Seahawks coach Jim Mora stresses that he'd like to see some attitude up front with the offensive linemen. Is Seattle just too soft?
RENTON — Jim Mora was so fired up, the blue cap that sat low over his eyes could have popped right off.
In an emotionally charged news conference Wednesday at team headquarters, the Seahawks coach announced major lineup changes along his beleaguered offensive line. Then, with a few pounds of his fist on the table, he admitted that his team has developed a reputation around the league for being soft and he made it clear that he wants more toughness from his players.
“It’s been laid out very clearly for everybody here, what’s expected these next three weeks and what’s at stake. Everyone knows that they are being evaluated,” Mora said.
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He also stressed that he’d like to see some attitude up front with the offensive linemen.
“If you’re going to be a good offensive lineman … you’ve got to be a little bit of a dirtbag. Not as a person. But on the football field. Because in the pit where all that stuff goes down, man, if you don’t have some frickin’ toughness, you’re going to fail, you know?”
The offensive line has been decimated by injuries but plagued by an inability to protect quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and help establish a consistent rushing offense all season. Mora used the words “nastiness” and “nail-eater” to describe what he seeks from his players in the trenches, using the first term when talking about what he wants from left tackle Sean Locklear. Then he said other teams view the Seahawks as pushovers.
“There are teams out there that say if you walk into Seattle and punch them in the face, they won’t react,” Mora said. “I know that’s what I always said [when he coached elsewhere]. I know that’s what Mike Singletary said on Saturday night before we played [the 49ers] two weeks ago.”
Mora wouldn’t reveal how he knew Singletary said those words.
The latest o-line issue — center Chris Spencer having to snap the ball with his left hand because his right thumb is broken, and misfiring three snaps at Houston last Sunday — was the last straw as far as staying with the same combination.
Rookie Max Unger will move inside from right guard to start at center, in place of Spencer, and Spencer will split snaps at right guard with Mike Gibson, a second-year pro the Seahawks signed from Philadelphia’s practice squad on Oct. 21.
Gibson has yet to play in a game this season.
Unger played center for two years at Oregon and got some exhibition season action at center, but has played guard since the regular season began. Spencer was Seattle’s first-round draft choice in 2005, and he has played left guard in the past.
“We’re going to be proactive at this time up front, make moves that we hope and think can help this football team improve and get better,” Mora said. “Not just this week but for the future, and we need to see what we’ve got. Now is the perfect time to do that.”
Unfortunately, the Seahawks are 5-8 and their playoff hopes are gone.
“The most important thing is for us to function as one,” offensive-line coach Mike Solari said. “We’re just not getting a clean exchange, and to play quarterback you have to have a clean exchange. You can’t be worried about getting the snap.”
Unger would have preferred to stay at right guard for the sake of continuity.
“It’s not optimal really for anybody on the line,” he said. “We’d like to stay at our spots that we started at for most of the season.
“I wouldn’t say this is ultimately where I want to be. … It’s an opportunity, yeah, but having one week to prepare isn’t exactly what I wanted, no one really wanted.”
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or firstname.lastname@example.org