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.