As the Dallas Cowboys aim to bounce back from a losing record to legit contenders in the NFC, all eyes have been on the players. Dak Prescott’s return has been one of the most covered storylines in the league. We’ve discussed time and time again how the return of Tyron Smith and La’el Collins will change things, too. Yet, we haven’t talked enough about Kellen Moore in what could be the biggest season of his coaching career.
The Cowboys trust Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore. That much has been made clear multiple times now. First when the Cowboys promoted him to be the team’s offensive coordinator in Jason Garrett’s “last chance” season in 2019. Garrett even reportedly asked to have his play-calling duties back and the front office declined in favor of Moore.
Their trust was reinforced later when the Cowboys hired Mike McCarthy – who once said he’d never give up play-calling again – and Moore remained the team’s play-caller.
Last but certainly not least, Moore flirted with Boise State during the offseason and even interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles. It wasn’t long until Jerry Jones extended Moore’s contract through the 2023 season.
Kellen Moore’s long-term future with the Dallas Cowboys remains uncertain. After all, he’s at the wheel of a top-tier offense stacked with talent. If he plays his cards right, he might be on the fast track to becoming the latest young offensive-minded guru head coach in the NFL or a top FBS program. It’s a trend we’ve seen accelerate ever since Sean McVay took the league by storm in 2018.
But figuring out Moore’s future can wait. Right now, the 33-year-old offensive coordinator should focus on figuring out how to deliver in the highest expectations he’s had in his career.
In his first season as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator, Moore’s unit finished second in the NFL on DVOA and yards per drive. They finished sixth in the league in points per game. Before Prescott’s injury in 2020, the offense was living up to the hype as the passing game was highly productive despite turning the ball over 11 times in the first five games. Despite those, the Cowboys had the second-best success rate in the NFL in that span.
The narrative goes that after Prescott’s injury, it’s impossible to take anything away from what we saw on the field. Yet, there are certain things Kellen Moore could’ve done better even with mediocre QB play.
Consider the following numbers from Sharp Football’s preview to the 2021 season:
- In Dalton’s first start, he dropped back 57 times. Only four of those used play-action.
- 52 of the dropbacks came in 11 personnel, and in 56 they lined up 3+ wide receivers.
- With 3+ wide receivers, they passed the ball 75% of the time while running 90% of the time with less than 3 wide receivers.
“There was simply no disguise. The offense moved from a shotgun-based offense
80% of the time with Prescott to 85% shotgun with Dalton.
Plays from under center were runs 76% of the time and plays from shotgun were
passes 75% of the time.” – Warren sharp
By the end of the season, the Dallas Cowboys ranked third-lowest in the NFL in play-action usage on early downs.
Like it or not, these stats are certainly telling. Regardless of who was playing quarterback, the Dallas Cowboys and Moore must do a better job in 2021 of mixing things up and disguising in order to take the offense to the next level. Being a pass-first offense is the right call, but being predictable is another thing.
Do these numbers mean Kellen Moore isn’t the right choice to be calling the plays for the Cowboys in 2021? Of course not. With a healthy Dak Prescott, we’ve seen how much of a difference he’s made since becoming the offensive coordinator. He’s taken Prescott’s football to another level.
Who are the smartest offensive minds in the NFL?
A look at the best passing play callers from 2012-2020: pic.twitter.com/yA0qb3XB5L
— Zach Drapkin (@ZachDrapkin) May 21, 2021
However, it does mean that he has a tall task ahead of him for the Dallas Cowboys to live up to the hype if they want to emerge as one of the biggest threats in the NFC. In 2021, it’ll be interesting to see how much he changes things up with Dak back.
Moore has shown us a little bit of everything, and he’s one of the faster risers in the NFL coaching sphere. For him, the expectations for him have never been higher. It’s his time to deliver.
Featured Image via Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports