Mora says he still feels awful about UW comments

Updated: December 21, 2006, 1:50 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora is hoping his coaching record and his reputation are enough to save his job in the wake of his comments about wanting to coach at the University of Washington, he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for Thursday editions.

Jim Mora
James Lang/US PresswireJim Mora says it wasn't until people reacted to his comments about coaching at Washington that he realized it wasn't being taken as a joke.

"This is obviously weighing on my mind, because I'm human but I am focused on getting this team in the playoffs," Mora told the newspaper. "As hard as it is, when I'm in the office, on the field, with the players, I have to bring complete focus to that task. It's out of my hands from there. I've already done what I can do and, unfortunately, one of the things wasn't good.

"But you can't argue some things, like having the highest winning percentage in the NFC South, a trip to the NFC Championship Game, the things Mike Vick has accomplished in the offense this year. Those are facts," he told the newspaper. "Hopefully, those stand for something this year and stand for something down the line. That's all I can hope for."

In the interview, Mora again stressed he was kidding when, on a radio show a week ago, he said he would leave the Falcons if Washington -- his alma mater -- asked him to run the program. He said he felt horrible about the way the remarks were received when it became clear few others took them as a joke.

"I've said things that have been inflammatory in the past and immediately I've gotten a pit in my stomach. I never felt this way with this interview because I felt like it was all in fun and banter," Mora told the newspaper. "It took me a while to realize that people were taking this seriously.

"Then I was like, I let the fans down, the owner down, my family down, everyone in this building down and all the assistant coaches down," he continued. "I have a strong passion to this city and to the Falcons and if you take away this incident, it would be hard to argue that.

"People know what my character is. We all make mistakes and when you admit a mistake and try to move on, people in general are forgiving," Mora told the newspaper. "Had I been defiant or a jerk, people would question my character but I've only demonstrated passion and commitment everywhere I've been. That's why this is so painful."

Mora told the newspaper he had not yet had the opportunity to talk to current Washington coach Tyrone Willingham, but reiterated his support for Willingham -- and said he's not sure he'd ever want to coach in college.

"When that job was open two years ago, I was approached by some alumni about the job, so was my dad [former Saints coach Jim Mora] to see if I was interested in the job," he told the Journal-Constitution. "When we were playing in Seattle the same alumni said, 'We can make you very wealthy.' I told them I didn't have any desire. I'm a pro football coach. I've never coached college and I'm not sure that I'd ever want to.

"The reason that would be hard for me, as much as I love the University of Washington, is I value my friendships more than anything besides my family," Mora added. "My best friends are Husky alumni now and when you are the head coach in college, the people that you are responsible to are, to a large extent, are the alumni. I don't want that conflict in my life. I want my friends to be my friends, not my critics."

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