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Mora officially takes over Seahawks, makes decisions on assistants

RENTON, Wash. -- Jim Mora threw his hands above his head. He punched the air. He made sharp, slicing motions with his hands for emphasis.

He talked of running at 5:30 a.m., wearing a headlamp, up his favorite mountain outside Seattle. No switchbacks, straight up. Like most of his coaching career.

"I'll be there Friday morning, if anyone wants to join me," Mora said, a smile flashing across the 47-year-old's boyish face.

Then he nearly hyperventilated talking about defense, the side of the ball that has been a relative afterthought for the head coach in Seattle for the last quarter century.

No, this is definitely not Mike Holmgren.

The Seahawks officially transitioned on Tuesday away from a grandfatherly guru of quarterbacks -- who never ran on the practice field, let alone up mountains before dawn -- to a defensive mind with seemingly endless energy when they introduced Mora as their seventh coach.

The team announced this move 11 months ago, after Holmgren decided 2008 would be his 10th and last leading Seattle.

Mora is Seattle's first head coach with a background on defense since its original one from 1976-82, Jack Patera. Mora, the former defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers (1999-2003), will likely call Seattle's defense with the help of defensive coordinator Casey Bradley, whom Mora hired from Tampa Bay this week.

Seattle's defensive backs coach the last two years is getting close to $5 million per season, about double what the Falcons were paying him when they fired him as head coach on New Year's Day 2007. In Mora's three seasons in Atlanta, the Falcons were 26-22 and played in the 2004 NFC Championship Game.

The 2008 Seahawks limped through a lifeless, injury-filled season to finish 4-12 and out of the playoffs for the first time in six years. Mora stayed silent because he didn't want to upstage Holmgren's farewell.

No one will associate Mora with "silent" or "lifeless" in 2009.

"We believe we are going to get it right. We are going to regain our winning ways. The excitement is real," Seahawks chief executive Tod Leiweke said. "At the core of our optimism is Jimmy Mora."

Yes, even though everyone knew it was coming, Day One of the change was a jolt.

Mora talked of Seattle, where he went to high school and college while his father was an assistant at the University of Washington, hosting a championship-winning parade starting at the Space Needle and ending at Qwest Field.

So what that the only men's professional team in Seattle to have one was the recently departed SuperSonics of the NBA -- in 1979 -- or that Holmgren got to the Super Bowl only to lose three years ago?

The former walk-on linebacker at Washington appeared composed and said he was "incredibly humbled" as he talked about replacing the 10th winningest coach in NFL history. Under Holmgren, Mora said he learned patience. He learned compassion with players while maintaining an appropriate authority. He said he passed up other opportunities to be a head coach in the last two years because he was absorbing lessons that will make him a better coach than he was for the Falcons.

But when he was asked about defense -- "my passion," he called it -- Mora suddenly looked as if he was about to bust out of his blue suit and matching tie. He looked like he was ready, eight months early, to take the field for his first game leading the team he grew up watching.

Not to coach. To play in it.

"We're not going to rebuild! We're not going to reload! Every single year is about winning the Super Bowl championship!" Mora said. "Number one, we've got to take back the dang NFC West."

Seattle finished last in pass defense and 30th in total defense in 2008. An undersized, weak and injured pass rush left smallish defensive backs vulnerable.

Mora said his defense would attack until it hurt them as much as the opponents.

"I've been telling guys, 'Be in great shape. Be ready to run and chase the ball for a long time,'" said Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney, who went to his first Pro Bowl with Mora coaching him in Atlanta.

Holmgren compiled results worthy of the Hall of Fame with a meticulous, controlled passing game. Mora talked of a "change in emphasis," to a run-first approach of new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp.

Knapp was Mora's offensive coordinator in Atlanta. Knapp's offenses have ranked in the league's top 10 in rushing in all eight seasons he has been a coordinator.

"I believe in playing with a bit of stinger," Mora said.

Not that he needed to. His charged, debut appearance as the Seahawks' head man had already said that.

Note: Robert Prince was hired Tuesday as the Seahawks' new wide receivers coach, and Mora is retaining a dozen members of Holmgren's staff.

Prince worked with Mora in Atlanta and San Francisco.

Mora said he still wants to hire a defensive backs coach to join Bradley, new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and new defensive line coach Dan Quinn.

Mora added that special teams coach Bruce DeHaven will return. So will offensive line coach Mike Solari, quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor, running backs coach Kasey Dunn and assistant defensive backs coach Larry Marmie, among others.

Mike DeBord goes from assistant offensive line coach to tight ends coach.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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