A good barometer for how the rest of the league feels about your franchise is what happens with the coaching staff following a winning season. As much as Cowboys fans may not want to hear this with the Divisional Round loss to the 49ers still fresh from Sunday night, the Cowboys still have a talented roster, with the two coordinators responsible for play-calling both drawing head coaching looks for the second year in a row.
Kellen Moore’s offense may have managed just 12 points against the 49ers, whose defense was called by a trending head coach candidate in Demeco Ryans, but that isn’t stopping the Carolina Panthers from moving forward with Moore as a potential replacement to Steve Wilks. A defensive minded coached that’s been well respected around the league since 2006, Wilks took over as the interim after Matt Rhule was fired midseason. Rhule was supposed to be the offensive mind coming from the collegiate game to turn the Panthers around, but uncertainty at quarterback put a quick end to his time in the NFL as he’s now the head coach at Nebraska.
The Panthers still face this turmoil at the most important position in the game, and their in-season fire sale at the trade deadline saw them lose their best playmaker in Christian McCaffrey. This makes it particularly interesting that Carolina sees Moore as a candidate to lead them through this, known more for coordinating an established offense with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and CeeDee Lamb all being considered some of the best at their position groups at different times. Moore has also had the benefit of All-Pro offensive linemen, another position group the Panthers are rebuilding with first-round pick Ikem Ekwonu leading the way. Whether he’s protecting Sam Darnold or a fresh face in Carolina remains to be seen, but the Panthers see Moore as one option to help figure this transition out.
Moore’s offense made quick work of the lone NFC South representative in this year’s playoffs, ending the Bucs season and possibly Tom Brady’s time in Tampa. The Panthers finished in second tied with the rest of the division at 7-10. This uncertainty from the entire division could be part of the reason they see benefit in Moore, giving him the same gift of time the Cowboys signed up for when handing over the reigns of the offense in 2019.
The numbers and scoreboard-breaking performances have been there over Moore’s time with the Cowboys, but at this exact point last season the talk around Dallas was that his offense has been figured out and hit a ceiling. If that was the reason no other team felt comfortable making him a head coach yet, it will be something Moore has to answer to as early as this interview with the Panthers.
With many of the Cowboys offseason storylines of a year ago already repeating themselves this year, Moore going from someone that felt irreplaceable to a coordinator the Cowboys could improve on offense without shouldn’t come as a surprise. Regardless of how the Dallas front office actually feels about continuing to let Moore call plays for Dak Prescott under Mike McCarthy, they’ll have to compete with at least the Panthers to keep this continuity on offense.