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Sean McVay’s adjustments won Super Bowl LVI, Cowboys must find out if Kellen Moore can do the same

Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has some things to prove in 2022.

Denver Broncos v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay was the youngest coach to appear in a Super Bowl when he took his team to Super Bowl LIII against the Patriots. On Sunday, he became the youngest coach to actually win the big game, avenging that 13-3 loss to the Patriots.

There’s an NFL Films soundbite that’s stuck with me from McVay’s loss to Bill Belichick’s Patriots - who kept the Jared Goff led Rams out of the end zone.

Just one play into the game, McVay knew the Patriots were playing a similar defense to the Chicago Bears, coordinated that season by Vic Fangio. The Bears also held the Rams without a touchdown earlier that season, handing McVay one of three regular season losses in a 15-6 slugfest.

Trends always find a way to come back around in the NFL as coaches are recycled and schemes get figured out. What McVay couldn’t do for four quarters against the Patriots deep coverage looks, he faced again against the Bengals. The Bengals played this look against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship, knowing Kansas City struggled with it much earlier in the season, and came out on top to reach the Super Bowl.

Staring at another Super Bowl loss with a team that had pushed all it’s chips to the middle of the table, McVay orchestrated the game-winning drive and touchdown to Cooper Kupp on the heels of three straight three-and-out drives. It was a defining moment that proved that the Rams did the right thing hiring McVay at such a young age, starting a trend themselves of upcoming offensive minds landing head coaching jobs.

NFL: Super Bowl LVI-Los Angeles Rams at Cincinnati Bengals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys thought they had their own brilliant play-caller on offense when promoting Kellen Moore to coordinator. Where McVay comes from the still fruitful Mike Shanahan coaching tree, Moore’s ties are with Jason Garrett - fired midseason by the New York Giants - and Scott Linehan, who’s last NFL job remains with the Cowboys.

The Cowboys are hoping the once-inexperienced Moore will continue to develop, but it’s coming time to answer serious questions in year four.

Aidan Davis painted a concerning picture of how Moore may have peaked when scheming the Cowboys offense, and it won’t be long until the first seven weeks of this past season feels like ancient history. Moore’s scheme had yet to be figured out and the Cowboys offense was rolling, but his inability to adjust has been a recurring issue left unaddressed by Dallas for too long.

Head coach Mike McCarthy takes every opportunity to tell the media that he’s built a championship team before, but it’s believed he also tells the Jones’ what they want to hear. At the time of his hiring, a coach that would work with both Moore and Dak Prescott was believed to be a priority for Jerry and Stephen.

Prescott’s status as the franchise quarterback isn’t changing, but if the Jones aren’t at least willing to consider McCarthy as more than just a coach that lets Moore run the show, they’ll deserve the results they get.

This topic was discussed in more detail on the Hidden Yardage podcast, with new episodes available every Monday on Spotify and Apple.

The idea that McCarthy needs to elevate the coaches and players around him doesn’t come without the Cowboys roster facing serious personnel needs, likely more than can be addressed by liking the guys they have and drafting replacements.

When Odell Beckham Jr. went down in the Super Bowl, the Rams receivers struggled to step up in a similar fashion to the Cowboys trio of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup. With the game on the line though, McVay got the ball to his top receiver, something Moore struggled to scheme for either Cooper or Lamb. The confidence to run the ball on second and goal, knowing a fade to Cooper Kupp was nearly as good as another run play, is something the Cowboys haven’t had in a QB-WR connection since Tony Romo to Dez Bryant.

This makes nearly every position except for QB and TE a potential spot for upgrade this offseason, but doing so at the cost of learning their coordinator is holding back the talent already in place is the worst possible scenario for Dallas. Jerry Jones said himself he’s tired of waiting until times like now to address team needs, but he watched as Kellen Moore returned after interviewing for several head coaching jobs and landing none of them. It needs to work out this year.

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