SEATTLE – When Jim Mora was told to go ahead with his end-of-season news conference last week, the Seattle Seahawks head coach figured he could speak freely about his plans for trying to turn around a 5-11 team.
Two days later, team CEO Tod Leiweke told Mora that owner Paul Allen “wants to make a change.”
“I was very stunned to say the least, and I indicated so,” Mora said on KJR-AM radio on Monday afternoon in his first extended comments about his firing. “I’ve never seen this happen like this before. … I was very stunned. I don’t know that it’s even hit me yet.”
Mora was fired Friday after one season as Seattle’s coach, a surprising turn after Leiweke had given Mora a vote of confidence in early December when general manager Tim Ruskell resigned and following a season where the Seahawks struggled with personnel deficiencies and injuries.
About an hour before Mora went on the air Monday, the Seahawks announced that USC coach Pete Carroll would be his successor in Seattle.
Mora said his suspicions that something was brewing grew during the week. He met with Leiweke on Monday after Seattle’s 17-13 loss to Tennessee to end the season, the Seahawks’ fourth straight defeat. Leiweke was headed to Los Angeles to meet with Allen, but told Mora to move forward as though everything was settled.
Mora then held his media availability last Wednesday, saying about his future, “I’m not too worried about it. I’m just going to go to work until I’m told not to work.”
He was gone less than 48 hours later.
“I figured I wouldn’t be put out to do a press conference on Wednesday if things we’re going to change,” Mora said.
Mora had three years and almost $12 million remaining on his contract. Most of his concern the last few days has been for his family and his coaching staff.
He said the majority of Seattle’s players have reached out to offer support. The first person he heard from was wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Mora’s first season coaching his hometown team 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 defense, under rookie coordinator Gus Bradley, failed to generate a consistent pass rush and the small secondary often looked overmatched.
Mora refused to assign blame on the radio, saying he was in the process of analyzing possible changes when he got sidetracked.
“What makes it tougher for me is not being able to complete the task … knowing that I would complete it,” Mora said. “I have never failed in my life.”