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Why Cowboys OC Kellen Moore Is a Rising Star in the NFL

The 2020 NFL season will feature five head coaches under the age of 40, proving there’s a trend in the league of hiring young coaches after the success that Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan (who turned 40 in December) have achieved on their teams. But it’s not only head coaches where men and women under 40-years-old are earning their place in the league.

That’s why The Athletic NFL wrote a piece naming “40 Under 40” rising stars in the league. The list ranked head coaches, coordinators, position coaches, team executives, agents, and NFL employees. Among those, one member of the Dallas Cowboys was named: Kellen Moore.

At just age 32, Moore is headed to his second season as offensive coordinator after being a quarterbacks coach in 2018. While many members of the 2019 Cowboys coaching staff were fired, Mike McCarthy decided to keep Kellen on board. There’s, of course, a good reason for that.

Although they finished last season 8-8, the Cowboys’ offense took a huge step forward in 2019. After years of working under Scott Linehan, the offense was looking for a change. Moore delivered.

In 2019 the Cowboys led the NFL in yards per play and yards per drive, even though they were ranked 30th in average starting field position. They ranked 6th in points scored and 2nd in total passing yards.

But traditional stats are not all that back up the Cowboys offense. Advanced statistics like Football Outsiders’ DVOA (which “measures efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent“) also prove how well Kellen Moore did in his debut as offensive coordinator. Last season, the Cowboys had the second-best DVOA in the NFL only behind the Baltimore Ravens.

But perhaps no proof is greater than Dak Prescott’s performance. He passed for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns while rushing for three more. Under Moore and QB Coach Jon Kitna (who didn’t make McCarthy’s staff), Prescott improved drastically.

One particular aspect in which Dak improved was in the deep passing game as he 8.2 yards per attempt (third-best in the NFL). Per Next Gen Stats, Prescott was the league’s top quarterback when going deep based on completion percentage above expectation.

Moore was not shy about implementing pre-snap motion and play-action passes, which also helped the team a lot. However, this is where we have to look at the young offensive coordinator’s faults as well.

The Cowboys were doing great when using play-action, but for some reason, they walked away from it. According to Sharp Football Analysis, the Cowboys went 8-2 when using play-action at least at the league average while going 0-6 when using play-action less than the league average.

It becomes difficult to put a finger on why decision making was so poor at times for the Dallas Cowboys. And it’s not only about how they stopped using play-action. Just remember the Minnesota Vikings game last season when despite Dak Prescott carving up the Vikings’ defense, the ball went to Ezekiel Elliott, who was having a bad night?

Kellen Moore has a lot to work on after just one season as the team’s OC, but there’s a lot to be excited about. In just one season he took a talented group of players that appeared to be going to waste under Linehan and turned it into one of the best offenses in the NFL.

With CeeDee Lamb joining the ranks and McCarthy bringing in analytics knowledge to the coaching staff, Moore is expected to coordinate one of the best units in the game once again.

If Moore is able to play his cards right, he might have a chance at a head coaching gig not so long from now. Too soon, I know but think about it. He has a talented group of players that should be able to execute and put his work on the map. If the Cowboys’ offense remains as one of the best in the next few years, it wouldn’t be crazy for an NFL team to offer the job.

After all, team executives around the league seem to be more willing to give young coaches a change than before. Since he was a draft prospect, we’ve been discussing his intelligence as potential as a “future NFL coach.” Meanwhile, let’s hope Kellen Moore keeps improving and taking this offense along with QB Dak Prescott to the next level.

Tell me what you think about “Why Cowboys OC Kellen Moore Is a Rising Star in the NFL” in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

What do you think?

Mauricio Rodriguez

Written by Mauricio Rodriguez

I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @MauNFL.

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  1. Would love to have an answer as to why all the pre-snap motion literally disappeared after week-3! It would be one thing, if we had lost those games and Garrett wanted it scrapped, but we won all three games, and in a fairly dominant offensive fashion!

    Makes me also wonder if Linehan was maybe getting a bad rap just because he was yielding to his head coach? Go back and watch the games from Dak and Zeke’s rookie season … Linehan was absolutely masterful all year long! Then, suddenly everything changed … I always found it difficult to believe it was all Linehan, and I think last year with Moore’s play-calling tactics changing so drastically in-season last year is also a reflection on Garrett and his timid approach (especially while on the hot seat) … will be interesting to see how he handcuffs Daniel Jones.

    Good article Mauricio … now go get my question answered (wink, wink)?

    • Dude you hit the nail on the head. Linehan had 2 masterful seasons and we were all excited about him. 2014 and 2016. I find it hard to believe it was his fault they made terrible decisions throughout their campaigns. I put all that on Garret’s sissy reserved and risk averse way of calling a game. When they should have run the ball for a short gain they passed and when they should have passed they ran. They made every bad decision they could have made. But the success linehan had makes me think it’s more garret considering it seemed to happen no matter who was there. Especially when garret was calling plays. He’s the one common factor.

  2. I think part of it was Dak/Elliott rookie yr they had both playing at a very high level along with the most dominant OLINE in the league. They could just line up and straight up dominate opponents. As that ability waned he stubbornly held onto that approach and he ceased being creative in any way and they subsequently became very very predictable. .

    • Yeah, that’s valid too and you might very well be right.

      But if Linehan had really gotten so obviously stale and stubborn on his own accord, then why did Garrett seem to stand by him so diligently and defend his actions? He had ample opportunities to remove him and chose not too until his own head was squarely on the block.

      And I don’t buy that Dak or Zeke fell off in talent after that one season. They weren’t used the same way. Less RPO’s than Dak’s rookie year, less rollouts than Dak’s rookie year, more predictable play-calling than their rookie years (especially on 1st down). Now maybe my eyes just missed it and defenses took those options away, but I still think it was more Garrett than Linehan. That said, I was behind the Linehan removal none-the-less.

  3. Looks like Garrett might have started dictating philosophy of the offensive over the young Moore when things started to go south towards middle of the season. Garrett and the cowboys became more and more risk averse to the point where they never did anything that surprised their opponent. He coached to save his job.
    Opponents often commented that they always knew what was coming with the cowboys. The cowboys as a team suffered due to his lack of creativity and his weak in game decision making including terrible clock management.

  4. Agree Tdirten everyone was raving about the creative play calling when we got off to our fast start , then our offensive philosophy/approach completely changed to plain vanilla predictable. Predictably is the kiss of death when it comes to offensive play calling and that approach had Garrett written all over it. Not to mention it sends the message to the team that you have no confidence in them.

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