Atlanta lesson learned: Jim Mora is better
It's too late for a first impression. Besides, Jim Mora's too familiar for that around here as Seattle's prodigal coaching son who was contractually...
Seattle Times staff reporter
RENTON — It's too late for a first impression.
Besides, Jim Mora's too familiar for that around here as Seattle's prodigal coaching son who was contractually anointed as Mike Holmgren's successor a year in advance.
Even his introductory news conference Tuesday was a misnomer. The man needs no introduction. He has been working with the Seahawks since 2007, but for the past 12 months he kept his head down, stayed in his lane as the defensive-backs coach and did his best to keep his attention from veering too far into the future.
"My goal when we made the decision I would succeed Mike at some point was to not look too far into the future," Mora said. "To not start thinking about how I was going to be as the head coach."
He has waited and he has watched, and this month that moment arrived: His first chance at this second opportunity as an NFL head coach after being fired in Atlanta two years ago.
In a league where new and novel has become the fashion choice for coaches, Mora has experience on his résumé. Four first-time head coaches were hired around the league last season. None of the four produced a losing record, and three led their teams into the playoffs: John Harbaugh in Baltimore, Tony Sparano in Miami and Mike Smith in Atlanta. Just this week, Denver hired a first-time coach in Josh McDaniels.
But the league's recent history also speaks to the dividends that second chances can pay out. Of the past five head coaches to win a Super Bowl, four were on their second NFL head-coaching job (see chart).
Mora was hardly a washout in Atlanta. He took the Falcons to the NFC Championship Game in 2004, his first season with the team, and had a winning record when he was fired. But the Falcons' record receded in each of his final two seasons, and he was criticized for being too accommodating to some players.
Last season, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist wrote of the shock of some veterans, who said that on a team-building trip to see the movie "Invincible," Mora hopped into the Lamborghini of cornerback DeAngelo Hall and they drove separately from the team to the movie.
Mora addressed his reputation and the labels that have been affixed to his coaching style.
"A great lesson learned is that you have to have some separation," Mora said. "There must be some separation between the player and the head coach. That is something that I will do much better this time around.
"And I don't think I did it poorly. I think sometimes people jump on it and make it something it's not, but it's something I'm very conscious of."
Mora's rapport with his players is one of his coaching strengths. As Falcons head coach, he threw passes to Atlanta receiver Roddy White on Tuesdays — the customary day off for NFL players — to help a player struggling with his hands and his confidence. This season, White was chosen to the Pro Bowl.
"That's the personal touch I don't ever want to lose," Mora said.
For two years, Mora watched the way another man handled the team, and he learned from one of only five coaches to ever take two different teams to the Super Bowl.
"One of the things I really admired about Mike Holmgren as a football coach," Mora said, "besides the X's and O's, was the way he could be a caring and compassionate head football coach with the players and yet still remain very much a figure of authority."
This month, Mora became that figure of authority, and Tuesday he sat in front of the city for the first time, right between the Seahawks' president and CEO to mark a new era under a new coach getting his second chance.
"I've had a chance to reflect on the many, many lessons that I learned as a head coach of the Atlanta Falcons," Mora said. "And had I moved directly into another head-coaching position, I don't believe that would have been the case."
Mora was a finalist for the Miami Dolphins' coaching job that went to Cam Cameron in 2007, and last season he interviewed for the Washington Redskins' job before withdrawing from consideration and waiting for the opportunity he now holds with the Seahawks.
"I believe that I will be better," Mora said, "having gone through my three years in Atlanta as a head coach and moving forward this year."
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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