Sports

Carroll, Hawks near deal

USC coach reportedly close to succeeding fired Mora

SEATTLE – Jim Mora is out and it looks like Pete Carroll may be in as the Seahawks’ new head football coach.

Mora was fired Friday morning less than a week after he finished his first season as Seattle’s head coach.

Not long after the Seahawks confirmed Mora’s firing, reports began surfacing that Carroll, the USC coach, is next in line to lead the Seahawks. By Friday evening, the Los Angeles Times was reporting that, while nothing was finalized, the Seahawks and Carroll were close to a five-year deal worth $7 million per year that would make Carroll the head coach and team president. The L.A. Times also reported that Carroll interviewed with Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke earlier in the week in Los Angeles.

The Seahawks are also seeking to interview Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier according to multiple reports. An interview with Frazier, who is African-American, would allow the Seahawks to be in compliance with the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which states teams must interview a minority candidate before making a hire. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Frazier will interview with the Seahawks today in Minneapolis.

Mora, who attended Interlake High School in Bellevue and the University of Washington, said on several occasions that the Seahawks job held special meaning to him because he was coaching in the city he calls home. But instead of leading his home-town team back to prominence, Mora was fired with three years left on the contract he signed two years ago when he was named the successor to Mike Holmgren.

“We’ve made a tough decision today,” Leiweke said in a statement released by the team. “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.

“Jim is truly a stand-up man, who gave his full effort to our franchise. We thank Jim and his family for their commitment to our community and for their contribution to the Seahawks.”

In a telephone interview with the Seattle Times, Mora said, “I was extremely shocked” by the decision. “I just felt like you take over a 4-12 team, and there’s obviously some work to be done.”

Is Mora bitter?

“No bitterness,” Mora said. “Disappointment. I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to get a chance to see this thing through because I’m confident I could have gotten it turned around.”

The news of Mora’s firing comes a month after team president and general manger Tim Ruskell resigned. At the time, Leiweke said, “I fully expect Mora to be retained.” But not long after that the Seahawks lost four straight to end the season, including a stretch of consecutive blowout losses to Houston, Tampa Bay and Green Bay.

Mora’s firing comes as the Seahawks are still searching for a new general manager to replace Ruskell.

“You don’t ever want to second guess people that are running the team and say it’s the right or wrong move, but I’m just shocked,” receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said in a Seattle radio interview.

“We didn’t win a lot of games, and that’s obvious to everybody. We didn’t play great, and you can say this is a reason or that is a reason, but I’m shocked. I got up this morning and my phone was just flooded with text messages. I had no idea. Wow.”

Mora spent two seasons as Seattle’s secondary coach before taking over for Mike Holmgren following the 2008 season. He inherited a team that finished 4-12 in 2008, but both he and Ruskell indicated at the time that things could turn around quickly because the struggles were mainly the result of injuries. Instead the Seahawks improved by only one game in 2009, and lost six games this season by 21 or more points.

If Carroll is indeed the Seahawks’ next coach, it will be his third head coaching job in the NFL. He is best known for his tenure at USC, which has featured two national championships and six consecutive conference championships, but Carroll also spent four seasons in the NFL. Carroll was 6-10 coaching the New York Jets in 1994, and went 27-21 with the Patriots from 1997-1999 with playoff appearances in his first two seasons.



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