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Things Ain't Happening in New Orleans for Mora : Pro football: Once-solid team is 0-5, and longtime coach is taking abuse at home games.

October 15, 1995|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The New Orleans Saints are a wretched team, winless in 1995, and positioned well for a sixth consecutive loss today against the Miami Dolphins.

Radio talk-show hosts, newspaper columnists and local fans have called for Coach Jim Mora to be fired. The Superdome, the Saints' home field, has been decorated recently by the local faithful with more derisive Mora comments.

"I know who they are aiming at," said Jim L. Mora. "My dad. That makes it harder--you hate to see somebody you care about get lambasted."

Jim L. Mora, youngest son of Jim and Connie Mora, rejected Coach Bobby Ross' invitation to coach for the Chargers this season so he could remain in New Orleans to coach his father's defensive backs.

"No second thoughts," the younger Mora said. "Some things in life are more important, and at this time in my life, it is more important to have my son around his grandparents.

"We had a bye last week and my dad was playing with my 9-month-old son, Cole. In a small way, it diverted his attention for a while--not too long--but my dad could take his mind off all the things that are swirling about."

The swirl has reached hurricane proportions in New Orleans. Mora is the winningest coach in Saint history, and when this season began, only the 49ers and Bills had recorded more victories since 1987 than New Orleans. But in the Saints' last appearance in the Superdome, two fans--with bags over their heads--held up a black and gold banner that read, "Fire Mora," while another group of fans serenaded Mora with "Mora's gotta go."

"It's out of control," said Jim L. Mora, 33. "It's so distorted. It's gotten to the point where people take all their frustrations in life out on pro sports. We live in a city where the murder rate is the highest in the nation, a city with political corruption, the worst schools and underpaid policemen, and people are worrying whether the coach should get fired or not."

The younger Mora, one of the most personable assistant coaches in the business, began his professional coaching career with the Chargers in 1986. He joined the Saints in 1992, and New Orleans ranked No. 1 in pass defense his first two years on the job.

"I have watched my dad and I've learned you have to be tough to survive," he said. "He's been in the business 36 seasons and never had a start like this--only five losing seasons in all that time. The law of averages is going to catch up with you, but still knowing that, if you know my dad, he's not real good at losing."

Mora won't read newspapers, won't listen to radio and refuses to turn his TV to sports reports.

"There is enough negative abuse that you can just feel it without having to see it," he said. "A lot of people don't know what they are talking about, and I know how some fans can be.

"A few years ago before working here, the Saints were playing the first playoff game in the franchise's history, so I was sitting in the stands with my family. Things weren't going well, and when the team came off the field at halftime everybody was on them. This guy stands up by my nieces and nephews and starts screaming [an obscenity] at my dad.

"So I popped him."

The younger Mora, emotional and fiery as his boss, has declined to talk on the record to New Orleans reporters because he does not want to bring more attention to his father.

"I don't give a damn what people think, but I care for my dad," he said. "People don't know me. They don't know my dad. They think they do because they see things being said on TV. . . . Some people make themselves happy by putting others down. What am I going to do? Let it destroy me and mope around? No, we have to get it straightened out, so I'm not going to waste a single minute worrying about what some knucklehead has to say."

If the Saints do not make a dramatic turnaround, however, there is a strong feeling in New Orleans that the senior Mora will be dismissed.

"If they don't want us here, we'll go somewhere else, and get another job," the younger Mora said. "But I'm competitive and I want to stay here and make this work."

ON TV

* DO YOU BELIEVE . . . ?

San Francisco (4-1) at Indianapolis (3-2), Channel 11, 10 a.m.: Two upsets in a row? Naw, forget it. The 49ers have beaten the Colts five consecutive times, have the best road record since 1985 (59-22-1) and have a 29-8 overall mark against AFC opponents since 1986. Indianapolis has the fewest sacks, three, and the fewest interceptions, two, in the league. And the 49ers have Steve Young, who has a league-high 130 completions, and wide receiver Jerry Rice, who needs 137 yards to become the NFL's all-time leader, surpassing James Lofton, who finished with 14,004. Record time: Rice has played the Colts twice and averaged 167.5 yards a game.

Wishful thinking: The Colts are trying to open the season 4-2 for first time since 1983.

* OUT OF WHACK

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