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McCarthy: Moore Calling Plays the ‘Best Decision for this Football Team’

The moment Mike McCarthy was hired to be the Dallas Cowboys head coach back in January, the attention quickly turned to the makeup of his staff. In particular, would he retain any of the coaches from the previous regime? Of specific concern were the coaches on the offensive side of the football; Marc Colombo, Jon Kitna, Gary Brown, and Kellen Moore. Moore and Kitna were at the forefront of minds after the success they had together in helping Quarterback Dak Prescott take another step forward in his development.

After the announcement was made that Kellen Moore would stay on as the offensive coordinator, there was still some question as to what that would mean. Who would design and call the offense? Whose system would it be? It took a while to get those answers but eventually, it was decided that for continuity’s sake, Kellen Moore would stay the play-caller under Mike McCarthy and much of the system from 2019 would stay in place. Obviously, McCarthy would have some influence on the philosophy and language of the system, but it would mostly be Moore driving the bus for the offense.

Yesterday, speaking to the NFL Network, McCarthy talked more about the decision to cede the play-calling to Kellen Moore.

Mike McCarthy has made his career by being an offensive-minded coach in the NFL. He’s had a lot of success as a play-caller. So it did come as a surprise when he decided to hand over those duties to Kellen Moore. However, it didn’t come without meeting with Moore.

Yesterday, Charles Robinson, NFL Reporter for Yahoo! Sports stated that the decision was made for McCarthy by the Dallas Cowboys front office. He even went so far as to use the term, “dictated.” While it’s possible that Jerry and Stephen Jones made keeping Kellen Moore on the staff as part of the deal to be the next Dallas Cowboys head coach, deciding who called the plays was a Mike McCarthy decision. Robinson obviously has a lot of contacts in the NFL, however, this decision never really felt that way.

It’s likely that during the interview process and after the hiring that Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones made some suggestions as to the direction of the football team and the coaching staff and Kellen Moore was likely a “must-have.” However, it took 10 days for the Cowboys to reveal what the plans were with Kellen Moore and the offensive play-calling. To me, that says Mike McCarthy wanted to get to know Kellen Moore and talk offense with him before deciding who would be the offensive designer and play-caller. This head coach values relationships. That’s why a lot of the guys that have joined the Cowboys staff are guys that he’s coached with in the past or former players. The only way you can build relationships, and more importantly trust, is to spend time together.

NFL coaches with a resume for success don’t generally do things they don’t want to do. They’re control freaks by nature. However, Mike McCarthy’s shown a willingness to evolve and look internally to improve his system and process as a head coach in the NFL. He’s been refreshingly forthright this offseason about how he coaches and what he wants to see out of his players. In his interview with the NFL Network, McCarthy expressed that his job was to do what is best for the football team. That’s the job for any head coach and if Mike McCarthy felt it was best for the Dallas Cowboys for Mike McCarthy to call the plays and design the offense, that’s what he would have done. And with a Super Bowl ring in his trophy case, the Cowboys wouldn’t have been able to convince him otherwise.

In Kellen Moore’s first season as an offensive coordinator, the Dallas Cowboys’ offense took off. They weren’t consistent at times and often took a bit to get going, but those are things they can improve upon with improved scripting and play-sequencing. Kellen Moore under the direction of an offensive coordinator that’s had the level of success that McCarthy has should help take Moore’s go to another level.

Since coming into the NFL, people have raved about Kellen Moore’s mind for football. It was only a matter of time before he became a coach in the NFL and people aren’t surprised by his rapid ascendance and success. Allowing him to continue calling the plays and building off of what they did in 2019 was absolutely the best thing for the football team. Recognizing that and going with it shows a humility that you rarely see from NFL head coaches.

Mike McCarthy has been a breath of fresh air in his short time with the Dallas Cowboys. His leadership and willingness to be open and honest have been a welcomed change from the previous regime which was reluctant to talk about anything with much substance.

Though keeping Kellen Moore on to call plays was “the best decision for this football team,” it’s become obvious that Mike McCarthy has been the best decision for this football team.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.


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  1. That’s the first hint I’ve heard in regards to whether or not keeping Moore had anything to do with Jerry/Steven. I know some have suspected it, but this is the first time I’ve seen anyone suggest it as true. Hope it’s not the case …

    I’d like to say that 2020 should unveil just who Kellen Moore really is as an Off.Coord. but I’m not sure we’ll really know. The offense started of 2019 with all that pre-snap activity and all signs were pointing towards Moore being the newest wunderkind. Then it stopped, and everybody is saying it was Garrett who put the handcuffs to Moore. But even that has never been substantiated.

    Now 2020 will see a new offensive approach, but again … will we really know whether it will be attributed to Moore or McCarthy?

    The 2019 refrain that Moore gets credit for how the offense was so prolific and it upped Dak’s game, yet the offense was so predictable and that gets tossed in Garrett’s lap? I’m not convinced the deliniation is that clear. Moore may very well have either (a) puckered up his game plan against better opponents, or (b) been quickly figured out by opposing defenses.

    I just think it’s still unclear about Moore … though I like him, despite thinking giving the OC job was a bad move at the time.

    • I think since it was predictable under Linehan and then after the start of 2019 it became predictable again the greatest common denominator is Garrett.

      • … and I believe you’re right, and that might very well be the best piece of evidence we ever get. But I’d love for “someone in the know” to finally get it out there. Because if all of that was true and everybody in the league knows it, why would a new HC be willing to hire him for such a young offense?

  2. All valid points… but If Moore puckered up, then JG who’s calling card is offense, did nothing at any point to stop it. It was obvious to even the untrained eye we became blatantly predictable. Not sure why Moore would’ve went away from what was obviously working, but it’s possible. However, the HC is ultimately responsible for righting the ship when it gets off course, and offensively we went way off course the second half of season. I think if the offense clicks it will be play calling as the key. McCarthy has made it clear his focus is the team as a whole, though if they stumble offensively, look for him to be more involved. While I don’t advocate taking reckless chances offensively, we have to get better at keeping teams guessing/off balance. Ultimately I think the McCarthy/Moore tandem has the potential to be great.

  3. That’s a very good question ! Personally I wouldn’t have hired him. But maybe JG devoid of the immense responsibilities of HC can regain his mojo as a quality OC.

    • Maybe, it makes sense too. Or maybe Coach Judge just wanted some level of NFL head coaching experience on his staff?

      Either way, I don’t care too much about Garrett, but I still feel we don’t really know to what extent Moore has control and/or impact, other than what we read from reporters. But none of them have gone on-the-record or cited a source as Garrett being the reason.

      I don’t expect the Jones’s to trash Garrett publicly either. Maybe we just won’t know for another few years … but here’s to hoping Moore is who we are being told!

  4. Maybe our soft schedule at beginning of season had more to do with our success, then Moore play calling? We might never know. But Moore was being anointed pretty early. When the opposition is comparable or superior (like it was later in season) u can’t just line up and expect ur personnel to be enuf. That’s when u earn ur pay as an OC. I kid u not my wife was calling out the plays before they happened (and she’s no T Romo). Know ur personnel know ur opponent and devise an imaginative strategy based on that. But JG issues ran deeper then offense IMO. Owners assume cuz a guy made a good DC or OC he will make a good HC, just not the case. HC is the CEO and has to be a big picture guy. JG just never grew into that, and most importantly I think he lost the confidence of his team. They probably saw some of the same shortcomings we did. At any rate, hopefully Moore will benefit from having a yr under his belt and being more familiar with his players strengths and weaknesses. If he needs help, we got a SB winning coach standing next to him!

  5. Ghost, you can see the two different offenses from weeks 1-3 being fluid, then 4 being absolutely different. It’s almost as you had two different play callers. Easy to spot old offense. Run on first and second, then the pass play on third down consists of four curl routes. Punt.

    • Exactly, there’s no denying the change, and I do believe it was Garrett who controlled that. My only point is that we aren’t sure who Kellen Moore is at this point. Partly because Garrett hand-cuffed him, but we also wouldn’t know whether Moore is adaptable or evolving because of that. In essence, if those Garrett accusations are indeed true, then Moore only has 3 games under his belt.

      And the other side to my point is that even this coming season, we may not (stress: may not) still know who Moore is … it all depends on how McCarthy allows him to develop.

      I’m just not ready to rubber-stamp Moore as the next boy genius yet … he is still developing. I do think he is more capable than I had originally thought though, and I’m ever hopeful that we benefit from it.

  6. Agree with Ed last yr it was run 1st/2nd down pass on 3rd down punt rinse and repeat. (Especially from gm 5 on). With these weapons,we got a an OC wet dream. Most would kill to have what we have. Interesting side note…one of the criticisms of McCarthy his last few yrs in GB was that he became too conservative. But how much of that came from the diva (Rodgers)?

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