Cowboys Make the Right Call on Kellen

Jan 20, 2020

Brady King


Photo Cred: AP Images
During the 2015 season with the Packers, coach Mike McCarthy surrendered the play-calling duties to Tom Clements. Ironically, he took it back the reins over going into a Week 14 match-up against the Cowboys. The Packers put up 435 yards in a 28-7 victory. 

After this stint, McCarthy said he would never give up play-calling duties again. 

But alas, here we are in a different tenure with different circumstances. The Dallas Cowboys have officially replaced Jason Garrett with McCarthy as head coach, but it has been reported that Kellen Moore will remain the play-caller for the Cowboys. This move likely kept Moore in Texas.

I co-sign the move. 

I’m an early adopter of Kellen Moore as a play-caller. Jason Garrett didn’t get fired because of Moore’s failures. The Cowboys’ offense was one of the best in the league last season, and that was with a governor on it.

After three games, it  seemed that former OC Scott Linehan’s influence was all but forgotten.  But then the following three games saw a sharp decrease in pre-snap motion and play-action, and even more bothersome was how throughout the entire season Jason Witten consistently commandeered Blake Jarwin’s reps. When Witten caught a pass last season, his YAC was worse than his Monday Night Football commentary (I know, low-hanging fruit.) 

The data is quite the indictment. Jason Witten had 162 yards after catch on 63 receptions while Blake Jarwin had 157 yards after catch on 31 receptions. That stat definitely does not lie. Gold-jacket Witt needs to retire and wait for the call to the Hall. 

Past Week 3, you could start to see Garrett’s fingerprints or Linehan’s footprints. As far as scheme and game-plan was concerned, too much looked, walked, and quacked like 2018 – a strong indicator that Kellen was on a tight leash. 

Entering the year we heard Dak was being encouraged by Jon Kitna to be more aggressive, like the “grip it and rip it” style Kitna played with throughout his career. The juxtaposition of this next to Garrett’s “take care of the ball” philosophy became a heavy burden for Dak to bear. 

This begs the question: Which in-game decisions on the field by Dak could be ascribed to coaching? 

The best example I can think of came in the game against New England. With six minutes left, on a 3rd and seven from the New England 11-yard line, Dak scrambled to the left and instead of attempting to run for it, he tossed an incomplete pass to Blake Jarwin. The reaction by fans and media alike was that Dak could have gotten the first down or even scored. At the very least he could have given them a chance at 4th-and-short near the Patriots’ five-yard line. Coincidentally, Jarwin was being defended by one of the best defenders in the NFL, Stephon Gilmore. While that did not play into his decision to throw, the optics certainly weren’t encouraging.

Dak is not known as the one to make “business decisions,” so maybe this was Jerry Jones communicating that he wants Dak preserved. After all, in Dak’s four years, this was his lowest rushing total in a season. Sure, it was his best year passing, but if Greg Roman had been working with Dak I’d be willing to bet he would have been more combative with his legs.  This relates to Moore because designed runs for Dak and RPO’s were not a staple of the Cowboys’ offense. 

But maybe Moore is to blame. Does his epistemology influence his offensive philosophy? In college, there was no semblance of a dual threat to Moore’s career at Boise. His career rushing total for the Broncos was -133 yards. It’s possible he doesn’t value a quarterback’s ability to run. If that theory is false, then I’d subscribe to the more reasonable one that Moore had a yellow light on using Dak as a runner. 

Ultimately, the point is that Kellen Moore wasn’t the problem. The fact is he was part of the solution. Revisionists can say what they want about Linehan, but every Cowboys fan knows it was an immediate upgrade to the offense when he was fired. 

Now when Moore initially got the OC job, a popular narrative formed that he was some wunderkind. There was the story about Moore showing up to Boise State with his own playbook. Then there was his film session for ESPN on Gruden’s QB camp that clearly demonstrated his high football IQ. It doesn’t hurt to have had one of the best college careers in history to derive experiential knowledge from.

He validated himself in spite of his inexperience when the Cowboys led the league in yards, which included yards per play at 6.5. They were also 6th in Points For with 434 points, and Dak finished second in the league in passing yards, throwing a whopping 4,902 yards.

It’s too bad the Cowboys’ defense didn’t keep their form from the previous year, complete with Tank’s pugnacious proclamations. That team would have been a serious threat.

Now let’s turn to the future. Bringing in McCarthy should precipitate the Cowboys to transition to a West Coast system, but what does that really mean in today’s NFL? When a receiver runs a 15-yard route, nobody debates whether Don Coryell or Bill Walsh gets the credit. Ten yards still gets you a first down, and the Cowboys under Kellen Moore improved on throwing it beyond the sticks.

McCarthy also announced they will be keeping the Cowboys terminology. I’m not going to waste my time pandering to you who is behind these decisions. The bottom line is that continuity is in the best interest of the team and will prevent from stunting Dak’s growth. Getting rid of Moore would have been foolish no matter who it came from, and you don’t need analytics to know that.

My hope is that McCarthy creatively collaborates with Moore, assimilates plays into his offense that leverage Dak’s skill-set while utilizing the appropriate analytics to optimize the game-plan and in-game decision making.

Then, let Moore get in the driver’s seat to ride or die. I heard it phrased that it’s okay McCarthy doesn’t have a hand on the wheel as long as Moore is sitting in his lap. The interpretation is that Moore will be calling plays from McCarthy’s offense. 

Yes, and there is nothing wrong with that as long as McCarthy’s offense has pre-snap motion, play-action, and RPO’s.

Neither McCarthy nor Moore invented the forward pass, but they both have demonstrated a proficiency in offensive coordination. Maybe together they can do something special. 


Request to Publish

Are you sure? This can't be undone

Mark as Harmful

Publish with