I think it's safe to say that one of former Seahawks head coach Jim L. Mora's core football beliefs is that you have to be tough, and you have to develop a reputation of toughness. Intimidation is key. In Mora's one season as the Seattle coach, one of the most memorable things he said was that the Seahawks needed more 'dirtbags'. That theme has followed him to Los Angeles, where he recently told CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd, "The perception of UCLA football to those of who were not involved with UCLA football, was that UCLA football had become soft."
"That was the perception," Mora reiterated, "Our intent is to make sure that nobody can say that about us again. Whether it's truth, doesn't matter. Our goal is eliminate that perception, wipe it off the map, never let it cross anyone's lips again."
As Mora says, it's a reputation that he will seek to eliminate, and it's a similar situation to what he -- and I'd vouch for this just based on my perception of the team's reputation that season -- that he inherited in Seattle in 2009. He said back then late in the season, during the now infamous press conference where he described his desire for more dirtbags, "There are teams out there that say if you walk into Seattle and punch them in the face, they won't react. I know that's what Mike Singletary said on Saturday night before we played them two weeks ago." How did he know this? "Just, you know, got my sources. And he'll probably deny it, and that's OK. He should. But you know what? Every coach says that. I said it [when facing Seattle]."
Mora didn't get much of a chance to change the culture in Seattle, -- he was let go after only one season as the Seahawks hit the reset button on their front office, coaching staff, and ultimately, their roster. However, he'll now get the chance to change UCLA's reputation and culture and you've got to hand it to Mora for not beating around the bush. He wants a tough, hard-nosed team, and he's not afraid to call out his team or even individual players if they don't live up to that expectation.
"You're not going to change anything until you start playing football and people on Saturday see you and feel you," Mora told Dodd, "and walk off the field [saying], 'That's not a soft football team.' "
I can't say I disagree with Mora on all this, and I don't think his philosophy on toughness is what ultimately lost him his job in Seattle. In fact, after he departed, John Schneider and Pete Carroll have carried on that vision and stocked a football team full of tough, hard-nosed, and downright nasty players and restored the Seahawks' reputation, especially on defense, as a tough, hard-hitting team. Who knows if Mora would have had similar success, but you can't really knock what he's trying to do in L.A.