Mora out as coach of Seahawks, Carroll next?

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RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Jim Mora pounded tables. He called out tackles, even the kicker. He demanded more to help him fulfill his civic duty to bring a first Super Bowl championship to his hometown.

Wow, Pete Carroll hasn’t had to do any of that — yet he has apparently enthralled the Seahawks into offering him control of the floundering franchise.

The Seahawks fired Mora on Friday after just one season, leaving them without a coach, general manager or president less than four years after they reached the Super Bowl. Mora’s replacement could be Carroll, the charismatic Southern California coach.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Seahawks chief executive officer Tod Leiweke flew to California before firing Mora to interview Carroll for the job. The newspaper said that Seattle — with team owner Paul Allen, the Microsoft Corp. tycoon — is believed to be offering Carroll a five-year contract worth $7 million per season to be its president and coach.

That would be a raise of more than $2 million annually on what Carroll is believed to be earning at USC.

Carroll’s agent, Gary Uberstine, did not return phone and e-mail messages left by The Associated Press on Friday night.

“Pete’s name comes out at this time every year. In the past, he hasn’t commented on such reports,” USC spokesman Tim Tessalone said in an e-mail to The AP. “He was not expected in (Friday). … At this point, we have nothing to report.”

The Seahawks are saying nothing about Carroll, who did not return a phone message left by The AP.

The 58-year-old Carroll was 6-10 in 1994 with the New York Jets and then 27-21 while twice reaching the playoffs from ’97-99 with the New England Patriots — before he restored a dynasty at USC.

The opportunity is unique for Carroll. The Seahawks do not have a GM in place, so he could conceivably have authority over football matters far more than he would have had filling any of the NFL coaching openings to which he’s been connected in recent winters.

And this is perhaps the best time to leave USC since he arrived in 2001.

USC’s string of seven consecutive Pac-10 titles ended with four losses in the just-completed season. And the school has been under several years of NCAA scrutiny for alleged improprieties in both Carroll’s team and athletic director Mike Garrett’s beleaguered department.

When receiver Damian Williams announced he’s entering the NFL a year early, the news release of his departure Friday night didn’t include a quote from Carroll, who often lavishes praise on his early entry candidates. His silence on Williams seemed like good news for the Seahawks, who could use some.

Seattle is also interested in talking to Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier but had yet to interview him for the job as of early Saturday morning, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation who did not want to be named because the Seahawks have not disclosed candidates. Per league postseason rules, Seattle would have to interview Frazier before the end of the weekend, or wait until the Vikings are eliminated from the playoffs or after the NFC title game in two weeks.

The league’s Rooney Rule requires teams to interview minority candidates, such as Frazier, for head coaching vacancies.

University of Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, who left his friend Carroll and the Trojans 12 months ago for his first head coaching job, chuckled when asked if he’d like to be a head man in the same city as his mentor.

“That would be kind of fun,” Sarkisian said.

Leiweke fired Mora during a morning meeting at team headquarters, ending a four-week internal evaluation the CEO conducted of his franchise.

Hours later, the team confirmed the firing in a news release.

On Sunday, Mora finished his only season in Seattle 5-11, after taking over his hometown team at the end of Mike Holmgren’s tenure. On Wednesday, Mora had said he was charging ahead with assessing 2009 and preparing for next season, saying of his future: “I’m not too worried about it. I’m just going to go work until I’m told not to work.”

Mora had three years and almost $12 million remaining on his contract.

“It became apparent after conducting an extensive internal audit that a new direction was needed to provide an opportunity for the organization to be successful,” said Leiweke, who last month said he expected Mora to return. “(This) decision, while difficult, is part of the process in building a franchise with a new vision in 2010.”

Seattle’s four consecutive NFC West titles through 2007 seem like a long time ago. Seattle is 9-23 since its last playoff appearance in January 2008.

“This team, more importantly this community, means so much to me that it hurts not being able to see this through,” Mora said in a team statement. “I am disappointed I did not get the chance to complete my contract. This is a tough business that sometimes demands immediate gratification.”

The 48-year-old Mora grew up and attended high school and college in the Seattle area. He returned in 2007 to become Holmgren’s assistant head coach and defensive backs coach. He then replaced Holmgren, with the announcement coming in early 2008 a year before he took the job. The team said it was creating a smooth transition.

Just last summer, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell praised the Seahawks for their stability and leadership.


AP Sports Writers Greg Beacham in Los Angeles, Tim Booth in Seattle and John Wawrow in Buffalo, N.Y., contributed to this report.