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Originally published November 2, 2009 at 7:04 PM | Page modified November 2, 2009 at 10:33 PM

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Coach Jim Mora tells his Seahawks: Surrender is not an option

Mora makes his position clear by leaving Matt Hasselbeck in game at Dallas, and in comments to team.

Seattle Times staff reporter

RENTON — Jim Mora made a statement to his team before he ever addressed his players after Sunday's 21-point loss in Dallas.

Mora said something by keeping quarterback Matt Hasselbeck on the field in the fourth quarter of a game Seattle trailed by more than 20 points.

"You send the wrong message to your football team if you pull him out," Mora said Monday.

Pulling the starting quarterback is tantamount to surrender. No mas, as Roberto Duran once said, and acknowledging the likelihood of losing was a concession Mora was unwilling to make Sunday, so Hasselbeck stayed under center until the very end.

After the game Mora made a statement that was not nearly so metaphorical during a postgame speech described as his most impassioned of the year.

"Coach Mora was very blunt about our performance," Hasselbeck said.

It was a my-way-or-the-highway moment in Seattle's locker room.

"If a man's willing to stand here and fight, and give his all, and come to work every day with great resolve and great determination and great toughness and accountability, then I'll fight with him," Mora said Monday. "But if someone reveals himself not to have those traits, then by the end of the season, there's a good chance he won't be a member of the Seattle Seahawks."

Mora backed up to explain that he hasn't seen a lack of effort from his players, hasn't witnessed any finger-pointing and hasn't judged anyone to be dead weight. But Seattle is 2-5 for the second consecutive season and while the Seahawks might not make the playoffs, they will be making plenty of decisions about the future of this roster.

"We've definitely been put on notice that the scrutiny is going to go up," Hasselbeck said.

Mora's demeanor in his customary news conference the day after a game made that clear. He was stern and unflinching as he explained exactly that weak people become losers in the face of adversity, looking to escape scrutiny or dilute responsibility for what has happened.

"I'm not saying that I see that, because I don't," Mora said. "But if I do, there's doors out of here."

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A line has been drawn. Mora made that clear with more than just his words.

To take Hasselbeck out of Sunday's game would have been a signal of surrender the quarterback didn't want any more than his coach.

"I wasn't considering coming out," Hasselbeck said. "And I wouldn't have wanted him to [take me out]."

Mora wasn't thinking about it.

"I'm not going to take Matt Hasselbeck out when we're down like that and there's probably very little chance that we're going to win," Mora said. "I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to send that message to this football team or anyone on it, or our fans."

Mora made a reference to 2004 when he was in his first season as the Falcons head coach and Atlanta was on the road and trailed Kansas City 35-3 at halftime. He told his team it would go for it every time on fourth down in the second half, it would rush every punt and go for two points after every conversion.

Atlanta lost that game 56-10, and in the days that followed, Mora's father — a former NFL coach — called and told his son that it was OK to punt. Not that week it wasn't, the son said.

"It wasn't OK to punt," Mora said. "I'm trying to make a point here. My point is: We will not quit, we will not give in."

The next week, Atlanta played at Denver and trailed 17-3 after the first quarter. The Falcons came back to win 41-28.

"I'm not saying that I'm a master psychologist or anything," Mora said. "But I do think that the fact that we took that stance at halftime of the Kansas City game created a mindset that helped us move forward."

Mora tried to make that statement Sunday. Now it's up to his players to respond, knowing their coach will be watching.

Notes

• Seattle released veteran cornerback Travis Fisher on Monday and signed Roy Lewis from its practice squad.

Lewis played at Washington and was on Pittsburgh's practice squad last season. The Seahawks signed Lewis to their practice squad the first week of September.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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