Jim Mora hires a man on the run/New offensive coordinator Knapp

Rumored for months since Jim Mora was announced as the future coach of the Seattle Seahawks, Greg Knapp finally was hired as the team’s new offensive coordinator.

The move, first reported by the NFL Network on Wednesday and later confirmed by team sources, is not official. Knapp, who served as Oakland’s offensive coordinator the past season, has not signed a contract with Seattle. However, the hiring is the first major decision of Mora’s early days as head coach, and signals a predicted shift of Seattle’s pass-first philosophy during the Mike Holmgren era to an offense built around a strong rushing attack.

Knapp, 45, served as Mora’s offensive coordinator during his time in Atlanta from 2004 to 2006. He also worked in the same capacity in San Francisco from 2001 to 2003 when Mora was the defensive coordinator for the 49ers.

The offense should remain familiar, because Knapp is steeped in West Coast offense tradition.

However, running the ball successfully has been Knapp’s forte as an NFL offensive coordinator. During his stints in San Francisco, Atlanta and Oakland, Knapp-led offenses never finished out of the top-10 in rushing. Knapp even got run production in a dysfunctional situation in Oakland in 2008, with the Raiders finishing 10th in the league in rushing.

While in Atlanta, Knapp’s offense led the NFL in rushing in all three seasons. And in 2005, when the Falcons averaged 159.1 yards a contest, included 1,000-yard rusher Warrick Dunn, and sent three Falcons to the Pro Bowl – Dunn, Michael Vick and Alge Crumpler.

Knapp also has coached two Pro Bowl quarterbacks – Vick in Atlanta and Jeff Garcia in San Francisco.

Accomplishments notwithstanding, Knapp had trouble making Vick into a successful, pocket passer, which is one of the reasons Atlanta leaned on the running game. In 2006, when Atlanta led the league in rushing, the Falcons also finished last in passing.

While in Oakland, Knapp had his play-calling duties stripped by interim head coach Tom Cable. After head coach Lane Kiffin’s firing four games into the season, Knapp took over the play-calling duties. During the first five games the Raiders averaged only seven points per contest.

During his tenure at San Francisco, Knapp stoically took the brunt of a verbal assault from Terrell Owens on the sidelines in September 2003 in the Metrodome, a clip that is often replayed to illustrate the moody Owens.

While offering some sense of continuity, Knapp should help in the Seahawks’ planned shift to a more run-oriented offense. Seattle team president Tim Ruskell brought in running backs Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett along with renowned offensive line coach Mike Solari last season in order to improve Seattle’s run game, with mixed results.

Jones ran the ball well early in the season but was later supplanted as the starter by Maurice Morris and saw little action late the season. However, Duckett significantly improved Seattle’s 2008 short-yardage running. The Seahawks finished 19th in rushing, averaging 110 yards a game.

With Knapp on board, the Seahawks have yet to announce what will happen to former offensive coordinator Gil Haskell, along with defensive coordinator John Marshall and the rest of the coaching staff from the 2008 season. Haskell has been rumored to be retiring. However, that has not been confirmed, and the Seahawks are expected to provide more information about the makeup of their staff by late this week or early next week.

Mora plans to address the media for the first time as head coach on Tuesday.