The Cowboys new offensive coordinator has been doing this his whole life.
Kellen Moore may only have one year of experience coaching at the NFL level, but he’s basically been training for this moment his whole life. Those who have known him along the way have never had any doubt that he would one day be a coach, and a good one. Todd Archer, in another stellar article, shines a light on Moore’s past and how he’s always been on this path.
Kellen Moore isn’t sure where the playbooks are now. Maybe a few are still at his parents’ house, tucked away somewhere in a room or attic.
Some people collected baseball cards or video games. Growing up, Moore would search the internet looking for different playbooks.
He had NFL offenses, like the West Coast and the number system the Dallas Cowboys used in their Super Bowl run of the 1990s and continue to use today. He had the college offenses, like the run ‘n’ shoot and the Air Raid, favored by Mike Leach.
“I don’t know if I ever really bought one,” Moore said. “My dad was a high school coach, so that’s a part of it. I was just trying to learn different things in different offenses. All that stuff. The age that I am, the technology was more available, so you could get online and find playbooks for different teams and whatnot. It was a fun thing.”
Reading playbooks was a fun thing for him. Let that soak in. You generally don’t hear that from athletes who find learning the playbook as just a requirement to be done, and not exactly the way they want to spend their free time. NFL playbooks tend to be big and dense and not exactly a breezy beach novel. Of course, as most people know, Moore is the son of a very successful high school coach, so this type of thing was in his blood. He grew up around his father’s football program and once he went to Boise State, he was already well-versed in coaching. Here’s what a college teammate had to say about Moore.
“I’m sitting next to him, watching film, watching concepts at practice and it’s like the dead middle of training camp in August,” Hedrick remembered. “He’s drawing up these things of what we can do differently and he’s got a full notebook. He’s drawing up stuff, making adjustments. I’m sure he didn’t even notice that I saw it. It was like 10 different variations of what we could do differently. It was kind of crazy.”
Another college teammate:
“We’d always just call him the surgeon because he would just dissect defenses and know exactly schematically what they were going to do,” said Matt Miller, one of his favorite receivers at Boise State and now the offensive coordinator at Montana State. “He just always had a good feel for it. He was just one of the smartest football guys I’ve ever been around. I don’t know exactly what it was. I know his football background with his dad and being around it at such a young age. He was just a junkie. He couldn’t get enough of the X’s and O’s.”
Yesterday we posted about Moore’s lack of experience and how that could be turned into an advantage since the Cowboys are looking for fresh ideas and Moore has no set pattern as an offensive coordinator. He is free to build his own system and to experiment with different things since he’s not shackled to a past that says “this is how we’ve always done it.”
That’s the positive way to look at inexperience, but that can also be seen as a rationalization. It covers up the downside that just maybe this person is not equipped yet to handle the situation. That maybe the coaching candidate needs a few more seasons absorbing knowledge and concentrating on the specific coaching task that he is being asked to handle. With Moore, it seems like he’s been absorbing this knowledge from day one.
Most NFL athletes are generally concentrating on their own thing. With quarterbacks, they have to take in a little more since the whole offense revolves around their abilities. But when reading about Moore, his kind of knowledge seems to be rare. Here’s an example from a former NFL teammate and quarterback with the Detroit Lions, Dan Orlovsky.
One day, Orlovsky remembers sitting in the quarterbacks room with [Matthew] Stafford.
“We’re grinding on this one thing for like 20 minutes, maybe longer. Kellen comes in after lunch, sat down casually and just within a minute or two gets up and points his finger on the screen, ‘Look, you can do this, which will make this guy do this and then that guy will do this and we can do this,’” said Orlovsky, who is now an ESPN analyst. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘Uh-oh, this is a smart dude.’ I’m going in thinking I’m a shoo-in for the backup job and it’s, ‘Oh, this kid is really smart. He’s going to make me earn this job.’ But my main thing was, ‘Dude, how did your brain work like that?’ That was an example, to me, that he was probably going to be a good coach one day.”
There are still a lot of obstacles for Moore to overcome. He needs to be able to command all the different personalities one finds on an NFL offense. He needs to be able to resolve conflicts and utilize players so they are feeling positive about their role. Also, he must be able to call plays during a game and be able to adjust to what the offense is seeing from opposing defenses. That last one you can’t really simulate until you do it.
Moore has a lot of tests ahead. He might pass them or he might fail them. If he fails them, it will surely be for reasons other than knowledge and preparation.