The talk of the NFL through two weeks of the 2019 season is not a player but a coach: Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
That’s the same Kellen Moore that played for Boise State during this decade.
The Prosser, Wash., native went a stunning 50-3 as Boise State’s starting quarterback from 2008-11, earning three WAC Offensive Player of the Year honors and a trip to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2010. Moore succeeded through his brain and not his arm. Gary Patterson said this about him ahead of a 2011 Boise-TCU game: “In the two times we’ve played them, I think I’ve only fooled him once in 120 plays. He doesn’t get fooled. He knows where the ball is supposed to be going. He’s just like having a coach on the field. He’s extremely intelligent, extremely talented and extremely accurate.”
Moore’s ability to think through the game earned him a roster spot with the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent in 2012. Moore remained in Detroit through 2014, then reunited with Scott Linehan with the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. From there, Moore began one of the most rapid ascents in football history.
2017: Dallas Cowboys third-string quarterback
2018: Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach
2019: Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator
We’re only two games into Moore’s career run as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator, but those two games have been revelatory. Coaching largely the same players that his mentor, Linehan, had at his disposal, Moore has turned the Dallas attack into something entirely different than it was as recently as last season.
Though the sample size is incredibly small (two games against bad teams), the Cowboys’ offense has seen the following increases:
— Yards per play: 5.4 (2018) to 7.6 (2019)
— Yards per game: 343.8 to 484
— Points per drive: 1.96 to 3.47
— Points per game: 21.2 to 33.0
— Passer rating: 96.7 to 142.9
No stat crystallizes the Cowboys’ offensive revolution quite like this one: the 2018 Cowboys did not score their ninth offensive touchdown until the 22nd quarter of the season; the 2019 Cowboys needed only eight.
Through 2 games, @dak has:
82.3 comp rate
7:1 TD-to-INT ratio
142.9 passer rating
69 yards rushing Sunday for good measure, 2nd-highest total of his career
— Chris Wesseling (@ChrisWesseling) September 15, 2019
All this to say, no one is handling this with restraint. Quite the opposite.
Here’s Marc Sessler writing for NFL.com today:
I’d give it a month tops before Moore’s name bubbles up as a head-coaching candidate drawing interest around the league as doomed teams melt into liquid waste. Today’s gaggle of forward-thinking owners aren’t cowed by the idea of hiring a barely 30-something to run the show post-Sean McVay. The trend is bound to result in a few titanic swing-and-misses, but teams have been hiring the wrong 58-year-olds for a thousand generations, so what’s the difference?
This is the point where I’d say we need to tap the breaks, that Moore is only 30 years old and in no way ready to be an NFL head coach and that even if he was, having only played and worked for Chris Petersen, Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett, he doesn’t have near the network to build a competent staff.
None of those objections are wrong, but that doesn’t mean they matter. We live in a world where a coach got fired for going 19-35 in Big 12 play and then ascended into an NFL head coaching job. Zac Taylor was a graduate assistant at Texas A&M in the years Moore was Boise State’s quarterback and was the Los Angeles Rams’ assistant wide receivers coach as recently as 2017, and today he’s the Cincinnati Bengals’ head coach.
So, yeah, in the world of the NFL in 2019, if Kliff Kingsbury and Zac Taylor can be active NFL head coaches, Kellen Moore can absolutely be an NFL head coaching candidate.
And since we’re already six miles down the river from properly tampered expectations, consider this subplot: Jason Garrett is working on the last year of his contract. If the Cowboys go 14-2 and NFL owners are lining up around the block to interview his offensive coordinator, could Jerry Jones let his head coach’s contract expire and promote his offensive coordinator to the big chair, similar to how Freddie Kitchens became the Browns’ head coach?
It’s too early to answer any of that, obviously. But it seems clear we’ve reached a point with three possible exit ramps.
Either the Cowboys come back to reality and all this talk — including this article — looks silly three months from now.
Or Moore — who, by the way, seems the less interested in this topic than anyone — becomes the highest-paid offensive coordinator in NFL history.
Or he becomes an NFL head coach before his 31st birthday.