Jim Mora has coached in the NFL for 35 years, including head coaching stints with the Falcons and Seahawks. Mora was also head coach at UCLA (2012-17) and has been a frequent TV analyst — and a contributor to The 33rd Team.
We caught up with Mora for this week’s Friday Five…
Who is your biggest mentor?
I have been fortunate to be around some great coaches, executives and players. Men like Don James, Jim Finks, Bill Walsh, Don Coryell, Mike Holmgren and Steve Mariucci have all thought me lessons I will continue to use in my personal and professional life. I’ve always found that players, if you really are open to it, can be great mentors as well. Having the chance to work with men like Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, Steve Young, Jerry Rice and many of the other Hall of Fame players I’ve worked with has given me an insight into the mindset it takes to be a consistently great performer. However, my mentor — the man that had had the most effect on me, is my Dad. He taught me the importance of integrity, honesty, discipline, organization and trust and how to treat people you work alongside. There wasn’t a day I coached that I didn’t apply a lesson I learned from my Dad.
What’s the first piece of advice you would give to a young coach breaking into the NFL?
Be you. Players can spot a person being less than genuine a mile away. Your personality, skill set, work ethic, belief system and ability to connect got you where you are. Don’t change. Stay involved with your area of expertise but make sure the entire team feels your involvement in their area of the game. Start hard; you can always let up, but it’s tough to crack down if you’ve created an undisciplined culture. Trust is key. Hire a great staff. Be consistent. Protect your culture with a vengeance. Never compromise your standard. That’s more than one, but all so very important.
What young coach has most impressed you in recent seasons?
I love what Kevin Stefanski is building in Cleveland. You see a young coach with tremendous command and presence who always projects a calm confidence. Calm is contagious. The way his team plays reflects the trust they have in him. The past drama of the Cleveland Browns appears to have subsided.
What did you see in Week 1 that most surprised you?
I wouldn’t say I’m surprised by it, but I am intrigued by the way NFL coaches continue to adopt what we all considered “college systems” offensively. It’s fun to watch the spin the NFL has put on these wide-open concepts that involve QBs with mobility, plays with multiple misdirection components and changes in tempo between plays. As a defensive coach, the challenges created are mind-boggling. As a fan, the game is as exciting to watch as ever.
If you could have dinner with any three people in history, who would they be and why?
Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali.
Check out all of our Friday Five features — including Troy Aikman, Adam Schefter, Andrea Kremer and more — in the Friday Five archive.