This past weekend, the Jacksonville Jaguars held an introductory press conference for their new head coach, Doug Pederson. As someone who holds a lot of respect for Pederson and was pretty excited when the Eagles fired him a year ago, I tuned in for his presser. When asked about whether or not he would call plays on offense, as he did in Philadelphia, Pederson insinuated he would continue to do so while adding this bit:
“...I’ve done that for my five years in Philadelphia and I feel really comfortable doing that. And listen, there are times when you get stuck in games, and you turn things over. I’m going to be the first one to tell you that you get stuck as a playcaller and you turn it over to some different eyes.”
In the moment, that stuck out to me as indicative of Pederson’s low ego, not only in turning over play-calling when necessary but to publicly admit it too. The admission of getting stuck when it comes to calling plays is also noteworthy considering that Pederson was one of the league’s better play-callers during his time in Philadelphia, which included the Eagles going 42-37-1 and securing the franchise's sole Super Bowl victory.
This exchange popped back into my head on Monday when it was reported the Cowboys would add Robert Prince to their staff as the wide receivers coach. He will replace Adam Henry, whose contract expired this year, assuming it becomes official shortly.
For those unfamiliar with Prince, he’s been coaching football since 1989, beginning his career in the college ranks at the likes of Humboldt State and Fort Lewis. In 2001, Prince was hired to coach the receivers at Boise State under newly-promoted head coach Dan Hawkins.
There, he worked under offensive coordinator Chris Petersen, who later became the head coach at Boise State and created the offense now run by Kellen Moore in Dallas. After two years at Boise State, Prince was promoted to pass game coordinator, working directly with Petersen as the Broncos went 13-1.
That led to Prince’s jump to the NFL, where he served in various capacities with several teams before returning to college. Prince ended up back at Boise State as the pass game coordinator in 2011 - Moore’s final year as the record-breaking starting quarterback - before being promoted to offensive coordinator for the next two seasons.
After that, it was back to the NFL. Prince coached receivers for the Detroit Lions for seven seasons, doing so under Jim Caldwell and Matt Patricia. Of course, Prince’s first season in Detroit reunited him with Moore, then the third-string quarterback for the Lions. During his time in Detroit, Prince assisted the development of Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay in addition to a breakout year for Golden Tate. Prince also spent the 2021 season coaching receivers for the Texans.
Looking at Prince’s résumé, it’s easy to see his connection to Moore and why the Cowboys are hiring him. Not only does he know Moore personally, but Prince has been an integral part of coordinating the Boise State offense for several seasons. It’s likely not a coincidence that Prince’s addition to the staff in Dallas was announced the day after the Dolphins - for which Moore was a finalist for their head coaching gig - opted to hire 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel.
This has the potential to be a pivotal hire for both Moore and the Cowboys. In the two years that Moore has had Dak Prescott for a full season, his offenses have finished top ten in offensive DVOA both times, yet there’s still plenty of room to get better. I argued that the Cowboys needed to get him some sort of sounding board on this staff, and it looks like they have.
If Pederson - a Super Bowl winning head coach - can have moments where he gets stuck calling plays, then surely we can’t be surprised that Moore, who finished just his third season calling plays in any capacity, seems to have gotten stuck at times too. The difference is that Pederson had sounding boards in Philadelphia, including Colts head coach Frank Reich, who were familiar with Pederson and his offense that could help him along.
Moore seems to have lacked that thus far. Nobody on the Cowboys staff this past year had worked with Moore in any capacity prior to joining the team, the only one with a philosophical connection of any sort is quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier, who has ties to Moore’s former coach and boss Scott Linehan. The next closest connection after that is Mike McCarthy, who coached receivers at Pitt the same year Chris Petersen was coaching the quarterbacks. Even that connection is flimsy, at best.
By adding Prince to this staff, the Cowboys are changing that. Prince knows Moore and the offense he wants to run; he’s even coordinated this offense firsthand before. He brings loads of experience as a coach as well, and is immediately positioned to be a sounding board who thinks and speaks the same language as the Cowboys’ young offensive mind. The hope is that this addition helps Moore take the necessary next step in what’s been a promising coaching career.