Thursday brought us the news that wasn’t really news because it has been common knowledge for a week or so now, but Kellen Moore was officially named the Cowboys’ new offensive coordinator and Jon Kitna was announced as the new quarterbacks coach. Moore, who will turn 30 this summer, seems likely to call the plays, although he will have input from tight ends coach Doug Nussmeier, Kitna, and Jason Garrett, and probably a little from Dak Prescott.
But while everyone was obsessing over the official announcement, other news broke that the Cowboys will not extend Garrett’s contract despite early reports saying otherwise. That means that Garrett will essentially be coaching for his job in 2019, and if he doesn’t do enough to earn an extension, Jerry Jones will let the coach’s contract expire at the conclusion of the 2019 season.
This puts a lot of pressure on everyone in Dallas, but most notably Garrett and Moore. The Cowboys did a tremendous job of overcoming a terrible 3-5 start and making the playoffs in 2018, and they did so with a defense that kept them in almost every game. However, the offense was the stuff of nightmares, and it had to give a little extra sting as the organization watched the top four offenses in the NFL reach the conference championship games while Dallas extended their conference championship game drought to 23 years.
The general perception around this team was that the underwhelming and inefficient offense is what held them back. It obviously wasn’t the defense, and the fact that the team didn’t just spiral out of control after starting 3-5 reflects on Garrett’s grasp on the locker room. But with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper on that offense, many were left scratching their heads as to why that unit wasn’t more productive.
And it seems as if Dallas found their culprit to blame: offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, whose once-successful offense became too bland and predictable. Garrett made the decision to let Linehan go, and the pressure was on him to find someone who could unlock the secret to making this offense elite again. At one point, it seemed as if Jerry Jones had his eye on someone from the remaining playoff teams:
Jerry Jones when pressed on @1053thefan about Scott Linehan's future as OC: "This is the time when these things are thought about. This is the time when you may see an opportunity next week that you didn't know existed next week, in the area of personnel or the area of coaching."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) January 15, 2019
However, it became very clear that Garrett was looking more so at an in-house guy. Moore and Nussmeier became the two hot names. It seems that Garrett’s assessment of the Cowboys offense was that the scheme and philosophy is fine, but that the biggest change was just someone who is more creative with the way they call plays. And that led to Moore.
In a way, it’s as if Garrett is betting on himself, as Dallas will still use the same variation of the Air Coryell that they’ve been running since Garrett came to the team in 2007. And it’s hard to fault anyone for betting on themselves. After all, Garrett has had some pretty good success in the past.
Perhaps the Joneses are less inclined to fully believe in Garrett after the way they’ve seen this offense perform in the last year and a half. And that is probably the reason that they’re declining to extend Garrett’s contract at this time. They likely see two possible outcomes. One is Garrett ends up being right and Moore brings the innovation and creativity in calling plays that was lacking, and the Cowboys field a dynamic offense that leads to Garrett getting a big fat contract extension. The second is it becomes apparent that the Cowboys are using a scheme that fails to adapt to their personnel and exploit defenses in the way that the Andy Reid’s and Sean McVay’s of the NFL are doing, in which case Dallas can move in a new direction at head coach without having to pay any sort of buyout.
But hey, no pressure Kellen.