The Dallas Cowboys knew from the moment they elected to move on from Jason Garrett that this would be a challenging season for them. A new head coach and a largely revamped staff meant that they had built in disadvantages compared to the 27 teams that did not swap out the head guy. When the coronavirus pandemic shut down all but a few remotely conducted functions across the league, it just got a few orders of magnitude worse. This means one of the handful of coaches retained from last season by Mike McCarthy is now the key to success this year. That is offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
It’s a big responsibility to have in only his third year since hanging up his cleats and donning a headset on the sidelines, and with just one year’s experience as the OC.
You may wonder why he is more important than McCarthy or new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Here are the reasons.
Fast start needed
It is crucial that Dallas starts winning early, especially as the threat of a shortened season is still very much with us. They cannot afford a sluggish beginning. While all three phases of the game are indeed important, offense is the one that a team has the most control over. Defense is much more reactive, and special teams is to a large degree as well. Only on offense can a team routinely dictate what is happening on the field.
That is a hypothesis that needs a bit more development to show its validity. Fortunately, our DannyPhantom just did exactly that. Here is a pertinent point from his article.
In fact, if you really wanted to set your watch to whether or not the Cowboys win on Sundays, look no further than asking yourself - how many points did the offense score? When the offense is finding the end zone, the Cowboys win. Looking through last year’s numbers, when the offense scored more than 24 points last season, the Cowboys were undefeated at 8-0. However, every time they didn’t, the team lost
So if the Cowboys want to win games early, they need to score a lot of points. That is on Moore, since defensive scores are rare and much more subject to the vagaries of chance. One of the things that is expected this year is that McCarthy will remove what certainly appeared to be some restrictions on Moore’s play-calling under Garrett. The team was very conservative at times, especially on the road and against the better teams. If that is changed, the offense should be able to live up to its potential.
Even from outside the organization, McCarthy must have clearly seen that the Dallas roster was much more set on offense than on defense. The offseason just clarified things, as the defense now will likely see at least five new starters to start the season in Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, Aldon Smith, Trevon Diggs, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Randy Gregory could still be reinstated and might replace Smith as the starter opposite DeMarcus Lawrence, but that would have the same effect. Reggie Robinson II has an outside chance of making it six new faces when the defense takes the field as well. And there is also a possibility that Chidobe Awuzie could be moved to safety to add another element of change, but that is not as certain.
In any case, this presents a huge challenge for Nolan and his defensive staff. With the loss of the entire offseason program and OTAs, the defense is likely to take some time to gel. It just puts more pressure on the offense to carry the load in the early part of the schedule.
Moore is working mostly with players he is very familiar with, and really has only one new (and very talented) piece to incorporate in CeeDee Lamb. Things just got a little more settled with reports that Dak Prescott is planning to sign his franchise tag and will be able to start participating in the virtual meetings that are all the players can do for now. That eliminates the always remote possibility of some kind of holdout by the QB. Prescott was one of the major motivations for McCarthy to take the job in Dallas, and this has to be a welcome development.
This means that Moore has a very good idea of what will work and what doesn’t get the job done. Probably, that was one of, or likely the biggest of, the factors that led McCarthy to retain him as the OC. McCarthy was well aware of the size of the task facing Nolan, so having an offense that is able to build on the good things from last year as well as a coordinator and play caller that is well aware of what failed is extremely important.
As DannyPhantom pointed out, when the offense clicked, it was very, very effective in 2019. Moore has to have been a major reason why.
In a typical year, defenses are often ahead of the offenses when the season begins. This is hardly a typical time. Now Moore has become a key element if the Cowboys are to have a good season. We all hope he is up to the task. How he performs will dictate the success of the team this year.