Friday January 8th, 2010

Jim Mora's undoing in Seattle had everything to do with December.

With being blown out in Houston, 34-7, in Week 14.

With being embarrassed by the one-win Bucs at home, 24-7, in Week 15.

With being decimated at Green Bay's Lambeau Field, 48-10, in Week 16.

Don't let anyone tell you the games are meaningless in December for teams already out of the playoff hunt. Cleveland head coach Eric Mangini still has his job today because his Browns finished strong in those seemingly inconsequential December games, and Mora is out of a job in Seattle after just one season because his Seahawks went down to four straight defeats to end the season, being routed three times.

Seattle's move Friday afternoon wasn't expected, because you never really suppose a one-and-done coaching tenure. But it's not altogether surprising either in light of how the Seahawks limped to the finish line, finishing 5-11 after being 5-7 and at least on the fringes of wild-card contention through the season's first three quarters.


Sources in Seattle tell me the magnitude of those late-season losses, and the wholly uncompetitive nature of the Seahawks' efforts combined to generate the obvious perception that Mora's team was getting worse as the season progressed, rather than improving. While no one seems to believe that Mora's players quit on him, the blowout losses seemed to underline just how big of a talent shortage there was on the Seattle roster this year. That inclined the organization toward a full-scale housecleaning, rather than the partial one that began with general manager Tim Ruskell's forced resignation in early December.

Sources say Ruskell's early departure played a clear-cut role in making Mora more vulnerable to increased scrutiny and criticism late in the season. Without Ruskell around to answer for the organization as it stumbled through the final month of its second consecutive double-digit loss season -- following a five-year streak of playoff berths -- the spotlight in Seattle actually shifted to Mora's first-year struggles and the question of whether starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck should be replaced.

While Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke and owner Paul Allen have been very supportive of Mora, with Leiweke saying last month that he expected him to return for a second season, the team's late-season collapse seemed to change the dynamic within the organization and leave Mora in a more tenuous position.

That said, Seattle's search for a new general manager is now reportedly down to four finalists, and it's always a little tricky in the NFL to hire a GM if you're going to force them to inherit a head coach who was hired by their predecessor. It's possible that the early stages of Seattle's general manager search revealed this difficulty in a whole new light to Leiweke and Allen, leaving them little choice but to dismiss Mora and allow their new GM to bring in his own hand-picked head coach.

Seattle, however, has reportedly already reached out and requested an interview with Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who was expected to be one of the game's hottest first-time head coaching candidates this month. The finalists in the GM search reportedly are Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta, Eagles general manager Tom Heckert, Packers director of football operations John Schneider and Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross.

Though the Seahawks were racked by a plague of injuries for a second consecutive year, and went 9-23 in 2008-09, there are reasons for hope in Seattle. The Seahawks own the 6th and 14th picks in the first round of the upcoming draft, and Allen has indicated he's willing to spend liberally in free agency to improve the team's sagging fortunes and upgrade the roster.


But that future will now unfold in Seattle without Mora, who attended both high school and college in the area and considered the Seahawks his dream job. Just Wednesday, Mora said Seattle was where he planned on living the rest of his life, and that he considered it a civic duty of his to bring the city a Super Bowl title.

For Mora, December is what derailed that dream.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.