Colts fire head coach after four seasons, 32-32 recordPosted: Tuesday January 08, 2002 2:21 PM
Updated: Wednesday January 09, 2002 3:20 AM
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- There will be no more emotional bursts from Jim Mora with the Indianapolis Colts.
Team president Bill Polian said Mora was fired as head coach Tuesday for refusing to replace defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who had worked for Mora in each of his head coaching stops since 1983.
Mora said his refusal to fire Fangio was the main reason for his firing but that there were other circumstances he couldn't discuss.
"I was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt and still am that the best way for us to be a good team was to keep Vic as defensive coordinator. Obviously, that opinion was not shared," Mora said during a news conference at the Colts complex.
Polian said the Colts were not talented enough this season, finishing 6-10, but said he thought a change in defensive philosophy also was needed.
"We have to focus on the future," Polian said. "My feeling was that we needed a change in defensive approach."
The Colts have given the expansion Houston Texans permission to interview Fangio for a position on their staff, Polian said. Mora said Fangio already has a job offer to be a defensive coordinator, but he did not identify the team.
The Colts had been picked as a playoff team in most preseason predictions. But the Colts' season went bad. There was a spate of injuries, including a season-ending knee injury to two-time NFL rushing champion Edgerrin James, and a porous defense that finished the season ranked 29th.
Mora, 66, finished with a 32-32 regular-season record and an 0-2 playoff mark with the Colts.
In addition to James, the Colts were without No. 2 wide receiver Jerome Pathon for 12 games and their top defensive player, linebacker Mike Peterson, for seven of the final eight games.
Mora choked back tears while addressing the media following Indianapolis' season-ending 29-10 win against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
"I will not quit, I want to coach here," Mora said in anger as his eyes welled with tears. "I should be the coach here. I'll just tell you that right now, I should be."
Mora also had a public feud with quarterback Peyton Manning, a two-time Pro Bowler, after Mora criticized his team for committing five turnovers in a 40-21 loss to San Francisco on Nov. 25.
Manning thought Mora's comments were directed at him, and three days later he responded. The two later met and said they patched up their differences. But the failures on the field were too much for Mora to overcome.
Mora leaves the Colts with a 125-106 career record in 15 seasons as an NFL head coach. His 125 victories were third among active coaches, behind only Dan Reeves of Atlanta and Marty Schottenheimer of Washington, and are No. 18 all-time.
He arrived in Indianapolis in 1998, replacing Lindy Infante and taking over a team that had gone 3-13 in 1997. The Colts' rebuilding project, however, began with the selection of Manning as the No. 1 overall choice in the '98 NFL draft.
In Manning's rookie season, Indianapolis went 3-13.
But in 1999, Mora led the Colts to the largest turnaround in NFL history as they went 13-3 and won the AFC Eastern Division. The next season, Mora became the first Colts coach to post back-to-back 10-win seasons since Ted Marchibroda in 1976-77, as Indianapolis went 10-6 and earned a wild-card spot. Both years, however, the Colts lost their opening playoff game.
Before coming to Indianapolis, Mora spent 10 1/2 seasons with the New Orleans Saints, where he was 93-74. He resigned eight games into the 1996 season after guiding the Saints to their first four playoff appearances -- but never won a playoff game.
Mora also was head coach of the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars of the defunct USFL. He led the Stars to three consecutive league title games, winning championships in 1984 and '85.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.