The future of UCLA football needed one of two kinds of 2017 seasons—really good or really bad.
What it did not need was this: another murky, muddled mess in which Jim Mora can take cover behind a smoke screen of legitimate excuses and a foolproof letter from his team doctor.
“I’ve never been a part of anything like this before,” Mora said after an injury-riddled 48-17 loss at Utah dropped the Bruins record to 4-5.
Plenty of UCLA fans will tell you they HAVE seen enough and want Mora gone. But, of course, this isn’t the SEC’s Oxford or Gainesville, where industrious folks can get a coach fired any Tuesday with a show of hands and a fat wad of money. Or specific language in a contract citing “moral turpitude” or a “show cause” workaround that can be trip-wired for any coach who may want to exaggerate (or make up) death threats made to his family.
UCLA hasn’t been that kind of place since well, basketball coach Jim Harrick filled out an expense report after dinner with the Collins Twins.
UCLA football, in particular, never sets expectations too high or too low. AD Dan Guererro told the L.A. Times this year the goal was for Mora to compete for the Pac 12 title.
Its goals are never “Win it or else.” UCLA’s top brass would rather not make the tough decisions SEC athletic directors make before lunch.
The UCLA football fan-base machinery also isn’t powerful enough to do anything beyond mount a GoFundMe campaign to fly a protest banner.
Guererro is getting ready to retire. He doesn’t want to hire a new football coach. He would have been forced into action this year had UCLA collapsed with a full arsenal of players, starting with quarterback Josh Rosen.
But this has almost been a repeat of last year’s 4-8, where injuries to Rosen and others have shrouded everything and masked a horrible run defense that ranks second-to-last nationally behind San Jose State.
How does Guerrero evaluate this year?
He probably has to wait until the end of it. Mora is signed through 2021 and his buyout is reportedly around $12 million. UCLA is just not in the business of taking up that kind of collection.
There are certain statements, however, you can unequivocally make: the Rosen Era has been a bust. UCLA is 16-17 in football games since he arrived to lead the Bruins to the College Football Playoff.
The problem is that “extenuating circumstances” have complicated the boxes on Rosen’s check list.
Guerrero has to let this thing play out with these parameters: How does Mora’s team respond starting with Saturday’s home game vs. Arizona State? The Bruins are 4-0 at the Rose Bowl and should make it 5-0 if Rosen returns from the concussion that kept him home for the Utah loss.
If the Bruins close with a split against USC and Cal that means a 6-6 finish and a bowl berth.
My guess is the only thing that gets Mora fired is an 0-3 finish leading to another 4-8. And I wouldn’t recommend 1-2 unless the “one” is USC.
There is no doubt Mora would be a goner if he was coaching at Kentucky, but thank God this isn’t Kentucky.
And, once again, the follow up is: who would\could UCLA hire? No one ever seems to have a good answer.
Bob Stoops? (not unless Mrs. Stoops wants to live in Bel Air.)
Chip Kelly? (not unless the school wants to ignore those NCAA violations at Oregon).
Jon Gruden? (Absolutely. But double-dare Gruden to take UCLA over Tennessee).
UCLA continues to be the greatest job no great coach has ever really wanted. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.