Mora's Dream Turned Into a Nightmare


Posted Jan 7, 2010


The Seattle Seahawks finished the 2009 season at 5-11 and missed the playoffs for a second straight season after winning four straight NFC West division titles. For Seahawks head coach Jim Mora, his dream job as head coach of the pro football team in his hometown is no longer a retooling effort. The Seahawks are in full rebuilding mode.

Seattle finished the season with four straight losses for the first time since the 1992 season, when the Seahawks finished 2-14. The offensive line failed to consistently protect 34-year-old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, which led to him throwing a career-high 17 interceptions. Linebacker Aaron Curry, the No. 4 pick in last year's draft, played well early on but did not fully live up to his draft status. Three linebackers drafted lower in last year's draft -- Houston's Brian Cushing, Green Bay's Clay Matthews and Washington's Brian Orakpo -- made the Pro Bowl in their rookie season, instead of the more heralded Curry.

The defense again failed to generate much of a consistent pass rush, finishing tied for 26h overall in the league in sacks with 28. And now Mora faces questions on whether he, hand-picked by the organization two years ago to replace a retiring Mike Holmgren, will be around to fix this franchise with a new general manager expected to be hired in the next month.

Asked about whether or not team CEO Tod Leiweke has notified him that he will be the head coach in the future, Mora had this to say: "I'm just proceeding forward with our evaluation process. I haven't talked to Tod in a day. You know, Tod's busy with some other things right now. But I'm not too worried about it. I'm just going to go work until I'm told not to work."

Mora said he does not know how the team's selection process for a new general manager will unfold. The team reportedly has narrowed its list to four choices. They include Baltimore Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta, Green Bay director of football operations John Schneider, Arizona Cardinals director of player personnel Steve Keim and Philadelphia Eagles general manager Tom Heckert.

Mora said he and the coaching staff will take a few days off, and then return to the facility to begin an evaluation period in order to assess what went wrong last season and figure out how to improve things in 2010.

Asked if he will retain his coaching staff for next season, amid questions from the players on the direction of the team offensively, Mora said everything is under review.
"Everything is under evaluation," Mora said. "I have not made any decisions yet. And as soon as we make any decisions, we'll make sure we relay them to you." Asked to name a few things from the 2009 season that he could hang his hat on for next season, Mora pointed to the defense's play in the final game against Tennessee, the improvement of the running game late in the season and the special teams play of kicker Olindo Mare and punter Jon Ryan as places where the team showed progress.

NOTES, QUOTES

--One of the more amusing moments of Wednesday's press conference with Seahawks head coach Jim Mora happened when he was asked if he imagines seeing Matt Hasselbeck as his starting quarterback in September. Mora closed his eyes, held a finger to his head as if in deep thought and looking into the future, and then said after a long pause: "Yes."

Hasselbeck's contract runs through the end of the 2010 season, so there's some question as to whether the team will extend his contract this year and make him the quarterback of the foreseeable future, or if they will begin grooming his replacement by drafting a quarterback high in April's draft.

--Seattle has the No. 6 and No. 14 picks in the first round of this year's draft. The Seahawks have their own pick at No. 6 and Denver's pick at No. 14. Seattle acquired Denver's 2010 first-rounder in a draft day trade last year. That turns out to be No. 14 overall after the Broncos finished with an 8-8 record this season. The Seahawks gave up their second-round pick in 2009, No. 37 overall, so the Broncos could draft cornerback Alphonso Smith from Wake Forest.

Overall, the Seahawks have three of the first 40 picks in the draft to help fill whatever needs they fail to fill in free agency. The offensive and defensive lines likely will be priorities for the Seahawks. Seattle struggled with injuries and inconsistency along the offensive line this season.

The Seahawks remain uncertain whether offensive tackle Walter Jones, long the cornerstone of their offense, will be back for another season. He spent this season injured reserve after he could not return from microfracture knee surgery. Defensively, the Seahawks again struggled to generate an adequate pass rush, finishing tied for 26th in the league in sacks with 28.

Seattle also needs to add some explosive playmakers on offense after the team struggled to consistently score points. The Seahawks averaged 17.5 points a game in the 2009 season, finishing 25th in the league.

--By his own admission, Seattle veteran receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh did not play up to his expectations in his first year with Seattle. He finished with 79 receptions for 911 yards and three touchdowns -- respectable numbers, but not what Houshmandzadeh expected. Seattle head coach Jim Mora said part of the reason for Houshmandzadeh's struggles was learning a new offense, along with developing a better rapport with Matt Hasselbeck. And he expects Houshmandzadeh's production to improve next season, after he spends regular throwing sessions with Hasselbeck in the off-season.

"I think he and Matt grew to respect -- and I'm speaking as I see it -- to respect and like each other," Mora said. "I know they do things off the field together. Their kids are friends.

"What I think needs to happen there quite frankly is this: I think that Matt and T.J. need to spend countless hours out on that practice field -- outside or inside -- and they need to find four routes that are automatic."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You never know what they're going to do. For all I know I could be gone next year. You don't know what's going to happen. And so you don't know who they're going to bring in, and the people that they do bring in, what they're going to do. And so in these types of decisions, I'll watch eagerly like you guys will." -- WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, when asked about his thoughts on his team's general manager vacancy.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Seahawks signed six players off the practice squad to futures contract this week: wide receivers Patrick Carter and Mike Jones, linebacker Anthony Heygood, running back Xavier Omon, tight end Jason Pociask and cornerback DeAngelo Willingham. The Seahawks also re-signed punter Jon Ryan to a multiyear deal. Ryan reportedly signed a six-year deal worth $9.1 million, including a $1.6 million signing bonus

LB Aaron Curry, who struggled at times in his rookie season, will have an expanded role on defense according to head coach Jim Mora.

TEAM NEEDS

Defensive end: Seattle again struggled to consistently rush the passer, which affected the team's overall ability to defend the pass this season. The Seahawks finished 30th overall in pass defense this year.

Offensive tackle: Without the use of cornerstone tackle Walter Jones this season, the Seahawks struggled to protect Matt Hasselbeck, leading to a dysfunctional offense. Seattle can't bank on a healthy Jones returning to the lineup, and needs to draft to create depth at the position.

Running back/returner: The Seahawks lack a playmaker on offense or special teams that can take it the distance. They need to, either through the draft of free agency, acquire a player to put fear in an opponent's defense.

MEDICAL WATCH: DE Patrick Kerney will have surgery on his elbow this offseason. It's the third straight off-season the 32-year-old will have surgery. Kerney had shoulder surgery at the end of the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

--S Deon Grant will have surgery to repair a broken left wrist, but should not miss any of the team's minicamps set to begin in April.

--WR Mike Hass will have surgery to repair a dislocated shoulder in the offseason.


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