Jim Mora Jr: Grading the UCLA Hire

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A statistical breakdown of UCLA's decision to hire Jim Mora, Jr.

<p> A statistical breakdown of UCLA's decision to hire Jim Mora, Jr.</p>

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

Instead of listing the names rumored to have been contacted by UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, it might be easier to list the names not rumored to have been contacted by Guerrero. After much ado and some very wild speculation, UCLA has named former NFL defensive coordinator and head coach Jim Mora, Jr. as the Bruins next head football coach.

Mora will replace outgoing UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel. For our take on Neuheisel, please click here.

Jim Mora, Jr. is known mostly for being the son of Jim Mora, Sr. Even if you think you don't know who Jim Mora, Sr. is, we can bet that you do. "Playoffs!? Playoffs!? Don't talk about playoffs.....I just hope we can win another game." As was discussed in our firing analysis of Rick Neuheisel, we believe UCLA is a very solid job that should be attractive to some of the best and brightest in college football. 

Based on our proprietary CBTN Best Head Coaching Jobs Ranking, UCLA is the 38th best job in college football. The school is located in one of the most attractive cities in the world and in one of the most talented football states in the country. Additionally, UCLA plays in a major conference and has a brand name that reaches coast-to-coast. In interviews after he was fired, Coach Neuheisel complained about UCLA's facilities and lack of commitment to football. He would certainly be in a position to know much better than us the state of UCLA's facilities and depth of the administration's commitment to winning.

However, when we consider that Rick Neuheisel played 92% of his games with superior or equal talent** at UCLA and won just 42% of his overall games, it's difficult for us to have much sympathy for Coach Neuheisel and his complaints about facilities. The last time we checked, facilities didn't cause coaches to come up with poor game plans. So, the Bruins have turned to Jim Mora, Jr. to save their seemingly sinking ship. Is he the right man for the job? Below is our By The Numbers analysis of the hiring:

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Jim Mora, Jr. - Hiring Summary


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Positives
  • Jim Mora, Jr. is not Rick Neuheisel.
     
  • See bullet point number one.
     
  • We would want to point to Mora's 25 years of NFL experience, five of which he spent as a defensive coordinator and four he spent as a head coach, but after re-reading a piece we did on "NFL-Guys" and success at the college level, we simply cannot.
     
  • If Pete Carroll did it, why can't Jim Mora, Jr.?
Negatives
  • See article on "NFL-Guys" above.
     
  • Mora only has one year of experience in college football and that was as a Graduate Assistant in 1984 for the Washington Huskies.
     
  • Mora was 32-34 in his four years as a head coach in the NFL.
     
  • Mora has been fired from head coaching jobs the same number of times he has had winning seasons as a head coach.
Unknowns
  • Everything.
CBTN Conclusion

Someone really needs to make a copy of Chapter 3 of Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink and send it to Mr. Guerrero. The chapter is titled The Warren Harding Error and it details how when making decisions, especially when it comes to hiring, firing, or electing people, we often focus on everything but what really matters.

Here is how a journalist described Warren Harding, who was elected with over 60% of the popular vote and is now considered to be one of the worst presidents in U.S. history: "Harding was worth looking at. He was at the time about 35 years old. His head, features, shoulders and torso had a size that attracted attention… an effect which in any male at any place would justify more than the term handsome – in later years, when he came to be known beyond his local world, the word “Roman” was occasionally used in descriptions of him… His suppleness, combined with his bigness of frame, and his large, wide-set rather glowing eyes, heavy black hair, and markedly bronze complexion gave him some of the handsomeness of an Indian. His courtesy… suggested genuine friendliness toward all mankind. His voice was noticeably resonant, masculine, warm… His manner as he bestowed a tip suggested generous good-nature, a wish to give pleasure, based on physical well-being and sincere kindliness of heart."

What do you notice about the above description? You should notice that it has nothing to do with being in any way qualified to be President of the United States of America. Here is what UCLA Dan Guerrero had to say when introducing Jim Mora, Jr. as the Bruins' next head coach: "He has been a head coach at the game's highest level and has clearly demonstrated to me that he is hungry and eager to return to the sidelines."

What do you notice about the above? You should notice that Dan Guerrero doesn't read coachesbythenumbers.com. If he did, he would have read our article on NFL Guys and noticed that coaches reared as NFL coaches have extremely limited success at the college level. Of the top 50 active head coaches in our system since 2001 with a minimum of three years experience as a head coach, only three could be said to have significant NFL experience (Bo Pelini, Pat Hill, and Dennis Erickson), and two of these coaches were just recently fired.

Also, how in the world does being "hungry and eager to return to the sidelines" qualify anyone to be a head coach? Here's a good rule of thumb for AD's to live by: if a coach is more eager for your job than you are to hire him for it, move on to the next candidate. When we give out hiring grades, we are not trying to guarantee a new head coach's future success or failure; we are trying to grade the thought process behind the hire and see if the coach makes sense for the job By The Numbers.

We are sure we are going to hear Pete Carroll's name mentioned a whole lot between now and next season as the "blueprint" for Mora to be successful at UCLA. First and foremost, when you hear this please don't forget that Pete Carroll was reared in the college football world, spending eleven seasons (1973-1983) as a college assistant, including stints at Iowa State, Ohio State, and Arkansas. Secondly, hope and luck aren't ingredients for making consistently successful decisions. As we have talked about a lot on this site, when you are playing Blackjack and you hit on 18 and happen to draw a three, you didn't make a good decision (unless you can count cards like Rain Man); you were simply lucky.

Eventually, making bad decisions (like hitting on 18) will cost you. UCLA committed the Warren Harding Error when they hired Rick Neuheisel, and now they have gone and done it again. Maybe Einstein was right when he said "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results." In the end, the hiring of Jim Mora Jr. is by no means a complete failure. NFL coaches have a proven track record of excelling in mediocrity at the college level. However, we believe that UCLA has the capability to be a lot more.


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Hire Grade

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** Talent level is determined by the program’s average recruiting rank (per Scout.com) over the 4 year span leading up to the year the game was played. Equivalent talent is defined as having an average recruiting rank difference within 10 ranking spots of an opponent. Superior talent is the situation where the average recruiting rank is great than 10 ranking spots of an opponent. Inferior talent is the situation where the average recruiting rank is less than 10 rankings spots of an opponent.


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