Revisiting Two Painful Stories on Jim Mora
By Paul Myerberg // Feb 26, 2012
Posts go up, they get read — most of the time, at least — and they fall behind newer stories, often never to be read or considered again. Embarrassingly, I even wrote the same story twice, in a way. On Oct. 26, I wrote about the quarterbacking succession plans in place at Houston, Boise State, Auburn and elsewhere. On Dec. 30, I tackled the same topic, albeit with a slightly different tack: Boise State and Houston were again discussed, in addition to Southern Mississippi and San Diego State. In short, stories often float out of view in the weeks and months after they’re published. On the other hand, some stories stick around, and are considered and reconsidered even weeks and months after they’ve been published.
For me, two come to mind immediately: “Guerrero-Led U.C.L.A. Is Taking on Water,” from Dec. 9, and “There is Only One Pete Carroll, U.C.L.A.,” from three days later. Both stories dealt with the same topic, from before and after: Jim Mora as the next head coach at U.C.L.A., with the first coming just prior to his hire and the next two days after he signed on the dotted line.
Some choice quotes from the first story:
“The latest coach to make the wires, former Falcons and Seahawks coach Jim Mora, possesses a year-by-year record that reads like an eye chart: 11-5, 8-8, 7-9, 5-11. The wins get smaller the farther down you go.”
“Guerrero and the Bruins are adrift. Lost without a paddle. In deep water, and the only possible conclusion is this: U.C.L.A. has no idea what it’s doing.”
“I can see the future. Guerrero will hire Mora, drawing extreme ire and antipathy from a fan base that expected better. The athletic department, in turn, will dismiss all negative feedback. Mora will first crash, then burn, and U.C.L.A. will be back in same boat.”
Now, some choice cuts from the second story:
“It’s 2011, and in hiring Jim Mora as Rick Neuheisel’s replacement, U.C.L.A.’s football program shows how far behind the curve it really is.”
“The Mora hire reeks of desperation. And the worst kind of desperation: misguided desperation, the sort aimed in the absolutely wrong direction. The Bruins needed a proven college coach, if only because this specific team — the one heading into 2012 — has enough talent to be a Pac-12 South contender.”
“There’s only one Pete Carroll. Jim Mora, like a Sherman, Callahan or Weis, is no Carroll. And in trying to catch up with the Trojans a decade too late, U.C.L.A.’s coaching search found an uninspired — and fairly embarrassing — conclusion. Why can’t the Bruins see what everyone else sees?”
You can feel the negativity oozing from every word. U.C.L.A. lacks direction. The Bruins don’t know what they’re doing. Mora is a retread, if not worse. U.C.L.A. wants him to be the second coming of Pete Carroll, the program’s longtime nemesis, but there’s only Carroll, and there’s no way that Mora matches that level of success. Very negative.
This isn’t a mea culpa — not exactly. Mora has yet to coach a game, after all, and he could crash and burn in a very Neuheisel-like fashion, for all we know. Like Neuheisel, Mora could win from January through August but fall flat on his face during the months that count. The judgment period begins in September and continues through December, and the book won’t be written on Mora’s tenure for at least two full seasons of play.
That’s the problem: I caked Mora in negativity, wrapped him up as a failure in a tight little bow, before his tenure was 48 hours old — before he was even hired, in fact. It wasn’t just premature: it was unprofessional, and came off as vindictive when that was the last thing any pieces on his hiring deserved to be. Or any hire truly deserves to be, actually. Going back, the tone of the stories should have been more distanced.
The gist of the first story was somewhat focused on U.C.L.A. athletic director Dan Guerrero, and there’s where it should have stayed throughout. I could question the Mora hire, but to belittle it in the way I did broke one cardinal rule: don’t put the cart ahead of the horse. Don’t judge any coach before he walks through the door, unless he has a proven track record of failing on the college level — that makes Mike Locksley fair game, in my book, but negatively labeling Mora before had had moved into his office went contrary to the tone seen in the vast majority of stories written on this site.
And you know what? Over the last two-plus months, Mora has aced every single test placed before him. He’s said all the right things. He tore to shreds the program’s ridiculous practice of “going over the wall,” when the team ditches a late-season practice. He preached accountability, and questioned the commitment of players who voluntarily skipped practice rather than work to improve.
Mora hired an outstanding staff, which I’ll touch on tomorrow morning. In February, he inked one of the most unpredictably impressive classes in the country. Despite having less than two months to keep Neuheisel’s commits in the fold, let alone add his own, Mora brought in what Rivals.com ranked the 13th-best recruiting class in the country.
Positive vibes abound in Westwood. To say that there’s been a shift in the mentality pervading the program would be to put it far too lightly: Mora has grasped the rudder and pointed in the right direction. The ship that was “taking on water” in December, per my words, seems to be in sturdy hands. The Bruins are no longer “adrift,” nor “lost without a paddle.”
Now, all big-picture judgments should be saved for September, when we get our first look at Mora’s on-field product. And when it comes down to it, he’ll be judged entirely on his win-loss record, not his offseason achievements. But there’s no escaping one fact: I buried Mora years ahead of schedule. Even if he ends up failing at U.C.L.A., the negativity was unjustified.
Tags: Dan Guerrero, Jim Mora, Rick Neuheisel, U.C.L.A.
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