Unfulfilled expectations

“I told the players and I told my staff, in separate meetings, that what happened this year – as far as wins and losses – it shouldn’t happen again. It really shouldn’t happen again, because no one will get injured liked we got injured this year. If it hadn’t happened to me in 25 years (of coaching), it’s not going to happen again.”

Mike Holmgren made that prediction on Dec. 30, 2008, during his final news conference as coach of the Seahawks. Holmgren was stepping away after 10 seasons that included the most successful five-year run in franchise history. Jim Mora, the handpicked successor as coach, was stepping in.

But 374 days later, Mora also was gone – after one season as head coach and a 5-11 record.

“We’ve made a tough decision today,” then-CEO Tod Leiweke said at the time. “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.”

In hindsight, it was Mora who was supposed to provide if not an entirely new vision for ’09, at least a reflection of how the Seahawks looked while winning four NFC West titles in a row (2004-07) and advancing to the playoffs for five consecutive seasons (2003-07).

That was the plan when then-general manager Tim Ruskell hired Mora to be the team’s defensive backs coach in 2007. When Holmgren was done, Mora would be the one.

Instead, Mora was one-and-done.

The decision to fire Mora caught him totally by surprise. In fact, when summoned to Leiweke’s office on that fateful January day, Mora thought it was for a meeting to discuss replacements for Ruskell – who had resigned in December after being told his contract would not be renewed when it expired after the season. But the word from Leiweke was that Mora also was gone.

This isn’t how the story was supposed to play out. Mora viewed his post with the Seahawks as a destination job. He grew up in the Seattle area and attended Interlake High School in Bellevue while his father, Jim E., was coaching for the University of Washington (1975-77) and then the Seahawks (1978-81). The younger Mora – Jim L. – played for the Huskies and then coached at Washington for a year (1984), before beginning the nomadic life of an NFL assistant coach that took him to San Diego, New Orleans and San Francisco before he was hired as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons in 2004.

Mora was fired after three years with the Falcons, and ready to finally come home. The Seahawks provided that opportunity for him and his family.

The Mora Era got off the rousing start in ’09, as the Seahawks shutout the St. Louis Rams 28-0 in their season opener at Qwest Field. But that was followed by three losses before a 41-0 romp over the Jacksonville Jaguars ended the skid. Then came pairs of losses sandwiched around a victory over a Detroit Lions team that would win two games all season.

After winning back-to-back games for the only time in Mora’s only season – 27-17 at St. Louis and 20-17 against the San Francisco 49ers at Qwest Field – the Seahawks lost their final four games, paving the way to Mora losing his job.

The Seahawks’ road to ruin played out in their road performances: a 17-point loss at Indianapolis, a 21-point loss at Dallas, an 11-point loss at Arizona, a 26-point loss at Minnesota, a 27-pont loss at Houston and a 38-point loss at Green Bay.

It was a 24-7 loss to a 1-12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team at home in Week 15, however, that prompted owner Paul Allen to intervene. His message to Leiweke was succinct: Something had to be done.

But how did things come undone for Mora, and so quickly?

There were the injuries Holmgren mentioned in his never-happen-again assessment after the ’08 season. While his final team saw 26 players miss a combined 163 games, the ’09 team had 15 starters miss 66 games, or the equivalent of four full NFL seasons. The can’t-play list included all 16 games by Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones and 11 by Pro Bowl middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu. In a Week 3 loss to the Chicago Bears, the Seahawks’ inactive list was comprised of seven injured starters who had 16 Pro Bowls between them.

Even the supposedly good things that happened in ’09 were “yeah, but …” performances.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the team’s big free-agent addition during the offseason, led the club with 79 receptions. But he averaged only 11.5 yards on those catches and scored three touchdowns. Matt Hasselbeck passed for 3,000 yards, for the sixth time in eight seasons. But he had only 17 touchdown passes and, worst yet, threw a career-high 17 interceptions. Julius Jones led the team in rushing for the second consecutive season. But he had only 663 yards and averaged 3.7 yards a carry. Second-year tight end John Carlson led the team with seven touchdown catches. But he had fewer receptions (51) and receiving yards (574) than he did as a rookie (55 for 627). “I never would have thought it would be this way, I promise you,” Houshmandzadeh after his first – and what proved to be only – season with the Seahawks. “From being in OTAs and minicamps and training camp, I didn’t think we would struggle like this offensively. At all. And we all played a part in that, myself included.”

On defense, second-year linebacker David Hawthorne had a breakout season, leading the team in tackles (116), sharing the lead in interceptions (three) and finishing third in sacks (four). But it took Tatupu missing 11 starts to get Hawthorne on the field.

Versatile, and valuable, defensive back Jordan Babineaux started 16 games for the first time in his career and posted the first 100-tackle season of his career from the free safety position. But the pass defense ranked 30th in the league. Pro Bowl defensive end Patrick Kerney led the team in sacks. But he posted his lowest total (five) in a full season since 2000, when he was playing for the Falcons. Cornerback Josh Wilson had a 65-yard interception return for a touchdown. But the team’s 13 interceptions tied for the third fewest in franchise history.

“The season didn’t go as anyone expected,” Hawthorne said.

The special teams provided stability, as Olindo Mare missed only two of 26 field-goal attempts while scoring 100 points and punter Jon Ryan set a club record for average (46.2 yards) and tied the mark for net average (38.7). But Ryan had to punt too many times (88, third most in the NFC and the fifth-highest total in club history) while Mare got only 28 opportunities to kick PATs, which tied for fifth fewest in the conference and seventh fewest in club history.

It was that kind of season for the Seahawks and their one-and-done coach.

“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t put our best stuff out there,” Hasselbeck said. “That’s disappointing. But there’s nothing we can do about it, except for get better and, given the opportunity, make it happen. I think that’s what everybody plans to do. I know that’s what I plan to do.”

Mora, however, would not have that opportunity because he no longer was in the team’s plans.

Year in Review
Record
5-11 (third in NFC West)
Owner
Paul Allen
Coach
Jim Mora
Captains
QB Matt Hasselbeck and LT Walter Jones (off.); SS Deon Grant and MLB Lofa Tatupu (def.); LB Lance Laury and K Olindo Mare (ST)
Man of the Year
CB Josh Wilson
Largent Award
Hasselbeck
Leading Passer
Hasselbeck (293 of 488 for 3,029 yards, with 17 TDs and 17 interceptions)
Leading Rusher
Julius Jones (663 yards)
Leading Receiver
T.J. Houshmandzadeh (79 receptions for 911 yards)
Leading Tackler(s)
MLB David Hawthorne (116)
Special Teams Tackles
LB Lance Laury (21)
Interception Leader(s)
Hawthorne and Grant (3)
Sack Leader
DE Patrick Kerney (5)
Leading Scorer(s)
Mare (100 points)

2009

2009: Unfulfilled expectations

Holmgren was stepping away after 10 seasons that included the most successful five-year run in franchise history. Jim Mora, the handpicked successor as coach, was stepping in.

2009 Games
Key Date
December 03, 2009

Seahawks President of Football Operation Tim Ruskell announces resignation.

First VMAC Training Camp
July 31, 2009

Training Camp begins and for the first time in Seattle, training camp open to fans at VMAC.

Key Date
January 22, 2009

Tim Lewis, brother of Seahawks Director of Pro Personnel Will Lewis, was hired as defensive backs coach.

Draft Aaron Curry Fourth Overall
April 25, 2009

Selected LB Aaron Curry with the fourth overall choice in the NFL Draft. Also traded second-round pick to Denver for the Broncos 2010 first-round selection.

Key Date
March 03, 2009

Signed free agent WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh. On his visit, flew into VMAC on owner Paul Allen’s seaplane.

Key Date
January 13, 2009

Jim Mora formally announced as head coach of the Seahawks. Robert Prince hired to coach wide receivers.

Key Date
January 08, 2009

Greg Knapp was hired as Seattle’s offensive coordinator.

Key Date
May 01, 2009

Karen Beckman promoted from director of finance to vice president of finance & chief financial officer.

Key Date
September 13, 2009

Seahawks open the Jim Mora era with a 28-0 shutout over the Rams.

Key Date
January 12, 2009

Casey ‘Gus’ Bradley was hired as Seattle’s defensive coordinator. Dan Quinn was hired to coach the defensive line.

Key Date
March 14, 2009

Julian Peterson was traded to the Detroit Lions for Cory Redding and a fifth-round draft choice.

Key Date
October 11, 2009

The Seahawks posted their second shutout of the season with a 41-0 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Qwest Field.

It’s unfortunate that we didn’t put our best stuff out there. That’s disappointing. But there’s nothing we can do about it, except for get better and, given the opportunity, make it happen. I think that’s what everybody plans to do. I know that’s what I plan to do.
Matt Hasselbeck
2009 Season Schedule
Click on any game
to see full statistics.
DateOpponentScoreW:L
9/13 St. Louis 28-0 W
9/20 AT San Francisco 10-23 L
9/27 Chicago 19-25 L
10/4 AT Indianapolis 17-34 L
10/11 Jacksonville 41-0 W
10/18 Arizona 3-27 L
11/1 AT Dallas 17-38 L
11/8 Detroit 32-20 W
11/15 AT Arizona 20-31 L
11/22 AT Minnesota 9-35 L
11/29 AT St. Louis 27-17 W
12/6 San Francisco 20-17 W
12/13 AT Houston 7-34 L
12/20 Tampa Bay 7-24 L
12/27 AT Green Bay 10-48 L
1/3 Tennessee 13-17 L
2009 Record
511
2009 Offense
PosPlayerStarts
C Steve Vallos 0
C Chris Spencer 11
C Chris Spencer 3
G Mansfield Wrotto 0
G Max Unger (R) 13
G Rob Sims 14
G Mike Gibson 0
G Trevor Canfield 0
T Sean Locklear 10
T Damion McIntosh 2
T Ray Willis 16
TE Cameron Morrah 0
TE John Carlson 16
TE John Owens 0
WR Deion Branch 5
WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh 16
WR Ben Obomanu 0
WR Nate Burleson 12
WR Deon Butler 0
QB Mike Teel 0
QB Seneca Wallace 0
QB Matt Hasselbeck 14
FB Owen Schmitt 0
FB Justin Griffith 11
RB Louis Rankin 0
RB Justin Forsett 0
RB Julius Jones 14
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2009 Defense
PosPlayerStarts
DE Darryl Tapp 0
DE Lawrence Jackson 4
DE Lawrence Jackson 6
DE Patrick Kerney 9
DE Patrick Kerney 5
DE Cory Redding 0
DE Nick Reed 0
DT Colin Cole 15
DT Craig Terrill 0
DT Brandon Mebane 15
DT Red Bryant 0
LB Lance Laury 0
LB D.D. Lewis 0
MLB David Hawthorne 11
OLB Will Herring 0
OLB Leroy Hill 11
OLB Aaron Curry (R) 13
CB Marcus Trufant 9
CB Kelly Jennings 0
CB Josh Wilson 7
CB Ken Lucas 0
DB Jamar Adams 0
DB Lawyer Milloy 0
DB Roy Lewis 0
FS Jordan Babineaux 16
SS Deon Grant 16
+ View All-Time Roster
2009 Special Teams
PosPlayerStarts
K Olindo Mare 0
LS Jeff Robinson 0
P Jon Ryan 0
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2009: Unfulfilled expectations

VIDEO: 2009: Unfulfilled expectations

On this Day in Seahawks History