Mora to succeed Holmgren as head coach


When Lofa Tatupu found out that the Seahawks hired hands-on defensive assistant Jim Mora as their coach for 2009, the Pro Bowl anchor of Seattle's defense was happy.

And shocked.

"I never heard of anyone naming a future head coach," Tatupu said Wednesday in Hawaii, where he is practicing for this weekend's Pro Bowl in Honolulu.

One person with knowledge of the contract said it will put Mora "in the upper echelon" of NFL coaches. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Seahawks do not divulge financial terms.

That means Mora will be getting at least $5 million per season, about double what Atlanta is paying him this year. Mora was fired as Falcons' head coach on New Year's Day 2007 with a year left on his contract. In his three seasons in Atlanta, the Falcons were 26-22 and played in the 2004 NFC title game.

"It's a very, very good contract," the person said.

Current Seattle coach Mike Holmgren is believed to be making $8 million annually. Washington's Joe Gibbs had a five-year, $27.5 million contract until he retired again from the Redskins last month. New England's Bill Belichick was widely reported to have received a contract extension last year that is believed to be worth more than $5 million annually. Mike Shanahan reportedly received a raise from his $5 million-per-year deal with Denver when he got a three-year extension from the Broncos last year.

The Seahawks are not the first NFL team to designate a successor coach. The Indianapolis Colts recently announced Jim Caldwell as the replacement for Tony Dungy, whenever Dungy decides to retire.

However, the Seahawks are believed to be the first team to have their next coach already under contract, with a known start date, while the outgoing coach remains on the job.

"What (Holmgren's) done here, by announcing his retirement a year ahead of time, has afforded this organization to make a smooth transition, to be seamless, to be non-chaotic," Seahawks president Tim Ruskell said. "Which is kind of rare in the sports world &

certainly in the NFL.

"We all know about the elongated processes and the back-stabbing, some of the ugly things that can go on. Well, we're not going to have that."

The 59-year-old Holmgren, the Seahawks' winningest coach with 86 victories in 10 seasons, pushed for the announcement so players who are poised to enter free agency next month would know who Seattle's coach will be.

But Won't it be strange to have, essentially, two head coaches next season?

"Not at all," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said from the Pro Bowl. "If anything, it motivates us even more to say, 'Hey, let's send this guy out the right way. Let's not take any shortcuts this year. Let's not wait until some season down the line. Let's get it done right now.'"

Neither Holmgren nor Mora were there for the announcement. Ruskell said the two coaches didn't want to "make a big splash" and overlook the team's mission for 2008: sending Holmgren out with the franchise's first Super Bowl title after five consecutive playoff appearances.

"I am extremely excited about the future, but completely focused on the opportunity we have in front of us this season," Mora said in a statement.

The move allowed Seattle to bypass a league rule that requires team with head coaching vacancies to interview minority candidates. The rule does not apply to promotions within a team's own staff.

Last month, while Holmgren was contemplating whether to return, Mora removed himself from consideration for the vacant head coaching job with the Washington Redskins.

"He told us, 'I know I will get another shot,'" Ruskell said of Mora.

Now that he's got it, there's still plenty of work to be done for 2008.

Seattle needs a quarterbacks coach now that Jim Zorn left to be the new offensive coordinator with the Washington Redskins. The Seahawks also fired Bill Laveroni in the days following Seattle's loss at Green Bay in the divisional playoffs last month.

With the theme of their unique announcement being unity and continuity, the Seahawks are hoping Mora can perhaps keep most of the '08 staff intact for his turn in '09.

"We're working through that," Ruskell said. "You may see some more additions to the staff. Just leave it at that, because those are kind of in transition."

The Seahawks hope they go as smoothly as their head-coach handover.

AP Sports Writer Jaymes Song in Honolulu contributed to this report.

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