Jerry Jones is 80 years old. Even with advances in modern science and his high level of income, the Dallas Cowboys owner will not live to see 245-300 years old like Ricky Bobby. The Cowboys’ offense has been consistently good since Kellen Moore took over as the team’s offensive coordinator. For a decade with Jason Garrett, good enough was good enough. It appears the owner/general manager might be feeling a bit more cutthroat and impatient in regards to winning big games.
Jones hired Mike McCarthy because he was a former Super Bowl-winning head coach. While late in his play-calling career, many loathed his system, the overall results he got with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense are undeniable, much like Moore’s offensive success in Dallas when he had a healthy Dak Prescott.
And while the move results in firing a good, but flawed offensive coordinator, McCarthy is making the right move. He’s setting the terms. If he loses his job after 2023, McCarthy won’t have any other fingers to point (unless the defense stinks out loud).
In the end, parting ways with Moore was the correct decision for McCarthy, even if there’s a chance it wasn’t the best move for the Dallas Cowboys.
Mike McCarthy Is Saving His Job
There has been a fog hanging over the Cowboys’ head coaching position since last offseason. Dan Quinn is on staff, leading what’s been the league’s best defense in EPA per play and second in success rate over the past two seasons.
Dallas’ defense has been the team’s bright spot over that time, even though the offense ranked highly over that period as well.
But it’s deeper than defensive success. Quinn didn’t win a Super Bowl with the Falcons, but he’s coached in multiple as a coordinator and head coach. Quinn’s been one of the league’s hottest head coaching candidates over the past two cycles, and there’s a good chance he didn’t take a job during this cycle because none were good opportunities to have success in his second stint as a head coach.
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But besides his stint with Atlanta, Quinn has never spent much time in one spot. So is the life of a football coach. If the Cowboys have great defensive success again in 2023, teams will rent Brinks trucks to swoon Quinn to their organizations. And if Dallas doesn’t have more playoff success in 2023, Quinn will be the Cowboys’ head coach in 2024.
Why? Because his players would sell a kidney for him. Micah Parsons might be the best defensive player in the league. He’s also chronically online and never shies away from sharing his feelings.
Even if the Cowboys make the playoffs for a third consecutive season, anything short of a Conference Championship game will likely result in a promotion for Quinn, and a “thank you for your service” to McCarthy.
And in the end, McCarthy thinks he can bring more to the offense than Moore could.
Changes To Expect
Moore’s offensive structure, as a whole, was fine. There were bits that needed improvement still, but there was enough creativity and flow that it allowed the Cowboys’ offense to be consistently successful. But one of the curious things we didn’t see from the former QB was an offense that threw the ball early and often.
Maybe the years around Garrett really did a number on him. Maybe the conspiracy theories about the call coming from inside the house about establishing the run are true. Or maybe Moore simply wasn’t as modern as we believed he’d be. What happens at his next stop will speak volumes.
And what happens in Dallas will, too. The 2022 Cowboys ranked 26th in neutral 1st-and-10 passing rates. In 2019, before McCarthy, Dallas ranked fifth in the same stat. But in McCarthy’s final season in Green Bay, the Packers ranked fourth in 1st-and-10 passing rates in one-score games.
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The other big change to expect is the one that will annoy Cowboys fans the most. Think about all the stopping routes at the sticks we saw throughout the years in the Linehan and Moore offenses. Now imagine Prescott throwing slant-flat on third-and-long and hitting the flat route for three yards on the way to a punt.
It’s not the only part of the offense, but it’s a likely reality that Dallas fans must come to terms with seeing, most likely. The real question is whether McCarthy learned from his mistakes in Green Bay and if he’s able to bring an offense that doesn’t ask perfection of Prescott on a dropback basis.
What’s Next for Kellen Moore?
If Moore ends up getting the Chargers OC job, buy some stock in Justin Herbert. Nobody is mistaking Moore for Kyle Shanahan or Mike McDaniel, but the jump from Joe Lombardi to Moore is significant.
There will still be plenty of instances where Herbert’s Ferrari arm is being used as a daily driver, but there will be far more creativity overall in the passing attack.
All Herbert needs is a little bump. And if the Chargers are able to add a bit of talented speed on the outside at wide receiver, we might see one of the league’s best offenses in Los Angeles.
The move would be a bit ironic because many consider the Chargers to be the AFC version of the Cowboys. They’re a franchise with a bit of flash and very little substance these days. Although every offseason, it’s going to be their year.
The best thing about the potential fit is it would get Moore outside the umbrella of the offensive-minded head coaches he’s served under. If he has great success with Herbert in LA, it could catapult his standing as a head coach candidate.