Without any scientific data to back it up, it's still safe to say that UCLA fans generally still view UCLA head football coach Jim Mora favorably. We've listed many of his accomplishments, on and off the field, and there's no need to laundry-list them here. That's not what this is about anyway -- it's not a defense of Jim Mora, by any means.
But many posters on the BRO Premium Football Forum have expressed a few often-repeated concerns about Mora since the end of last season. We are constantly answering questions about it, so we thought we'd consolidate the primary ones into one place.
Resentment over Mora considering NFL jobs
Did Mora entertain the idea of going to the NFL in the off-season? I'm pretty confident he did. But I don't get why so many people here resent him for it. First, he's an NFL guy. He probably feels more comfortable in the NFL than in college (but he's done a great job, in my opinion, to adapting his own skills to coaching/managing/recruiting in college) so I think it's natural that he would consider going to the NFL. We've always known that. He has, too, had to overcome and tolerate some vastly frustrating issues and culture at UCLA that would probably make anyone want to leave the place. I think, all in all, he's done a pretty good job of working through it, trying to change the culture, and getting so many things done that have changed the program. It seems like most of the resentment right now toward Mora stems from the off-season consideration of going back to the NFL, and again 1) we all knew this about him, and 2) I think it's understandable, given all of the battles he has to fight with UCLA, and so many he ultimately loses, and the culture that he probably can't completely change. And 3) and the big one: He's still here. Maybe he didn't ultimately get an NFL offer, or maybe he did, but he's still here.
Impatience with the team not going to the next level
I think it's not completely off-base, but far too intense and unforgiving. I think going into his fifth year, with a generational talent at quarterback, it's not too much to expect UCLA to put together a Pac-12 Championship level season in either one of the next two seasons. I think the team under-performed a bit last year, but a great deal of it was attributable to injuries. I think Mora has recognized his past schemes couldn't take the program to the next level and, instead of insisting that they would and keep doing the same thing (ala Karl Dorrell), actually changed the schemes in the off-season. Whether they succeed or not is definitely a question. It could be UCLA doesn't have the right coaches or the right personnel for the schemes. It could be that it would take a couple of seasons to get to the point it does, and that not be timed out right to take advantage of Josh Rosen. So, bottom line, there is some validity to impatience with the program not going to the next level and, well, not beating Stanford, but I'm impressed with the mindset of attempting to get there.
The notion that Mora has checked out
As I've said before, Mora is a hyper-competitive person and he really isn't capable of "checking out." I think he got very frustrated last season, with his own expectations very high and that, combined with the on-going frustration of dealing with the UCLA culture, and probably contemplating an NFL job, has made some fans here think he's checked out. And, well, the personal problems that have come to light (his announced separation from his wife, Shannon). And also, this staff has a bit of a recruiting lull right about this time every season, and everyone on the forum gets anxious (But the staff has consistently pulled out very good, and even top 5-10, recruiting classes in February). I think all of this makes some fans think Mora has "checked out," but I think that's just a bad misconception taken from a few different things. Just because he might have thought about an NFL job in the off-season doesn't mean he's checked out to his UCLA coaching gig. If you have a good job, but have other potential jobs you could consider, does that necessarily make you "check out" of your present job? And he still continues to do so much on-going with the program that I know about -- like getting the uniforms right, for instance -- that aren't an example of a coach checked out. There wasn't any evidence, to my knowledge, that Mora was "checked out" during spring practice or any time leading up to this last camp week. So, not being present at the camp because of personal reasons, have led people to pile on everything and conclude he's checked out, which I think is just an erroneous, crazy-fan-ish conclusion. I think Mora, given last season and his personal issues, clearly needs his batteries re-charged in this off-season, and that re-charging is being interpreted as "checked out." That re-charging very well might have dictated that he missed the UCLA camps last week. But if anyone is familiar with Mora, they know that, when he has a job to do, like coaching the team for the season, he only works at one M.O. -- and that's deeply checked-in.
I know the forums here are for fans to vent, to share their feelings, and to speculate. That's fine. But I have to say, I've never seen it like this. Not with Toledo, Dorrell, Neuheisel, Lavin, Howard or Alford. I've never seen it this unjustifiably bitter. That's not to say fans weren't more bitter over the other coaches at different junctures -- they absolutely were. But this distinction here is, in our opinion, was that the criticism and the accompanying bitterness was far more justified in those cases than with Mora. I think I've never seen UCLA fans reach so hard to condemn, based on so little, with so much positive on the other side of the balance sheet. It's really opened my eyes a bit about the fan base, or perhaps the state of the fan base. Perhaps UCLA fans are just about at their boiling point? Perhaps they were in a groove of mediocrity for so many years, and then Mora gave them some considerable hope, setting themselves up to crash harder when the trajectory of Mora's program didn't continue on a straight line going up. I know fans personally who were down on all the failed UCLA coaches before Mora, and then were pro-Mora, who are now spilling some considerable negativity toward Mora on a level they never did about Dorrell or Neuheisel. Perhaps the difference is the perception with Dorrell and Neuheisel was that, since they were Bruins, they would never leave UCLA for another destination. Perhaps it really stems mostly from potential rejection. Maybe it is that sense that Mora might leave UCLA, and that's the lighter fluid. It's probably both -- giving fans something to hope for and also the possibility that Mora could leave -- two things that his predecessors really didn't do. Or it could merely be that fans are just mad with how UCLA ended the 2015 season, with disapointing losses to USC and Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl, and that's left a bitter taste in their mouths. I don't know. It's interesting, but it has surprised me a bit, I admit, since I feel the negativity, and the bitterness that laces it, has at times been extreme and baseless.
Fans, of course, are obsessive. "Fan,", after all, is short for "fanatic." Usually, though, UCLA fans are on the saner side of the fan spectrum. That's why this has been a curious phenomenon. Winning, though, cures everything, as we all know. Mora is probably still on the pedestal for most UCLA fans, but if UCLA puts up a successful 2016 season, the faction of fans with these concerns will, for the most part, put him right back up there, too.