One-armed Knife Sharpener
- Apr 7, 2013
Todd Archer ESPN Staff Writer
At barely 6 feet, Moore can blend in with Cowboys' support staff.
So when Moore was spotted as he left the coaches' locker room, he was quickly enveloped by cameras and microphones, which was likely reminiscent of his days at Boise State but not an NFL playing career in which he made two starts.
For all that went right for the Cowboys -- from Dak Prescott's 405 passing yards and four touchdown tosses to Jason Witten's first touchdown in his first game back, Travis Frederick playing in his first game after missing 2018 with an autoimmune disease, Ezekiel Elliott finding the end zone after just one padded practice this summer, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup each having more than 100 receiving yards and Randall Cobb scoring a touchdown in his first game with the organization -- Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones immediately praised Moore.
"I saw him take whatever they were or how they were strategically lined up [and] I saw us take what wasn't or what was to our best advantage," Jones said. "I saw us execute it. I saw us call all the plays that did that. That's a credit to Dak. That's a credit to Kellen. That's a credit to really the execution of the players, but it was also to Kellen."
When Jones' kind words were relayed to Moore in the locker room, the league's youngest playcaller at 31 came with a joke.
"Well, he got my name right," Moore said. "He used to call me Key-len. It must mean I'm doing something right."
Moore's ascension to offensive coordinator this offseason was met with skepticism. He had just one year of coaching experience, working with the Cowboys quarterbacks in 2018, but he was long considered a future coach even as he was becoming one of the most decorated quarterbacks in college football history at Boise State.
The Cowboys moved on from Scott Linehan after last season because they thought the offense had grown stale, even if Linehan presided over two of the best offenses the team has had since the 1990s in 2014 and 2016 (with a rookie in Prescott leading the way).
To executive vice president Stephen Jones, the offense just looked different.
"Oh, there's no question. He definitely did some bunches and some shifts and some crossers," Stephen Jones said. "Some things that as we said would happen with him, he has some ideas on his own wrinkles. Think you saw that."
Moore's relationship with Prescott played a big part in his promotion. The pair competed to be Tony Romo's backup in 2016, but Moore suffered a fractured ankle in the first week of training camp that ended his season. But in that first spring work together, he made an impression on Prescott.
"It was demoralizing to watch him make those throws, read the defenses and see the defenses the way he did," Prescott said. "It was tough, and I didn't like it. But I also admire that part of him and I wanted to be that some day. He's one of those offensive geniuses."
In a league where those who might have had a cup of coffee with Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay become hot head-coaching candidates, Moore could very well become that this season, especially if the Cowboys continue to produce the way they did against the Giants.
The Cowboys had 494 yards on offense, with Prescott completing 25 of 32 passes for 405 yards and touchdowns to Blake Jarwin, Witten, Cooper and Cobb. Dallas converted on six of 10 third-down opportunities. It did not need Elliott to carry the load (13 carries, 53 yards), but he did run for a 10-yard score in the third quarter.
"I don't know if we ran one play that hasn't been in our offense for some time," Prescott said. "But credit to Kellen for dialing them up at the right time and knowing what the defense was going to give us. A few of those resulted in some wide-open touchdowns."
The Cowboys used run-action and play-action to open things up down the field with the Giants keying on Elliott.
"You saw a dose of what we could do," Cobb said. "We showed we can dominate." Moore is the Cowboys' fourth different Cowboys playcaller since 2007.
In 2014, the Cowboys lost in Linehan's debut, scoring just 17 points. In 2013, the Cowboys beat the Giants 36-31, but needed two defensive touchdowns with Bill Callahan calling plays.
Sunday's performance was more like coach Jason Garrett's first game in 2007, a 45-35 victory against the Giants in which Romo threw four touchdown passes, the Cowboys racked up 478 yards and converted six of 11 third-down tries.
The 2007 Cowboys ended up scoring 455 points that season, which was second-most in franchise history at the time, and had the NFC's best record at 13-3.
"We want to be aggressive," Moore said. "We want to kind of dictate things with our shifts and motion and personnel but at the same time being able to get on the ball and do some of that no-huddle stuff. Obviously our guys are really comfortable with that. They kind of grew up in that. They were in no-huddle in high school and college, so the more we can sprinkle that in, it helps us."
There is a long way to go for this Moore-led group to show it has staying power. But Sunday was a good start.
And the owner can even pronounce the coordinator's name correctly.