The story of this year’s Dallas Cowboys team has mostly centered around the emergence of what we can now say is a dominant defense. This unit has surpassed most of our expectations as they are first in the league in sacks, second in the league in takeaways, and third in the league in points allowed. That is pretty fantastic.
While Dan Quinn gets a lot of credit (and deservedly so) for what he has done on the defensive side of the ball, the same is not true for his fellow coordinator on the offensive side, Kellen Moore. The third-year offensive coordinator has quietly put together a rather impressive showing himself. Just like on defense, the Cowboys also sit in third place in points scored, which is a fascinating achievement considering they had to rely on the services of backup quarterback Cooper Rush for five games, where they went 4-1 in that stint. The offense operates at an efficiency of 0.44 points per play which is third-best in the league and they also have a red zone conversion rate of 73% which is also third-best in the league. In short, the Cowboys' offense has been super fantastic, so what is up with all the Kellen hate?
That’s tough to explain, but what isn’t is all the good that he has brought to this offense. Here are four reasons why he should get a little Moore credit.
His expertise is recognized by many
Many were puzzled by the coaching staff’s affinity for Moore early on. Even as a backup quarterback, many scratched their heads when he was placed ahead of Dak Prescott (2016) and even Cooper Rush (2017). Ultimately, Moore’s chances on the field ended quickly, but the team kept him on the staff because of what he brought to the table in the coaches’ room. From a QB coach in 2018 to an offensive coordinator the following year, Moore has been fast-tracked through the coaching ranks. Mike McCarthy had a golden opportunity to replace him when he took over the team in 2020 but chose not to. And the fact that he’s drawn interest as a potential head coaching candidate says a lot about what people in the coaching circles think about him. Some may not think he’s very good, but many others do.
And statistically speaking, this kid is knocking it out of the park. In just his first year as the Cowboys' OC under Jason Garrett, no team gained more yards than the Cowboys. The following year was not great because they lost Dak Prescott for the season, but surprisingly they still finished in the middle of the pack in both points and yards. With Dak back last year, the Cowboys were first in both categories. And as we mentioned before, even with Prescott missing five games this year, they have the third-highest-scoring team in the league.
Since Kellen Moore became offensive coordinator for the Cowboys, here are the teams with the most 40-point performances.
He wins a lot of different ways
With splendid offensive numbers, it’s puzzling how some are still adamant about Moore not being very good. One of the most popular anti-Kellen narratives is that Dak Prescott helps this offense hum despite Moore rather than because of him. Is that really true though?
Prescott is a great quarterback, but he’s not exactly tearing it up this season. His numbers are statistically some of the worst of his career. His yards per game (223) and QB rating (96.1) are the lowest of his career since that underwhelming 2017 season when people labeled him a game manager. And his interception percentage (3.3) is the absolute worst of his career and nearly double what it’s been over each of his last three seasons. This is not to say Dak has been playing poorly, but more so to just point out that he’s not carrying the team. We know this offense is miles better with Dak throwing the ball, but there are also other factors making it work.
What are these factors? A little bit of 13 personnel with three tight ends and a little bit of 22 personnel with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in the backfield at the same time. A little bit of 11 personnel with CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and Noah Brown catching passes. And maybe even a bonus 14 personnel with the extra tight end Sean McKeon. Whatever the Cowboys need, Moore has shown he can drive down the field in a multitude of ways.
He’s committed to the running game
Another complaint about Moore is that his high-octane Boise State tendencies have taken him away from the basics and that he becomes a little too pass-happy. It’s true, Moore loves to air it out and the Cowboys have had some inflated passing games with Prescott in recent years, but he’s showing a lot more discipline lately. Here is a look at where the Cowboys rank in rushing play percentage during Moore’s time as offensive coordinator:
- 2019: 12th
- 2020: 22nd
- 2021: 19th
- 2022: 6th
The pass-happy Moore appears to be a running fool now as only five teams in the league run the ball at a higher rate than the Cowboys this season. Still, there are complaints. Why didn’t he run the clock out when they had a 14-point fourth-quarter lead against the Green Bay Packers? The answer is that Moore doesn’t force anything. He gives his team options based on the looks the defense gives them. He doesn’t get too predictable and go conservative and he doesn’t throw caution to the wind and abandon the run. Players still have to execute, and when they do, this offense is hard to stop.
He gives his team an edge
One of the biggest questions we need to ask ourselves before grading Moore is simply, is he doing enough to help the offense be successful? This is the part where it feels evident that he’s a notch above the other coordinators. Moore’s window dressing pre-snap is helping his quarterback, who has gotten really good at diagnosing defenses, gain an edge before the play even begins. We are coming off a game where he moved Lamb around like some type of vagabond, only to watch Prescott repeatedly exploit favorable matchups.
Will he call an occasional jet sweep that goes nowhere? Sure. Will he be the brains behind an unsuccessful play-action pass when only one measly yard is needed? Most likely. And will he put on his fancy pants with those slow-developing double-reverses that result in tackles for a loss? You betcha. But with each of these negative plays are moments where he’s giving opposing defenses something to think about. These are necessary evils to keep the defense off kilter because the threat of these plays is also responsible for getting the defense out of position when the offense comes away with big plays.
We all have our own opinion of Kellen Moore, but let’s examine his entire body of work before we just default to making him the scapegoat whenever the offense sputters. His overall body of work speaks volumes, and with each new day, it’s getting harder to make a case that this guy isn’t one of the better offensive coordinators in the league.
I think you're seeing what you want to see because if you're truly paying attention, you wouldn't think Kellen's decision-making is holding this team back. I heard JC address this recently with an ice-cold glass of realism for Kellen haters. pic.twitter.com/1zoorHGx1f— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 3, 2022
What do you think of Kellen Moore?
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He’s good for the Cowboys
He’s holding them back