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The case for the Dallas Cowboys to move on from offensive coordinator Kellen Moore

The Dallas Cowboys have moved on from several assistant coaches following their playoff exit. However, they should make one more move.

Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys have been busy over the last 24 hours, letting go of several key members of the coaching staff. Michael Gehlken reported that the team officially did not renew the contracts of assistant head coach Rob Davis, linebackers coach George Edwards, assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett, running backs coach Skip Peete, offensive line coach Joe Philbin, and quality control analytics coach Kyle Valero.

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy put out a statement this morning regarding the news.

“We thank these men for their hard work, dedication and contributions to the Cowboys. Each of them represented our team and organization at a high, professional level with class and commitment to making our team better,” said McCarthy. “These were difficult decisions to make because of the great respect I have for each of them as a coach and person of character, combined with the experiences we’ve all gone through together. This is the hardest part of the business and we wish them nothing but the best.’”

The Cowboys front office obviously needed to make changes to their roster, as well as coaching staff, following their loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs. However, they have yet to make the move that is most imperative if they want to make any improvement next season. They still need to let go of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.

His situational play calling is questionable:

If there is one big knock on Kellen Moore, it is his play-calling in specific game situations. This was evident in the 31-28 overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 10 of the season. This was a game that many people agree the Cowboys blew. They were up 14 points heading into the fourth quarter of that game. They had been dominant in that football game running the football, RB Tony Pollard was averaging 5.2 yards per carry and rookie RB Malik Davis was averaging 7.6 yards per carry. Despite this, after the Cowboys established their 14-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, they ran the ball just six times and threw the ball 18 times. The best way to hold onto a lead in football is controlling time of possession and keeping the opposing offense off the field. This loss ultimately came back to bite the Cowboys, as they could have potentially been the first seed in the NFC playoff standings, and would not have had to play the 49ers in the divisional round.

With roughly three minutes remaining in the divisional round game against the 49ers, Dak Prescott and the offense trotted out on the field needing a touchdown to tie the game. Starting at their own 18-yard line, the offense needed to come up with some big plays to take the ball down the field. WR CeeDee Lamb had just made a miraculous catch the drive before, and had lots of momentum. However, on the first play of the drive, Prescott nearly threw an interception on a pass intended for TE Dalton Schultz, who was running a curl route. Schultz running a curl route is understandable, if the defense is looking at other threats, it could be an easy completion for Prescott. However, the problem with the play is all four receivers on the field were running a curl route. While the 49ers defense is arguably the best in the NFL, it is important to keep them guessing when it comes to what routes to defend. Putting all your targets on the same route makes it incredibly easy for the defense to defend. The Cowboys were unable to rally after the near turnover, and were forced to punt the ball back to the 49ers.

In a nearly identical game situation in the previous postseason one year earlier, Moore had another questionable play design. The Cowboys were down 23-17 against the 49ers, and needed a big drive to potentially take the lead. Feels like deja vu, doesn’t it? The Cowboys offensive line had been struggling to protect Prescott throughout the game, as he was sacked five times. It would be logical to assume that Moore would put more emphasis on protecting Prescott on this drive, to give him more time to deliver big passes. Think again, as Moore decided the best cause of action was to send two offensive lineman on curl routes.

Consistency concerns:

Yes, the offense has been statistically elite throughout his tenure as offensive coordinator with the team. This does not outweigh the inconsistencies when it comes to play-calling and game-planning. Sure, the Dallas offense has the capability of putting up an electric 30-point game one week, but they also have the capability of looking equally mediocre and inefficient the following week.

In Week 11 of the season, the offense was on fire, putting up 40 points on the red-hot Minnesota Vikings. The following week, the Cowboys put up just seven points through the first half against the New York Giants on Thanksgiving Day. They were able to score 21 in the second half and win by eight points, but quite the turnaround from the previous week.

In Week 13 of the season, the Cowboys beat the Indianapolis Colts 54-19. The most amount of points they scored all season. The following week, the Cowboys struggled offensively against the Houston Texans, who finished the season with just one win. They were down 20-17 in the first half, but rallied in the fourth quarter to win.

In Week 16 of the season, the Cowboys scored 40 points on the Philadelphia Eagles in a huge division rivalry matchup. The following week, they went into the half up 10-6 on a Tennessee Titans team that rested nearly their entire starting defense in preparation of a more important game on their schedule the following week. While the Cowboys were able to rally and win that game as well, it was not as easy or dominant as it should have been.

In the wild card round of the playoffs, the Dallas Cowboys offense dominated, scoring 31 points in a huge win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Prescott threw for over 300 yards, and had five touchdowns. The following week, the team scored 12 points against the San Francisco 49ers and Prescott threw for just a mere 206 yards and one touchdown.

To succeed in the playoffs, it takes a string of multiple games in a row where the team can put up points. Lack of consistency on the offensive side of the ball ended a playoff run this season that had a lot of potential.

Moore’s flaws are becoming more apparent to people around the NFL:

Former Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells was asked about his opinions on Dak Prescott, following their loss to the 49ers. Parcells responded by saying they need to add more weapons and have a more balanced offensive scheme.

“They don’t have the top, top-quality quarterback in Dak Prescott, but I do think he’s good enough to win with,” Parcells says. “I just think they have to put more pieces around him. They just have to be more reliant on the overall scheme. Their defense is pretty good, but their overall offensive scheme has to be more balanced.”

The great Daryl “Moose” Johnston, former Dallas Cowboys fullback, criticized Moore as well, saying his offense appears “gimmicky.”

Kellen Moore was in consideration for the Carolina Panthers head coaching job before the team decided on hiring Frank Reich on Thursday. Panthers legend and NFL Network analyst Steve Smith, was not a fan of that idea.

While one could argue that Moore must be pretty good to be getting considered for a head coaching position with a NFL team, one could counter that argument with the fact that Moore continues to get passed on by other organizations. Even Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy was unwilling to commit to him as their offensive coordinator in 2023 on Thursday, in a press conference with the media.

There is a reason why Moore’s job status is still in question in Dallas, as opposed to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who thrilled Cowboys faithful on Thursday by announcing he will be returning to the team in 2023. People are starting to wake up and understand that regular-season offensive statistics do not tell the full story in an offensive coordinator.

If the Cowboys truly want to make a change this offseason that will help the Cowboys get over the hump in the playoffs, it all starts with moving on from Kellen Moore. Until that decision is made, the offense will continue to not reach their full potential in the playoffs.

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