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Jim E. Mora

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Date of birth May 24 1935 (1935-05-24) (age 84)
Place of birth Glendale, California
No. N/A
Career highlights
Coaching Record / Statistics
Coaching stats Pro Football Reference
Career player statistics (if any)
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Team(s) as a player (if any)
Team(s) as a coach/administrator (if any)

James Ernest Mora (born May 24, 1935) is the former head coach of the USFL's Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars and the NFL's New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts. He played football at Occidental College where he was also a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. His son Jim L. Mora is the current head coach of the UCLA Bruins.

As an NFL coach, Mora is well known for turning two of the NFL's consistently losing franchises into perennial post-season contenders, his lack of success once he got his teams to the playoffs, and his often impassioned post-game tirades and press conferences, including his oft-quoted "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda," "Diddly Poo," and "Playoffs?" tirades.[1]

Early careerEdit

As a youth Mora became an Eagle Scout in 1950 and was presented the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award as an adult by the Boy Scouts of America.[2] Mora was a tight end at Occidental College, graduating in 1957. His college roommate was Jack Kemp, an all star quarterback with the Buffalo Bills, U.S congressman for 18 years and presidential candidate in 1988. Another teammate was Ron Botchan, who went on to become a successful NFL game official. After playing three years of service football in the United States Marines Mora became an assistant coach at his alma mater in 1960. He moved up to head coach of Occidental a few years later and led the team for three seasons (1964–66) compiling an 18-9 record.

Mora received a master's degree in education in 1967 and left Occidental to serve as an assistant coach at Stanford for the 1967 season. He then spent five seasons at Colorado, one at UCLA and three at Washington. In 1978 he moved to the professional ranks as the defensive line coach for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks under head coach Jack Patera.

USFLEdit

In 1983 the United States Football League came into existence and Mora became head coach of the Philadelphia Stars (who moved to Baltimore in 1985). During his tenure the team compiled a 48-13-1 (.782) record, appeared in all three USFL championship games and won two of them. Mora was named Coach of the Year in 1984 and is considered by many observers to be the best coach in the short history of the USFL. Soon after the Stars won the 1985 USFL title, Mora was named head coach of the NFL's New Orleans Saints. The USFL would eventually be forced out of business after only winning $3 in an antitrust suit against the NFL.

New Orleans SaintsEdit

Mora was hired by new Saints General Manager Jim Finks to turn around the franchise largely viewed as the NFL's most inept. The Saints had only won 90 games in their first 19 seasons, had never achieved a winning record, and only twice had reached .500, in 1979 and 1983. In late 1984, then-owner John Mecom. threatened sell the team to a group of investors who planned to move the franchise to Jacksonville, Florida if he could not find an owner or group of owners who would buy the team and keep them in New Orleans.

Mecom sold the Saints to Tom Benson in May 1985 for $70 million. Benson, who grew up in the city's Ninth Ward, pledged to keep the team in New Orleans. The Saints limped along to a 5-11 record in 1985, and coach Bum Phillips resigned with four games remaining. Benson hired Finks in January 1986 and charged the former Vikings and Bears executive with the task of hiring the new coach.

Mora spent his first off-season remaking the Saints roster. He convinced several players from the USFL to come to New Orleans. The imports included linebackers Sam Mills and Vaughan Johnson, who went on to form the inside tandem of the legendary "Dome Patrol" linebacking corps with veteran Rickey Jackson and draftee Pat Swilling on the outside. Mora inherited quarterback Bobby Hebert and receiver Eric Martin from Phillips, and drafted running back Reuben Mayes and tackle Jim Dombrowski.

After a 7-9 record his first season, Mora led the Saints to a 12-3 record in 1987. In week 6 of the 1987 season the Saints lost a 24-22 game to the San Francisco 49ers, missing a last-second field goal. After the game Mora launched what became known as his "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda" speech. In his postgame press conference, Mora angrily said the following:

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The Saints responded by winning their last 9 games, notching the franchise's first-ever winning record and playoff berth. The team's 12–3 record in the 1987 season was the second-best in the NFL that year. Unfortunately for them, the 49ers had the league's best record (13–2), and also played in the NFC West. Therefore, the Saints were a wild-card team (since 1987 was a strike-shortened season with replacement games, it should be noted that the Saints and 49ers had identical 10–2 records in regular season non-replacement games). Nonetheless, the Saints were able to play their first playoff game at home, which they lost 44–10 to the Minnesota Vikings. Mora received the NFL Coach of the Year Award.

Mora's Saints finished 10–6 in 1988, and were part of a three-way tie for first in the NFC West with the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams. However, the 49ers won the division on tie-breakers, and the Saints lost the wild-card tiebreaker with the Rams and missed the playoffs. In 1989, the Saints again had a winning record (9–7) but finished 3rd in the NFC West and missed the playoffs.

Thereafter his Saints teams made the playoffs three more times. In 1990, the Saints only finished 8–8, but managed to make the playoffs as a wild card. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Chicago Bears, 16–6.

In 1991, Mora's Saints finished 11-5 and won the team's first division title. However, the Saints lost again in the first round of the playoffs. They lost at home to the Atlanta Falcons 27-20, in spite of finishing one game ahead of the Falcons in the NFC West during the regular season.

In 1992, Mora led the Saints to its second 12-win season in 6 years, finishing 12-4. They were a wild card again, however, as the San Francisco 49ers finished 14-2. But for the second time in two years, the Saints were upset at home in the first round the playoffs, as the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Saints, 36–20. This would be the Saints' last playoff game during Mora's tenure, leaving Mora with an 0–4 playoff record in New Orleans. The Saints would not win a playoff game until 2000.

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1993 marked the beginning of the decline of Mora's Saints. The team started the season 5–0 and appeared to be headed to the postseason again; however, after the Saints' bye week, the team went into a tailspin and went only 3–8 in the final 11 games, including losing 4 out of their last 5 games. 1993 was Mora's last season of .500 or better in New Orleans. In the Week 16 game against the New York Giants, quarterback Wade Wilson was injured on Monday Night Football and fans were cheering that fact, earning an angry retort:

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After two 7–9 seasons in 1994 and 1995, Mora appeared increasingly frustrated with his team's situation in New Orleans. The Saints' defense went into a steep decline, negating the passing heroics of quarterback Jim Everett, acquired from the division rival Rams in 1994 for a seventh-round draft choice. Everett came to the Saints shortly before his infamous incident with Jim Rome on ESPN2 when Rome insulted the quarterback by calling him Chris Evert, a reference to Jim Everett's lack of toughness.

The 1996 season started off very badly. The Saints lost their first five games, including an embarrassing 28-14 loss at home to the then-winless Arizona Cardinals in which LeShon Johnson rushed for 214 yards, a Cardinals franchise record which has since been broken by Beanie Wells in 2011. Following a road loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Saints won back-to-back home games vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears, but the turnaround was a mirage.

After the Saints were beaten 19–7 by the Carolina Panthers on October 20, a loss which put them at 2–6 midway through the season, Mora walked out of the postgame press conference in disgust after a profanity-laced tirade. His outburst became famous on sports highlight reels for years to follow, largely because of Mora's use of the phrase "Diddley Poo." On the Saints' performance, Mora said the following:

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The next day, Mora unexpectedly resigned his position as head coach and was replaced by interim coach Rick Venturi. The Saints finished the season at 3–13, their worst season since going 1-15 in 1980. Venturi was replaced by veteran Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka. Mora is still the winningest coach in Saints history; his 93 wins in 10-plus years in New Orleans are three more than the Saints had won in their first 20 years combined.

Indianapolis ColtsEdit

Mora served as a color analyst for NBC in 1997, and in 1998 he replaced Lindy Infante as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. The team struggled to a 3–13 mark in his first year with a rookie Peyton Manning learning the ropes at quarterback, but had an amazing turnaround to 13-3 in 1999, thanks in large part to the addition of rookie running back Edgerrin James. At the time, this turnaround was the "largest" in NFL history. The Colts lost their first playoff game in the AFC Divisional Playoffs (the team received a first-round bye to advance to the Divisional Playoffs) to the Tennessee Titans, which dropped Mora's all-time NFL postseason record to 0-5.

The Colts finished 10–6 in 2000 and made the playoffs once again, but the team lost a wild-card round playoff game to the Miami Dolphins by a score of 23-17 in overtime. This defeat dropped Mora's overall postseason record to 0-6. Coincidentally, just hours after Mora lost what would be the sixth and final playoff game of his career, his former team, the New Orleans Saints, won their first-ever playoff game.

On November 25, 2001, after a loss to the San Francisco 49ers that dropped the Colts to 4–6, Mora made his famous "Playoffs?" tirade. Of the Colts' performance, Mora said:

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Later in the press conference, in response to Tim Bragg, a reporter for WRTV, who asked a question about the Colts' chances for making the playoffs, Mora said in a high-pitched, incredulous tone:[3]

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His "Playoffs" sound byte is regularly played back as a joke on a number of sports radio talk shows when discussing mediocre NFL teams or playoffs of other sports. The tirade would go on to be featured in a Coors Light commercial in 2006 as part of an ad campaign that recreated NFL coaches' infamous press conferences with twenty-something male actors asking the coaches inane and unrelated non-football questions about the beer. In an appearance on the Best Damn Sports Show in 2003, Mora talked about going to autograph signings and having a kid come up to him and ask him to say "playoffs" in lieu of an autograph. He's also had some fun with the remark, saying the Playoffs? line during a media session to the New York Giants in the days leading up to Super Bowl XLII in Arizona. More fun was had during 2007 training camp when he talked to his son Jim L. Mora, then an assistant with the Seattle Seahawks, via satellite feed on the NFL Network and Marcus Pollard, a former member of Mora's Colts, spoofed Mora Sr's "Playoffs?" rant.

Hampered by a defense that allowed the most points in the league (30.4 per game), Indianapolis only won two more games that year. Some sources believed that Mora could have saved his job if he fired one (or more) of his coordinators (especially defensive coordinator Vic Fangio) but he refused to do so. Mora was fired after the season and replaced by Tony Dungy who led the Colts to win the Super Bowl in 2006 before leaving the Colts after the 2008 season.

Coaching philosophyEdit

Mora favored a conservative approach to the game, relying on a strong running game and solid defensive play. Perhaps more than any other teams, the Saints teams of the late 1980s embodied his coaching style. Those teams were led by the "Dome Patrol" linebacking corps. This unit consisting of Rickey Jackson, Sam Mills, Vaughan Johnson, and Pat Swilling became known as one of the best four-man linebacking corps in NFL history. Those same Saints teams also had a strong running game, mostly led by Rueben Mayes and Dalton Hilliard, as well as a conservative but efficient passing game led by quarterback Bobby Hebert and wide receiver Eric Martin.

Despite his solid regular season record (125–106), the biggest criticism of Mora has been his NFL teams' inability to win any playoff games in six appearances. His critics, both among fans and media reporters, often blamed his lack of success in the postseason to his conservative approach. Mora did not appear to take the criticisms seriously, as evidenced in another famous Mora quote from a press conference during his years in New Orleans.

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Critics continued to argue that this conservative approach prevented his teams from closing out big games against good teams, like the Marty Ball approach Marty Schottenheimer used during his coaching career. The most frequent complaint was that his teams' offenses would no longer be aggressive late in these football games. They accused him of trying the run out the clock and not make mistakes, and over-relying on his defense to hold the lead (instead of trying to build on the lead and score more points). Critics argued that this aspect of his conservative strategy backfired on him. They point to the fact that his teams had second-half leads in four of his six playoff games, but won none of them. In three of those games, Mora's teams had leads in the fourth quarter.

In an NFL Network program naming Jim Mora the #10 "Coach Who Never Won a Championship," former Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Brian Baldinger said of the Saints' playoff loss to the Eagles in 1992, "We beat 'em. But that's only because they called the dogs off. Whatever reason, they called the dogs off in the second half. I don't know what Jim Mora was thinking about that day." In that game, the Saints led 17-7 at halftime and 20-10 after the 3rd quarter. However, the Eagles scored 26 unanswered points in the 4th quarter and won the game 36-20.

Head coaching recordEdit

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
WonLostTiesWin %Finish Won Lost Win % Result
NOR1986 790.4384th in NFC West - - - -
NOR1987 1230.8002nd in NFC West 0 1 .000 Lost to Minnesota Vikings in NFC Wild-Card Game.
NOR1988 1060.6253rd in NFC West - - - -
NOR1989 970.5623rd in NFC West - - - -
NOR1990 880.5002nd in NFC West 0 1 .000 Lost to Chicago Bears in NFC Wild-Card Game.
NOR1991 1150.6881st in NFC West 0 1 .000 Lost to Atlanta Falcons in NFC Wild-Card Game.
NOR1992 1240.7502nd in NFC West 0 1 .000 Lost to Philadelphia Eagles in NFC Wild-Card Game.
NOR1993 880.5002nd in NFC West - - - -
NOR1994 790.4382nd in NFC West - - - -
NOR1995 790.4385th in NFC West - - - -
NOR1996 260.250(resigned) - - - -
NOR Total93740.55604.000
IND1998 3130.1885th in AFC East - - - -
IND1999 1330.8131st in AFC East 0 1 .000 Lost to Tennessee Titans in AFC Divisional Game.
IND2000 1060.6252nd in AFC East 0 1 .000 Lost to Miami Dolphins in AFC Wild-Card Game.
IND2001 6100.3754th in AFC East - - - -
IND Total32320.50002.000
Total[4]1251060.541 0 6 .000

Life after coachingEdit

In 2003, Mora became an on-air analyst for NFL Total Access, the primary analysis show on the newly-launched NFL Network, a job he holds to this day.

Mora was a sports radio commentator for Fox Sports's GameTime Saturday and GameTime Sunday with Dan Moriarty. On Thanksgiving Thursday, November 23, 2006, Mora made some critical comments about the Atlanta Falcons' quarterback Michael Vick which became controversial because the Falcons were coached at the time by Mora's son, Jim L. Mora. Craig Shemon of Fox Sports Radio called Vick a "coach killer" and Mora quickly agreed with that assessment, saying that Vick was not a good passer and expressing concern for his son's prospects of keeping his head coaching job while the popular Vick was the team's quarterback.[5]

On Wednesday, December 6, 2006, according to ESPN and confirmed by FOX, Mora quit his radio show on FOX because of the controversy he caused with his comments about Vick.

Currently, Mora does game analysis for Saints games that either air on NBC or ESPN for WDSU in New Orleans.

ReferencesEdit

  1. [1]
  2. Distinguished Eagle Scouts. Scouting.org. Retrieved on 2010-11-04.
  3. Manning throws career-high four interceptions. Game Recap. ESPN (2001-11-25). Retrieved on 12-05-2011.
  4. Jim Mora Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks - Pro-Football-Reference.com
  5. Moore, Terence (2006-11-20), Elder Mora fears son's job tied to erratic Vick, Atlanta Journal Constitution, archived from the original on 2012-07-17, https://archive.is/3LJ8, retrieved 2010-01-08 

External linksEdit

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