Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Jim Mora Has Gone Stale at UCLA, But Who Could Replace Him?

     I have been watching UCLA football for more than 35 years. I have seen all of the trials and tribulations of this program in the modern era, and there always seems to be a common theme...failure to live up to expectations, and failure to maximize potential.
     These themes are also indicative of the Jim Mora era at the school. Mora is now in his 5th year in the program, and he has now fallen to 40-21. At many schools, that would not be so bad. The problem is that this is a Power 5, PAC-12 program, and it feels like the athletic department has not quite gone all in on football. Recruiting is not where it should be, and the profile of the program is simply meh.
     UCLA has had their fair share of top recruits drawn in under Mora, but rarely do these athletes develop as they should, and there is lacking, at best, depth. At no time has that been more evident than when the Bruins fell to Arizona State last Saturday night in Tempe.
    Arizona State is no juggernaut. They never have been on any level. This was a team that USC, as bad as they have been this season, had just destroyed. This was a team that had given up 55 points to Texas Tech, a football team that is far less talented than UCLA. ASU gave up 48 points per game to both USC and Texas Tech. UCLA scored 20 on them. There was no bad weather, and no real environmental issues as to why UCLA came up short in scoring, but there was a talent issue.
     This is a repetitive issue with Mora coached UCLA football teams. Time after time we have watched as he came up short in winnable situations based on a lack of preparation, lack of player development, and lack of energy. UCLA constantly plays down to their competition in winnable games, and they continuously fall short in must win situations.
     In short, I believe that UCLA needs to start looking outward. Mora is proving that he has always been an average football coach. He was average at Atlanta, below average at Seattle, and has been simply doing the basics of what he has to do to just get by at UCLA. He would disagree with me, but from my prospective, this is what he is. He always has been that guy.
     I cover over 400 schools weekly for what I do on this blog. I have seen success in places, and I have seen a lack of it. What I would call the Mora era is this. They are better than they were under Rick Neuheisel and Karl Dorrell for certain, but I would not call this era a success.
     Here are some numbers to describe my frustration, and that of many people who have reached out to me on Twitter on the subject:

  • UCLA has not won an outright PAC-12 title since 1998, or in 18 years
  • UCLA has not played in a New Year's Day Bowl since 1998, or 18 years
  • UCLA has not won a Rose Bowl since 1986, or 30 years
  • UCLA has not had a PAC-12 player of the year since Cade McNown
     The Bruins have never outright won a division title since expansion. When the Bruins did win the division, they backed into it and ended up in a tie for the title. Most fans realize at this point, that UCLA largely wasted Brett Hundley. When he got to the NFL and the Green Bay Packers, he had to be stripped to the bone and rebuilt. Josh Rosen, who came into the program with way too much fanfare, has never had to compete for the job because of a lack of talent, and he is regressing at Tommy Maddox rates at this point. He has become too arrogant, and his overall skills are eroding in a short period of time, again, despite bloated numbers that if you look closely, can find glaring inconsistency, especially when it comes to accuracy and decision making in the red zone. That's all coaching, and Mora no longer has Noel Mazzone around to blame. The offense changed this off-season, and was supposed to become more physical, but physicality is severely lacking. This is all on Mora, because at the end of the day, he made the decisions when it came to hiring, and he has to live with it. He recruited these guys, or he authorized their recruitment. He has to live with it.
     Many fans feel as I do, that it is time to move on, because Mora seems disconnected at this point. I was asked, that in this event, who would be qualified to take over? Here is my list of coaches that I think could win, and win now at UCLA, and are guys that the program could have a chance at hiring...

Willie Taggert, USF
Taggert was an assistant at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh before becoming the head man at Western Kentucky. WKU was a disaster when he got there, and was a big winner when he left for USF. USF was a mess when he got there, and they are winning solidly now. Basically, Taggert gets there, fixes things, and builds winners. He would not have had more talent at any other job he has had as he would at UCLA.

Scott Frost, UCF
He doesn't have a huge resume as a head coach, as he is in his first year at UCF, but he built them from a zero win team, to a club that should be feared weekly, and it has been automatic. He has a serious pedigree on offense, and UCF isn't half bad on defense. That works for me, and he has a PAC-12 history as OC at Oregon.

Phillip Montgomery, Tulsa
He has no PAC-12 history, but he has a serious offensive background, and has gotten Tulsa back into their winning ways in just 2 seasons. He may be recruited by a Big 12 opening, but he is ready to make a move. Nobody would see it coming, but he would be a solid get.

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
He may be on thin ice at Oklahoma, and he certainly has a reputation of being up and down, but he has won much more at OU than anyone UCLA has had. Stoops may be ready to move out at OU, as he has been there too long, and UCLA should make a stab if they could get him, barring that Mora is gone.

Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Gundy is another guy who may be on his way out, as he is not getting along with T. Boone Pickens. That never works well, and he is not a people person, but he sure has won, and won with regularity in a state where his program is the second fiddle for fan support.

Bryan Harsin, Boise State
We all know that Harsin can win, and do so with regularity. His offense is balanced, and his defenses are usually top flight. He is proving that he can do all of this without the Chris Petersen shadow. Harsin, if anyone is interested, could move on successfully. He is ready.

Kyle Whittingham, Utah
Whittingham was seriously intrigued by the USC job, and his relationship with the decision makers at Utah has never been great, but they showed him an olive branch before he bolted, and so things are peaceful, for now. If things get back to cold war status, Whittingham could be ready to move out of the house that he and Urban Meyer built.

Don't forget the coaches that may be fired but are solid guys in bad situations, such as Charlie Strong, Brian Kelly, or a guy who has already been fired in Les Miles, who was recently in LA and is ready to go right away.

As always, let me know what you think on Twitter, and of course, this is all introspective opinion.

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