The Seattle Seahawks fired Jim Mora on Friday after just one season, and have already reached an agreement with USC coach Pete Carroll.
Carroll has reached an agreement with the Seahawks on the major principles in a contract to become coach and director of football operations, but has not signed a contract.
Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will interview for the vacant Seattle head coaching job with Seahawks’ officials Saturday in Minneapolis, a source with knowledge of the meeting told NFL.com’s Steve Wyche. Frazier would allow Seattle to satisfy the Rooney Rule, in which teams have to interview at least one minority candidate for the job.
The Seahawks expect an announcement within a few days.
Carroll’s agent, Gary Uberstine, did not return calls and e-mails from The Associated Press. The Seahawks are not commenting and chief executive Tod Leiweke did not return repeated messages Saturday.
NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi reported that Seahawks chief executive Tod Leiweke and a staff of team executives, including legal counsel Lance Lopes, met with Carroll. The relationship started because of Lopes and his brother, Steve Lopes, who is on the USC staff as a senior associate athletic director, according to Lombardi.
A month before firing Mora, the Seahawks forced general manager and president Tim Ruskell to resign. That left them without a coach, general manager or president less than four years after they reached the Super Bowl.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Seattle — owned by Microsoft Corp. tycoon Paul Allen — is believed to be offering Carroll a five-year contract worth $7 million a season to be president and coach. That would be a raise of more than $2 million annually on what Carroll is thought to be earning at USC.
University of Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, who left his friend Carroll and the Trojans 12 months ago for his first head coaching job, chuckled when asked if he’d like to be a head coach in the same city as his mentor
“That’d be kind of fun,” Sarkisian said.
“I’m so used to hearing people talk about Pete Carroll going to the NFL, they’ve been saying it for the last seven years when I was with him, so it’s not new to me,” Sarkisian said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all. Every year. You can’t find a year in the last seven years where it hasn’t been brought up.”
Leiweke, acting on the orders of owner Paul Allen, fired Mora during a morning meeting at team headquarters, ending a four-week internal evaluation the CEO conducted of his floundering franchise.
Hours later, the team confirmed the firing in a news release. On Sunday, Mora finished his only season in Seattle 5-11, after taking over his hometown team at the end of Mike Holmgren’s tenure. Mora had three years and almost $12 million remaining on his contract.
“We’ve made a tough decision today,” Leiweke said. “It became apparent after conducting an extensive internal audit that a new direction was needed to provide an opportunity for the organization to be successful. Today’s decision, while difficult, is part of the process in building a franchise with a new vision in 2010.”
Leiweke called Mora “truly a standup man, who gave his full effort to our franchise.”
“Coach mora will be missed,” Seattle defensive end Darryl Tapp posted on his Twitter page.
Seattle is 9-23 since its last playoff appearance in January 2008, after four consecutive NFC West titles.
“This team, more importantly this community, means so much to me that it hurts not being able to see this through,” Mora said in the team statement. “I am disappointed I did not get the chance to complete my contract. This is a tough business that sometimes demands immediate gratification.”
GM and president Tim Ruskell took the initial fall for the Seahawks’ flop when he was fired Dec. 3. Leiweke noted then that Mora was steward of a rocky transition from Holmgren’s regime to one with a new offense, new defense and almost entirely new coaching staff.
Leiweke said last month he expected Mora to return for a second season.
Seattle was one of eight teams to have a new head coach and largely new staffs in 2009. Half of those teams improved their win totals: the Browns and Seahawks each gained one win over ’08; the Chiefs and Lions were plus-2.
“Maybe I oversold” optimism before the season, Mora said. “It was harder than we thought.”
Mora’s first season following Holmgren’s mostly glorious decade in Seattle was in sharp contrast to his rookie season as a head coach in Atlanta in 2004. That year, Mora took what had been a 5-11 Falcons team to the NFC championship game.
This time, the Seahawks’ injured and ineffective offensive line wrecked new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s running game — and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck‘s health. The three-time Pro Bowl passer missed 2½ games, then played through broken ribs, a sore passing shoulder and thumb injury, while throwing a career-high 17 interceptions.
The defense, under rookie coordinator Gus Bradley, failed to generate a consistent pass rush and the small secondary often looked overmatched.
The 48-year-old Mora, who grew up and attended high school and college in the Seattle area, returned in 2007 to become Holmgren’s assistant head coach and defensive backs coach with the Seahawks. He then replaced Holmgren, with the announcement coming in early 2008 a year before he took the job in what the team said was an effort to smooth the transition.
So much for smooth.
On Wednesday, Mora said he considered it a civic duty of his to bring the Seahawks their first championship.
“This is where I plan on living the rest of my life,” he said, “and I want to be able to walk around this city and feel proud of the work I did for the Seattle Seahawks.”