 with interim coach Mike Johnson, who took over after Rick Neuheisel was fired two weeks ago.

Here's the LA Times on the Mora hiring.

The LA Daily News.

And the Orange County Register.

Ted Miller | email

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