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."
* 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
New England (1-4) at Kansas City (5-1), Channel 4, 10 a.m.: Preseason expectations had these teams headed in opposite directions, all right, but not this way. The Patriots have been the season's biggest flop, with quarterback Drew Bledsoe playing as if he were blindfolded. The Chiefs were supposed to battle Seattle for the basement in the AFC West, but they can match their best start since 1969, when they went on to the Super Bowl.
Repeating: Marcus Allen needs a touchdown rushing to hit No. 100.
* SMITH VS. WALL
Dallas (5-1) at San Diego (3-3), Channel 11, 1 p.m.: Dallas running back Emmitt Smith faces a Charger defense that hasn't allowed an opposing runner 100 yards in 36 games. Smith made his NFL debut against the Chargers in 1990, ran twice and gained two yards. Charger quarterback Stan Humphries has a bruised rotator cuff. Backup Gale Gilbert has an 0-3 record as a starting quarterback.
Super Bowl contender? The Chargers have fallen behind in 19 consecutive games. Since opening last season 6-0, they have compiled a 10-9 mark.
MAN BITES DOG
Minnesota (3-2) at Tampa Bay (4-2): Two things you never expected to witness in your lifetime: a man walking on the moon and the Buccaneers in first place. President Kennedy gave a boost to NASA, but Sam Wyche is stuck with Trent Dilfer, the lowest-rated starting quarterback in the NFC.
It's magic: Tampa Bay has given up more points, 88, than it has scored, 86, and yet has won twice as many games as it has lost.
NO HUDDLE: NO CHANCE
Seattle (2-3) at Buffalo (4-1): The Bills will be without wide receiver Andre Reed, who has a pulled hamstring, but that won't be enough to help Seattle. The Raiders, using a no-huddle offense, bulldozed the Seahawks and now Seattle takes on the NFL's no-huddle experts. The Bills also have the NFL's top-ranked defense and top-ranked pass defense.
Fading star: Buffalo's Jim Kelly is completing 50.7% of his passes. Only Bledsoe has been worse in the AFC.
Detroit (2-3) at Green Bay (3-2): The resurrection of Wayne Fontes continues. One more victory and he ties George Wilson as the Lions' winningest coach with 55. With 270 more, he will catch George Halas.
Friendly confines: The Packers won four in a row over Detroit in Milwaukee--when they still played there--lost four in a row in Green Bay and play in Green Bay today.
Chicago (3-2) at Jacksonville (2-4): If Northwestern can beat Notre Dame and Michigan in the same year, why can't Jacksonville win three in a row?
Offense ranks last: Jacksonville's offense is No. 30, but the last 10 times it has moved inside the 20-yard line, it has scored.
ONE WEEK TO CAROLINA
Miami (4-1) at New Orleans (0-5): The Saints' best chance to win a game this year figures to be next week against Carolina, but what about this week? The Saints catch a break with Dan Marino's knee surgery, and Marino's replacement, Bernie Kosar, is 0-2 in previous games against New Orleans.
Home sweet home: The Saints have lost 12 of their last 16 games in the Superdome.
GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT
New York Jets (1-5) at Carolina (0-5): Some kind of excitement: Can Bubby Brister, starting for Boomer Esiason, who is out with a concussion, keep the Panthers winless? Or, can Kerry Collins-led Carolina hand the Jets their 18th loss in their last 25 games?
Powerhouse: The Jets are 5-0 against expansion teams in their inaugural seasons.
Washington (2-4) at Arizona (1-5): Buddy Ryan, the general manager, should fire Buddy Ryan, the coach. Ryan's defense ranks 27th overall, last against the run, 28th in stopping the opposition on third down and 28th in allowing points. Ryan's offense stands 26th in scoring.
Potent stat: Ninety-five of Henry Ellard's 100 catches for the Redskins have resulted in first downs.
Philadelphia (3-3) at New York Giants (2-4): The Eagles ran for 272 yards against the Patriots and now get a crack at the league's 25th-worst rushing defense. The Eagles' defense has given up 26.5 points a game, but has no reason to worry, what with the Giants averaging 16.8 points a game.
Back in action: Giant running back Rodney Hampton will be wearing a cast on his broken hand but is expected to start. He needs 68 yards to surpass Joe Morris as the team's all-time rushing leader. Morris ran for 5,296 yards.
Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston and Pittsburgh.