Last season could not have gotten off to a better start for Cowboys’ offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. Six games in, Moore was the brains behind one of the best offenses in football. Dallas was averaging nearly 34 points per game, scoring 35 or more four times, and went over 400 yards of total offense in five of their first six games.
It wasn't just the statistical production that was putting the 33-year-old coordinator in the national spotlight. The plays Moore was scheming up on a weekly basis were just as impressive.
Kellen Moore is dialing it up!— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) October 11, 2021
Fake Fly Sweep, Fake Flip Toss, RB Swing pic.twitter.com/QUKgyoB1pw
If at first you don't succeed, try the concept again ❗️— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) October 1, 2021
Kellen Moore's smart play design sprung @BinghamBaller9 open for @Dak not once, but twice.
@NFLMatchup | @MattBowen41 | @GregCosell pic.twitter.com/bNEWHVqnHv
With his team at 5-1 on the season and ranking near the top in every offensive category, there was already plenty of talk about Dallas’ offensive coordinator being the top potential head coach commodity on the market in the offseason.
Things were looking so good, and then all of a sudden, they weren’t.
After the Denver game in Week 9, Dallas’ offense never looked the same. While the Cowboys did average 29 points per game in their final 11 contests of the regular season, if you take out their two 50-point beatdowns of Washington and Philadelphia the number falls to just 24 ppg.
The Cowboys' offense wasn’t just less statistically impressive in the second half, they lacked creativity, and plenty of the blame fell on Moore. In December and January, we didn’t see the same boy genius play calls we got so used to seeing in September and October. Dallas’ offense lacked a spark, and Moore was unable to provide it as he did in the first half of the season.
Even after a very rough second half of the year, there still seems to be a belief around the league that Moore is one of the more talented offensive coordinators in football. The 33-year-old was a finalist for the Miami Dolphins head coaching position and was recently named the second-best offensive play-caller in football by Pro Football Focus.
Moore came in behind just one play-caller, future Hall of Famer Andy Reid, and ranked three spots ahead of Super Bowl-winning head coach Sean McVay.
Here’s what PFF had to say about Dallas’ offensive play-caller.
This might be a head-scratcher for some, but Moore was terrific in 2021. The Cowboys managed to rank third in yards per play and first in points scored despite dealing with injuries to the offensive line, the continued fall-off of running back Ezekiel Elliott, a season-ending injury to wideout Michael Gallup and a significant decline from quarterback Dak Prescott post-calf injury. Not to mention, Moore helped backup signal-caller Cooper Rush win a primetime game in Minnesota. It was a pretty impressive season for the former Boise State quarterback.
While it certainly is fair to criticize Moore for his part in Dallas’ offensive downfall, it’s also only fair to acknowledge how impressive his play-calling was early on in the season. Deploying CeeDee Lamb as a runner, putting Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard on the field at the same time, and using Connor McGovern as a fullback were just a few creative things Moore did that helped the Cowboys produce.
When Moore was “in his bag”, good things constantly happened for Dallas’ offense. Unfortunately, there weren’t close to enough of those moments in the second half of the season.
In 2022, if Moore is able to get back to that guy we saw calling plays in September and October of 2021, he has a chance to live up to being named the second-best offensive play-caller in football.