Jim Mora: Freshman quarterbacks have it easier than NFL rookies

UCLA coach Jim Mora is leading a team with a true freshman quarterback for the first time. Josh Rosen has passed for 574 yards, four touchdowns and an interception in his first two games. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA coach Jim Mora is leading a team with a true freshman quarterback for the first time, starting five-star recruit Josh Rosen. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Much has been made of UCLA starting a true freshman quarterback in Josh Rosen, something that had loomed as the biggest question of the Bruins’ offseason.

Rosen has looked more than capable through his first two games, throwing for 574 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. According to Mora, the five-star recruit out of Bellflower St. John Bosco is in a much better situation than he might be in three or four years from now.

“It’s much more difficult to play in the NFL,” Mora said. “I think that anyone that has been in both leagues understands that the NFL is a different animal. The level of play is so much higher than we have here at the college level. I don’t even think it’s close. I think it’s much easier to start as a freshman in college than (as a rookie) in the NFL.”

Mora was the defensive backs coach in San Diego when the Chargers started Billy Joe Tolliver for five games in 1989. The second-round draft pick took the No. 1 job midway through Jim McMahon’s disappointing season, and completed 89 of his 185 passes as a rookie for 1,097 yards, five touchdowns, and eight interceptions.

The next year, rookie John Friesz started the regular-season finale for the Chargers, recording 98 yards, a touchdown and a pick on 50 percent passing in a 17-12 loss to the Oakland Raiders. The sixth-round draft pick became a full-time starter in 1991, Mora’s last year on the San Diego staff.

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Chargers contact Mora

Rumors linking Jim Mora to the San Diego Chargers first started circulating two weeks ago, but a Los Angeles Times report Tuesday confirmed that the team had contacted UCLA’s head coach.

The Chargers officially fired Norv Turner last Monday, opening a head coaching vacancy at the place where Mora first began his NFL career in 1985. Still, a move back to the pros after just one year would be stunning. Mora had serious doubts about his coaching career after being fired by the Seattle Seahawks after the 2009 season, and said he felt rejuvenated coaching college players.

“You’re able to have an impact on their lives,” he said a day before the Holiday Bowl. “The concrete hasn’t hardened on who they are as individuals. They still need you. That’s a good thing. We all want to be needed.”

The Chargers’ pursuit puts pressure on UCLA to increase pay for Mora and his assistants, as well as improve the Bruins’ practice facilities. Continue reading

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