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Scott Linehan Is “Comfortable” With Backup QB Kellen Moore But Is He Content?

Just because you are comfortable with someone doesn’t mean you’re not looking for a replacement.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-Minicamp Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Kellen Moore has been a favorite of Dallas Cowboys’ offensive coordinator Scott Linehan’s since signing him three offseasons ago. Linehan has a ton of experience with Moore, having coached him for almost the entirety of his six-year career including being on the Lions’ staff when Moore was brought to Detroit as a rookie. Linehan and Moore go back and that’s certainly a positive when finding a reliable backup quarterback in this league.

There aren’t 32 quality starters in the NFL much less a perfect backup for each team in case of a catastrophe. It just isn’t realistic and when teams do create a perfect situation, it’s gone pretty quickly. The Dallas Cowboys had the very best backup situation in the league last year with rookie sensation Dak Prescott taking the reins and Tony Romo relegated to the bench. However, that didn’t last long before Romo was out the door to retire and work in broadcasting.

Moore has become sort of a trigger for debate because there are not many folks out there besides Linehan that would be confident in him leading this offense should he be thrust into that role:

"He has been in my room for a lot of years," Linehan said. "He knows the system. He is one of those guys who can function without a lot of reps. He is a great feel player. That is a great thing for backups. He works so hard mentally.”

“He has such a good feel for the game physically. He doesn't really need to have a huge amount of reps to be comfortable playing the position and executing plays."

That sounds like a guy who has confidence in Kellen Moore and seeing as Linehan is his biggest cheerleader, it’s no surprise. However, what Linehan didn’t say in that quote is more telling. He’s definitely NOT implying that Moore is the answer should Dak Prescott have to miss significant time. He’s purely speaking of Moore in the role of a stop-gap backup quarterback, not Moore as a viable starter.

And for what Linehan is saying, he’s right because Moore operates as the perfect short-term backup player. He’s extremely intelligent and knows how this offense operates inside and out. Last season, while suffering a season-ending fractured fibula, Moore showed leadership qualities by showing up and studying tape of future opponents often two weeks ahead. Moore would bring an incredible amount of value to practice by bringing that knowledge to the coaches during prep for Sundays.

Anytime you saw Scott Linehan last season, Kellen Moore wasn’t far behind offering up insight to Dak Prescott and keeping Mark Sanchez far away (only kidding). Moore was always known as a smart quarterback and Dak Prescott needed that guidance seeing as Dak’s more of a gamer. I firmly believe that Moore made positive contributions to the Cowboys 13-3 season and helped Prescott become a far better practice quarterback but so did watching Tony Romo slice it up with the practice squad.

The issue with Moore is not his ability to lead a locker room, or his incredible brain to know the entirety of the offensive or defensive playbook. Moore’s issue, and it’s a big one, all centers around ability. You can have all the intelligence and want-to in the world but having the ability is imperative. Moore doesn’t have the ability to consistently execute this offense. It’s a whole lot more difficult than just handing the ball off to Ezekiel Elliott.

Bryan Broaddus made an excellent point when discussing his opinion of Kellen Moore on “The Break” and that’s Moore versus the field. That’s what he’s up against, in reality, the field of available quarterbacks. It’ll continue to be that way through training camp too as the Cowboys’ will assuredly know everyone that becomes available. Broaddus goes on to commend Moore for his intelligence but admits that practice in training camp last year was brutal with Moore.

He’s never had the arm strength to complete all the passes you have to make in the NFL. Broaddus states that he doesn’t have the physical abilities to successfully evaluate practices. If the quarterbacking is lacking that affects the entire offense during practices. Guys like Andy Jones or Brice Butler can’t show their skill sets with an inferior prospect at quarterback with a weak arm. That affects their chances at making the roster. You can’t overwork your starters to make up for the time you lose to an inferior quarterback.

Kellen Moore checks off so many boxes as a backup quarterback except the one you have no chance of hiding. Linehan has confidence in the man that Kellen Moore is and the head he has on his shoulders but you can’t fake arm strength and physical ability.

Backup quarterbacks have more value than warming the bench. They’re an extra set of eyes for the starter and coaches. Usually, the ideal backup quarterback is a wily veteran with no better than a .500 record but the intelligence to keep you afloat without challenging your incumbent. A guy that has seen plenty of experiences in the NFL both good and bad. A guy that you don’t have to drastically change the offense in order to make him effective should he be called upon. That’s in a perfect NFL world but we don’t operate in that world.

The truth is that Moore knows this system, as well as any of its coaches, but he can’t possibly be his own self-evaluator. The Dallas Cowboys’ coaches and front office can be comfortable in Moore’s ability to prepare like an NFL backup but they can’t be comfortable in his ability to deliver on the field. They can’t do as they did in 2015 and expect guys like Matt Cassel to deliver for Tony Romo. In 2017, they can’t expect guys like Kellen Moore to deliver for Dak Prescott. Confidence and contentment are two different things and if that time comes for a backup to perform, look for this team to go shopping for another option.

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