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Cowboys Kellen Moore: When good isn’t good enough

Change at offensive coordinator for the Cowboys is here, despite a league-leading offense.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys and Kellen Moore have mutually agreed to part ways, ending Moore’s four-year run as offensive coordinator. Despite Dallas’ high rankings on offense since 2019, Moore’s exit illustrates just how much emphasis the organization is putting on postseason results.

Based on the traditional measure of total yards gained, the Cowboys had the NFL’s number-one offense in 2019 and 2021. They ranked 10th this past season despite QB Dak Prescott missing nearly a third of it. And even amidst all of the disasters we saw in 2020, Dallas still finished 14th in total offense.

Of course, in the heat of the moment those kinds of stats can be ignored. When a play doesn’t work out or seems poorly conceived, Moore is instantly blamed. But the reality is that Dallas has enjoyed four years of good, even occasionally great, work from the guy running their offense.

The problem is that when Moore has come up short has been in some of the most crucial moments, particularly in these last two playoff losses to the San Francisco 49ers. His strategies don’t seem very effective against elite defenses. Maybe 49ers’ defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans particularly has Moore figured out, but even throughout the last four years it’s not often you come away from games overly impressed with Moore’s play-calling.

Even if he isn’t necessarily the problem, it’s clear after this season that the combination of Moore and QB Dak Prescott just wasn’t working anymore. How much blame should fall at Dak’s feet over Moore’s is a fair question. But no matter how much you think Dak is the problem, his contract is impossible to escape from in 2023. The offensive coordinator presented the only choice for remediation.

That said, calling Kellen Moore a “scapegoat” would be a bit much. His side of the ball clearly held the Cowboys back in 2022 over Dan Quinn’s defense. His best work was during those four wins by Cooper Rush when the team was defying expectations instead of failing to meet them.

The Rush period highlighted an issue that’s been complained about many times during Moore’s tenure. He has success when trusting in the obvious strengths of the team and mitigating its weaknesses.

But when he’s got all of his options available, Moore seems to forget who brought him to the dance. Too many passes thrown to the wrong guys, too many carries for the wrong running back, and play designs that rarely seem to work with this roster; it’s almost like he’s trying to prove something at times instead of just winning the game in front of him.

Again, we can only perceive so much in how often a poorly-executed play is based on its design or the players involved. But the Cowboys’ front office clearly feels that there is an opportunity to improve at the design point, or at the very least wants to see how Dak Prescott will respond to a new voice in his ear.

All that being said, Kellen Moore was far from trash during his time in Dallas. Despite just one year as the quarterbacks coach before putting on the headset, Moore coordinated one of the NFL’s most-successful offenses over the last four seasons. He will be an asset and upgrade for many teams.

Nevertheless, desperate to improve and get over that Divisional Round hump, the Dallas Cowboys had to make a move. If your quarterback isn’t elite then you need the right mix of design and surrounding talent to help elevate the final product. It’s chemistry, not mathematics, and the lack of consistent results in 2022 meant a core element had to change.

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