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Team Report: Inside Slant
Inside Slant | Notes and Quotes | Strategy and Personnel
Jim Mora subscribes to the time-tested adage that we learn from our mistakes, so rest assured that Phone-Gate will never again occur during his coaching tenure.
"Expensive phone call," Mora said. "Consider that a lesson learned."
When you're making $7.5 million over five years, perhaps a $25,000 fine might not hurt the wallet too much, but Mora ached worse for the image the Week 16 situation might portray of an ill-prepared team.
The Falcons were tied in overtime at Tampa Bay as Mora stood on the sideline and used the cell phone to call team officials. Dallas and Washington already had won, so he knew Atlanta needed to keep pace in the NFC playoff hunt.
Mora understood the financial ramifications of the phone call long before he dialed the first number, but after his team had taken him on an emotionally draining turn of events, the postseason was his lone concern.
In hindsight, it was hardly surprising that the Falcons couldn't obtain exact information regarding their playoff status; conflicting reports emanated from NFL headquarters about the effect a tie would have on Atlanta as the final minutes ticked away.
Mora's abrupt behavior in the 15 minutes that followed the 27-24 loss now makes more sense. His team had lost a fourth-quarter lead before recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff in overtime and watching placekicker Todd Peterson have his game-winner blocked from 28 yards out.
The second-year coach regretted losing his temper after radio analyst Dave Archer asked him on the air why Atlanta punted on fourth-and-two from its 23 with 1:08 remaining. Mora answered the question, but then ended the interview immediately thereafter as he ripped off the headset and slammed it down.
"I'm a passionate guy," Mora said. "I'm passionate about winning, about my family, my friends, the Atlanta Falcons and about us being the best. Sometimes passion spills over into emotion, and it wasn't as big an incident as it has been portrayed to be. I have apologized to anyone I had offended and vowed that I will manage my emotions much better."
Mora spoke the next day with team president-general manager Rich McKay and owner Arthur Blank, both of whom agreed that the coach had suffered enough and wouldn't face any kind of disciplinary action from the club.
"It's tough," Mora said. "I'm not going to lie to you. It's very, very tough. Just like every team in this league, we all work hard. We put a lot into it and we've become obsessed with it for months on end. When it ends in a way - especially when you have high expectations like we did, we do and we always will have - it's difficult. But, that's life, and you have to learn to get over it."
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