RENTON — The Seattle Seahawks fired Jim Mora after just one season, leaving the former NFC West champs without a coach, general manager and president less than four years after they appeared in the Super Bowl.
Speculation on Mora’s replacement immediately centered on Southern California coach Pete Carroll.
The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that Seahawks chief executive officer Tod Leiweke flew to California this week to interview Carroll for the job. ESPN.com, citing unidentified league sources, said an announcement of Carroll joining the Seahawks could come early next week.
“Pete’s name comes out at this time every year. In the past, he hasn’t commented on such reports,” USC spokesman Tim Tessalone said in an e-mail to the Associated Press. “He was not expected in (Friday). … At this point, we have nothing to report.”
A Seahawks spokesman inside the team’s headquarters Friday refused to comment on Carroll and Carroll did not return a phone call left for him.
Leiweke did not return an e-mail asking about Carroll, who was 6-10 in 1994 with the New York Jets and then 27-21 while twice reaching the playoffs from ‘97-99 with the New England Patriots.
Leiweke fired Mora during a morning meeting at team headquarters, ending a four-week internal evaluation the CEO conducted of his floundering franchise.
Hours later, the team confirmed the firing in a news release. On Sunday, Mora finished his only Seattle season 5-11, after taking over his hometown team at the end of Mike Holmgren’s coaching contract. He had three years and almost $12 million remaining on his contract.
“We’ve made a tough decision today,” said Leiweke, who remains atop the franchise with team owner Paul Allen. “It became apparent after conducting an extensive internal audit that a new direction was needed to provide an opportunity for the organization to be successful. Today’s decision, while difficult, is part of the process in building a franchise with a new vision in 2010.”
Leiweke called Mora “truly a standup man, who gave his full effort to our franchise.”
“Coach mora will be missed,” Seattle defensive end Darryl Tapp posted on his Twitter page.
Foxsports.com was first to report that Mora had been fired.
Seattle is 9-23 since its last playoff appearance in January 2008, after four consecutive NFC West titles.
“This team, more importantly this community, means so much to me that it hurts not being able to see this through,” Mora said in the team statement. “I am disappointed I did not get the chance to complete my contract. This is a tough business that sometimes demands immediate gratification.”
GM and president Tim Ruskell took the initial fall for the Seahawks’ flop when he was fired Dec. 3. Leiweke noted then that Mora was steward of a rocky transition from Holmgren’s regime to one with a new offense, new defense and almost entirely new coaching staff.
Leiweke said last month he expected Mora to return for a second season.
Seattle was one of eight teams to have a new head coach and largely new staffs this season. Half of those teams improved their win totals: the Browns and Seahawks each gained one win over 2008; the Chiefs and Lions were plus-2.
“Maybe I oversold” optimism before the season, Mora said. “It was harder than we thought.”
Mora’s first season following Holmgren’s mostly glorious decade in Seattle was in sharp contrast to his rookie season as a head coach in Atlanta in 2004. That year, Mora took what had been a 5-11 Falcons team to the NFC championship game.
This time, the Seahawks’ injured and ineffective offensive line wrecked new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s running game — and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s health. The three-time Pro Bowl passer missed 2½ games then played through broken ribs, a sore passing shoulder and thumb injury, while setting a career high with 17 interceptions.
The defense, under rookie coordinator Gus Bradley, failed to generate a consistent pass rush and the small secondary often looked overmatched for the second consecutive season.
The 48-year-old Mora, who grew up and attended high school and college in the Seattle area, returned in 2007 to become Holmgren’s assistant head coach and defensive backs coach with the Seahawks. He then replaced Holmgren, with the announcement coming in early 2008 a year before he took the job in what the team said was an effort to smooth the transition.
So much for smooth. Now only a computer tycoon and an accomplished businessman are running a football operation NFL commissioner Roger Goodell lauded just last summer for its steady, quality leadership.
Wednesday, Mora had said he considered it a civic duty of his to bring the Seahawks their first Super Bowl championship.
“This is where I plan on living the rest of my life,” he said, “and I want to be able to walk around this city and feel proud of the work I did for the Seattle Seahawks.”