Kellen Moore’s tenure as the Cowboys offensive coordinator is done.
His successor is already in place.
The club and Moore came to what is described as a mutual decision to part ways, and teams around the NFL searching for a coordinator are aware of Moore’s status, multiple people acquainted with the outcome told The Dallas Morning News. Head coach Mike McCarthy will assume play calling duties in the wake of Moore’s departure, a person with knowledge of the shakeup said.
Moore’s position on the staff dominated conversations between McCarthy, owner Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones at The Star over the last 48 hours. Replacing Moore as the play caller was only part of the equation. The goal was to determine if the Cowboys could upgrade the spot.
McCarthy is the only coach on the current staff who meets that expectation. McCarthy won a Super Bowl calling plays in Green Bay, but he was reluctant to do so when taking the job in Dallas three years ago, saying he wanted to keep the same system and mechanics in place to make it as comfortable as possible for quarterback Dak Prescott.
The idea was that familiarity was the best way for Prescott to continue to grow as a quarterback. But this season, Prescott suffered through a career-high 15 interceptions and threw two in the playoff loss to San Francisco. There was no progress.
The current construction of the offensive staff indicates the Cowboys will look outside of the organization to fill a coordinator’s role that will not include calling plays. It appears likely that quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier, whose contract has expired, will also be a casualty of this change in direction.
Moore, who has one year left on his contract, just interviewed for the head coaching vacancy in Carolina that went to Frank Reich. Moore would be an attractive candidate for several of the offensive coordinator openings that are available around the league.
The club issued a release Thursday before McCarthy’s season-ending press conference that listed six coaches who would not have their contracts renewed. If there was a decision to be made on Moore, some wondered why it wasn’t announced at that time.
The reason: Moore was interviewing for the head coaching job with Carolina. He and McCarthy met only briefly before Thursday’s news conference. The two didn’t have a chance to talk and conduct Moore’s evaluation until Friday.
When asked directly in that news conference if Moore would return as coordinator, McCarthy sidestepped the question.
“I really don’t want to play this game today,” the Cowboys’ head coach told reporters. “It’s been a long couple of days.
“Kellen Moore, just like the rest of the coaches, will be evaluated. Every coach will be evaluated. The evaluation, it takes more than one day.”
The Cowboys finished fourth in the NFL in scoring during the regular season with an average of 27.5 points. They did this even though Prescott missed five games with a broken thumb on his throwing hand.
Dallas led the league in scoring the previous year with an average of 31.2 points, scoring a franchise record 530 points.
So why is the organization moving on? One reason is the disconnect between regular season production and the playoffs.
The Cowboys averaged just 14.5 points in their two postseason losses to San Francisco over the last 13 months. Dallas scored just six points and failed to find the end zone in the second half of its 19-12 divisional round loss to the 49ers to end this season.
Another reason is the dip in Prescott’s performance. His 15 interceptions tied for the league’s worst total, even though he missed five games with a fractured thumb on his throwing hand.
Prescott was drafted by the Cowboys in 2016. He immediately moved up the depth chart in training camp when Moore, the team’s backup quarterback to Tony Romo at the time, broke his leg early in camp.
Moore didn’t play that season, but he worked closely with the rookie throughout and was credited with helping him adjust to the pro game. Moore retired at the end of the next season and was asked by then-coach Jason Garrett to join his staff as Prescott’s quarterbacks coach.
When the offensive coordinator’s job opened up at the end of the 2018 season, Prescott lobbied for Moore to get the job. McCarthy had never worked with Moore when he took over as the Cowboys’ head coach in January 2020. Moore wasn’t part of the same coaching tree, yet McCarthy made the decision to keep him on as offensive coordinator.
Why? Chris Peterson was Moore’s college coach. McCarthy remembered how highly Peterson thought of Moore as a player and his football mind coming out of Boise State.
McCarthy also saw how Prescott had developed from his rookie season and quickly recognized the bond the quarterback had forged with Moore. When he sat down and spoke with Moore, he was convinced it was best for the Cowboys for Moore to stay.
“I thought it was clearly the best thing for Dak, and this is what I’ve been telling Dak when we talk football,” McCarthy said after taking over as the Cowboys’ coach. “This is his offense. I want him to have the same offense his whole career.”
The offense will remain in place.
But for the first time in Prescott’s career with the Cowboys, Moore won’t be there with him. There will be a new voice in the quarterback’s ear.
And it will be McCarthy calling the plays.
Staff Writer Michael Gehlken contributed to this report.
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