Thursday, September 17, 2009
Sports NewsMayfield's Mutterings: Illinois completes futile effort

City by the Bay: Mora and Knapp return to roots

Send a link to a friend

[September 17, 2009]  RENTON, Wash. (AP) -- Jim Mora and Greg Knapp didn't just work in San Francisco. They reveled in it. Immersed themselves in it. Owe their careers to it.

They won't say so this week when they return to the Bay Area leading the Seattle Seahawks against the 49ers on Sunday in the stadium where they first became coordinators a decade ago. But deep down, they will always love the Niners.

"We were lucky to be around some great people in this business, starting with Bill Walsh, John McVay, Bill McPherson, who was a longtime coach there. And the Steve Youngs, Jerry Rice, Chris Doleman, Ken Norton. I could go on and on and on," Mora said Wednesday, reminiscing about his days as the 49ers' secondary coach (1997-98) and defensive coordinator (1999-2003).

"They always talked about the 49er standard and the 49er way of doing things. And there was always this feeling that permeated the place that you were a little bit different, a little bit special. And you kind of protected that.


"So as I've gone through my career, that's something that I've tried to duplicate."

It was so special, Mora almost literally jumped from New Orleans to San Francisco in 1996 after his father unexpectedly quit as the Saints' head coach and left his son and secondary coach out of a job.

"I had three teams that had offered me a job, and one of them was the 49ers," said the younger Mora, now 47. "I got goose bumps. It was just a no-brainer."

Except to his wife, Shannon. She was in the background bargaining during a phone call with then-49ers executive Dwight Clark.

"We were living in New Orleans where the cost of living was pretty low. We were going to go to the Bay Area where the cost of living was pretty high at the time," Mora said. "My wife is in the background saying, 'Get more money, get more money!'

"And I'm just saying, 'Tell me where to sign!'"

San Francisco became the launch pad for his career. Walsh tutored him on how to talk in front of his players. Steve Mariucci showed him how to be a head coach who could relate well to them.

Mora's tenure included highly-ranked, opportunistic defenses that produced Pro Bowlers in four of his last five seasons, before Atlanta gave the rising star his first head-coaching job in 2004.

Now, he's the leader of the Seahawks. He's making almost $5 million a year as head coach of his hometown team, which looked revitalized while beating St. Louis 28-0 in Mora's debut last weekend.

Knapp was the 49ers' offensive coordinator from 2001-03, the last three years Mora was their defensive coordinator.

Mora's first game as head coach and Knapp's debut as the Falcons' offensive coordinator came in 2004 in Candlestick Park -- the same place they'll be Sunday as a duo for the first time since the 2006 season, before Atlanta fired Mora.

[to top of second column]

Knapp says returning to San Francisco is still special. No wonder. He owes his career to the 49ers, specifically to Joe Montana and a former offensive coordinator named Mike Shanahan.

In 1992, Montana was entering what would be his final training camp with San Francisco with an aching elbow. Shanahan didn't want his superstar doing much more than the minimum in camp.

He knew of a former quarterback he had in camps in 1988 and '89, while Shanahan was coach of the Los Angeles Raiders. The guy had become an anonymous assistant coach at Sacramento State.

"I got invited about a week prior to training camp opening to go to Rocklin, Calif., and be a camp arm, to offset the throws that Joe didn't have," Knapp said. "And I ended up doing it for three years."

Asked how much Montana appreciated him, Knapp laughed and said, "very much so. Actually, I took great pride that I had my picture in USA Today alongside Joe."

Mora still has the handwritten notes he kept from the advice Walsh, who returned to the 49ers as an executive in the late '90s, gave him. Mora would invite the Hall of Fame coach into his position meetings and took Walsh up on daily invitations to come to his office to chat.

"He was always right on," Mora said of Walsh. "Here's this guy that's working for the organization, that's in the building, was already in the Hall of Fame, and he was willing to sit in my meetings and evaluate what I'm saying, or he's invited me into his office every day to ask him questions?

"I'd be a fool not to take advantage of that."

[Associated Press; By GREGG BELL]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


< Sports index

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law & Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health & Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor