Q & A / JIM MORA
Mora: 'This is not a good feeling'
Falcons coach elaborates on his recent radio comments
By STEVE WYCHE
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 12/21/06 Still reeling from his comments last week about his desire to coach the University of Washington, his alma mater, and in a push for the NFL playoffs, Falcons coach Jim Mora spoke with beat writer Steve Wyche Wednesday in an exclusive interview.
Q: How has the fallout from your remarks affected your home life?
A: "My wife Shannon is very supportive of me. She knows my sense of humor. She knows my sarcasm. She knows what a smart aleck I am. She said that I've apologized enough but she doesn't understand how I feel at all times.
"As a husband and a father you feel a great responsibility to your wife and children to create a safe haven for them and create a great life for them and when you do something like I did — I can't emphasize enough my intent; I was talking with my college roommate, joking and we've talked about this before and laughed but it didn't come across that way — and realize my job is tied to 20 other men and their families and it's a bad deal. I couldn't feel worse in my life.
"I've never had a parent die or lost a child but this is not a good feeling."
Q: That was my next question. Regarding your assistant coaches, how has it been facing them, knowing that something like this could adversely affect them?
A: "I've said things that have been inflammatory in the past and immediately I've gotten a pit in my stomach. I never felt this way with this interview because I felt like it was all in fun and banter. The next morning, when [vice president of football communications] Reggie Roberts came to me and asked if we needed to be ahead of this, I told him, 'No, I was kidding around.' It took me awhile to realize that people were taking this seriously.
"Then I was like, I let the fans down, the owner down, my family down, everyone in this building down and all the assistant coaches down. I have a strong passion to this city and to the Falcons and if you take away this incident, it would be hard to argue that."
Q: Have you spoken to [University of Washington coach] Tyrone Willingham?
A: "I have not had the time to speak to Ty. If you listen to the interview I said I wanted Ty to win two or three national championships and that I supported Ty. When that job was open two years ago, I was approached by some alumni about the job, so was my dad to see if I was interested in the job. When we were playing in Seattle the same alumni said, 'We can make you very wealthy.' I told them I didn't have any desire. I'm a pro football coach. I've never coached college and I'm not sure that I'd ever want to."
Q: Next year, five years from now, if the University of Washington calls and says it has a vacancy and it wants you to be its coach, would you be interested?
A: "The reason that would be hard for me, as much as I love the University of Washington, is I value my friendships more than anything besides my family. My best friends are Husky alumni now and when you are the head coach in college, the people that you are responsible to are, to a large extent, are the alumni. I don't want that conflict in my life. I want my friends to be my friends, not my critics."
Q: Do you think you have damaged your reputation?
A: "Probably but I would think after 23 years coaching in this league, whatever it is, I've built a lot of great friendships and a lot of respect. I'm a guy that has represented this league very well for a lot of years. People know what my character is. We all make mistakes and when you admit a mistake and try to move on, people in general are forgiving. Had I been defiant or a jerk, people would question my character but I've only demonstrated passion and commitment everywhere I've been. That's why this is so painful."
Q: Look at the numbers. You finish the season with a winning record and that would be the best three-year run of any period in the Falcons' 41-year history. You have the best record in the NFC through three years. Chicago's Lovie Smith is the only coach hired with you in 2004 with a better record.
When the proof is there, how much do you hope that tips the scales your way against [the radio] interview, which has put your job security in jeopardy?
A. "This is obviously weighing on my mind, because I'm human but I am focused on getting this team in the playoffs. As hard as it is, when I'm in the office, on the field, with the players, I have to bring complete focus to that task. It's out of my hands from there. I've already done what I can do and, unfortunately, one of the things wasn't good.
"But you can't argue some things, like having the highest winning percentage in the NFC South, a trip to the NFC championship game, the things Mike Vick has accomplished in the offense this year. Those are facts. Hopefully, those stand for something this year and stand for something down the line. That's all I can hope for."