There will come a day when we’ll all be sitting back enjoying a glass of lemonade and talking about how a broken ankle changed the course of history for the Dallas Cowboys. On a warm August day back in 2016, an injury to backup quarterback Kellen Moore opened the door of opportunity for the Cowboys fourth-round draft pick, Dak Prescott. And the rookie never let go of the reins. Prescott tore it up in the preseason. He was playing so well that when Tony Romo suffered a back injury in a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, Cowboys fans didn’t lose hope. Prescott calmly just kept doing what he had been doing and the next thing you know - Dallas finished the regular season 13-3 with the number one seed in the NFC. Prescott hung on to the starting gig and it meant the end of days for Romo in a Cowboys uniform.
When we look back on that year, you can’t help wonder how these seemingly “bad breaks” ended up being fortuitous for Dallas. After all, it took two separate injuries for Prescott to go from third on the depth chart to the team’s new franchise quarterback. And now, it won’t be much longer before Mr. Prescott will be bringing in north of $20 million per season.
What gets lost in all this is the coaching staffs infatuation with Kellen Moore. Why in the world was he ahead of Prescott? Experience played a big role, but it seems absurd to think about that these days. Even a year later fans were confused as to why Moore was ahead of Cooper Rush when it was evident which quarterback was the better performer. Ultimately, the coaches and fans aligned and Rush landed the backup quarterback position as Moore was eventually released.
It’s easy to understand why fans are not excited about Moore. He’s been a career backup basically his entire six-year NFL career and he’s done nothing to warrant a starting job. During the 2015 season where the Cowboys endured a season of quarterback ineptness, Moore did very little to make fans excited about him being on the team. After Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel combined for just one win during a stretch of 10 games, fans were open for the Cowboys to try anything. While Moore did throw the ball down the field more and averaged over 100 yards more per game, he was still throwing picks left and right. Despite a remarkable 50-win total at Boise State, Moore just didn’t fit the bill as a successful NFL quarterback. He wasn’t tall enough and he didn’t have the arm strength to be an NFL quarterback. As it turned out - his tenure as a pro player was short-lived.
Moore’s playing days are over, but his coaching career is just taking off. Fans might be scratching their heads about him being on this staff, but there’s something going on here that might not be so obvious to us. The coaches loved him so much a couple years ago that despite his underwhelming athleticism and performance on the field - he was still valued as a member of the team. Why is that? Well, it’s because Moore is extremely smart. Teammates were enamored by how well this guy prepared. He had a strong understanding of how NFL offenses work. He’s been exposed to coaching since he was a kid when he was always on the field when his dad was coaching. And it’s his football IQ that has helped him move up the ranks through college. So don’t be discouraged by his lack of success as an NFL quarterback, but rather his coaching prowess that has taken him as far as he went.
Back in 2012, Moore sat down with Jon Gruden on ESPN’s QB camp series and the coach had a lot of good things to say about him.
“Kellen Moore is a coach.” Gruden said in a teleconference with the media. “He could probably be an offensive coordinator for a lot of teams. This guy knows the game insides and out. Moore is the ringleader of the Boise State Broncos. He’s only a couple plays away from being 53-0.”
“The system of football at Boise is very demanding. They shift more than any team in the country other than maybe Stanford. The volume of different plays, it’s incredible. They do more than a lot of NFL teams.”
Kellen Moore breaking things down with Jon Gruden: pic.twitter.com/AnUfLZ9coA— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) January 20, 2019
“Our whole goal from an outside perspective is to make it as confusing as possible” - Kellen Moore.
That’s fantastic. Fans are tired of predictability so let’s complicate it up with some confusion for the defense. We talk about brilliant offensive minds that come out of nowhere. Nobody is that excited about them at first. But once they see results on the field, the whole world falls in love with them. And that’s what it’s going to take before fans can get excited.
In 2007, Jason Garrett became the offensive coordinator of the Cowboys. In just his first year as an OC, the Cowboys offense finished second in the league, trailing only the 16-0 New England Patriots who set the record for most points scored in a season. Garrett’s offense itself set franchise record as Romo broke the single season record for touchdown passes in just his first full year as starter. The lack of experience as an offensive coordinator didn’t hold Garrett back. Nobody was thrilled about Garrett as a coach back then. He wasn’t a talented NFL player and he had very limited coaching experience. But people raved about his intelligence and that’s exactly what they’re doing with Moore.
The disdain for Moore comes from fans who are outside the inner workings of a football team. Inside the clubhouse, the love for Moore is real. Maybe there’s something to this. Under Garrett’s tutelage, this could end up being something really good. With four different quarterback coaches in Prescott’s ear, he’s going to get a lot of help. But what fans really want to see if something fresh on offense. With Garrett having more control and giving Moore more input on the offense, we really don’t know what to expect.
How many quarterback coaches does it take to fix the Cowboys offense?— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) January 20, 2019
Garrett, Moore, Kitna, and Nussmeier - welcome the Cowboys new offensive coaching regime that everyone will hate at first, but eventually love.
If you have trust in Garrett, then there’s reason to be optimistic about Moore becoming more involved in the offense. If you don’t, then saddle up for frustration until you are given a reason to feel otherwise.