That’s why coach Jim Mora took a few minutes from the evaluation process of his first season as Seahawks coach – a 5-11 season that fell short of everyone’s expectations – to find others who were, well, less than immediately successful in their ventures into the NFL.
“One of the things I did, maybe to prop myself up, was to go back and look at some of the all-time great coaches in this league,” Mora said Wednesday during his postseason Q&A session with reporters. “And look at their career paths and when they took over places some of the trial and tribulations they went through.
“You’re always looking for someone to share your misery with.”
Tom Landry was 13-38-3 in his first four seasons in Dallas before leading the Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories. Chuck Noll was 12-30 in his first three seasons in Pittsburgh before leading the Steelers to four Super Bowl championships. Bill Walsh was 8-24 in his first two seasons in San Francisco before leading the 49ers to three Super Bowl titles.
This season, 10 teams in the league had new coaches and the best any could do was a plus-2 improvement over 2008 – the Kansas City Chiefs (4-12) and Detroit Lions (2-14). The Seahawks were plus-1, along with the Cleveland Browns (also 5-11).
Not everyone can inherit a 5-11 team and go 11-5 in his first season, as Mora did with the Atlanta Falcons in 2004.
“I’m an optimist, and most coaches are optimists,” Mora said. “We feel like we can take anything and make it into something great. That’s what we try to do. That’s basically our personalities. And that’s not always the way it is.
“So I always approach it as, I can do that again. I can definitely do that again. Well, maybe that’s not always realistic. … It was harder than we thought. But we’re going to keep pounding, and we’re going to keep hitting it hard.”
So while CEO Tod Leiweke is searching for a general manager to replace Tim Ruskell, who resigned last month, Mora and his coaching staff will continue to search for answers to make the team better next season.
“We’re committed to bringing a championship to this city,” Mora said. “It could take a little while. But we’re not going to accept that. It could, but we’re going to attack it.”
Mora deferred most questions until he and his staff can conclude their evaluation of the season, and the new GM is in place.
“These are good football men, the people they’re talking to – the people that are in-house and out of the house,” Mora said. “They’re all good football men and they’ll very quickly identify what are issues are.”
But Mora does have some ideas about what this team needs as it moves forward:
Play more aggressively on defense. “We’re not where we want to be, but we’ve got a group of guys that I think understand what we want and are working toward that,” Mora said. “We’re going to expand our schemes and become more aggressive in our personality in terms of what we do schematically.
“That’s something that’s just a work in progress for us right now. … We’ve got to do a better job of adding variations to it. That’s what we’ve got to do a better job of.”
Add or develop players on offense capable of producing more “chunk plays,” as he called them. “I think we’ve just got to look at it and we’ve got to continue to try to add players to this football team that can get us chunks of yardage on offense,” he said. “We need to continue to find guys that can give us some big plays – some chunk plays; catch a slant and go the distance.
“That’s what we’re going to continue to do, whether it’s guys on our team or guys outside our team. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
Improve the rapport between quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. “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,” Mora said.
“A slant. Option. Skinny post. Comeback. And throw a million of them so they can do it in their sleep and develop that chemistry that great receiver-quarterback combinations have.”
Mora also knows one other thing: This was a very emotional season to live through, and coach through.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Mora, who went to Interlake High School in Bellevue and played at the University of Washington. “I feel a tremendous sense of obligation not only to this organization, but to the people in this city – many who are friends.
“A tremendous sense of obligation to them – unlike probably any new coach in the league who goes to a city where he doesn’t have roots. I’ve made it known that this is where I plan on living for the rest of my life. And I want to be able to walk around this city and feel proud of the work I did for the Seattle Seahawks.”