Wed, 08 Dec 2021

Helman: Reveling In The Fun Of Kellen Moore

Dallas Cowboys
15 Oct 2021, 19:24 GMT+10

David Helman

FRISCO, Texas - Kellen Moore seems like he might be the most normal dude in this entire building.

He's got an affable but lowkey demeanor, a big smile and a hell of a resume. He sports an Apple Watch and he's got a penchant for wearing baseball caps. He comes across a bit reserved with the media, but he's got great comedic timing if the opportunity for a one-liner presents itself.

The reality is that the Cowboys' offensive coordinator seems like a pretty regular guy with a great understanding of football and a large collection of talented players who can help him implement his ideas.

Reality seems like such a drag compared to my imagination, though. Because, in my mind, as he continues to dial up one of the best offenses in the NFL, Kellen Moore more closely resembles some sort of maniacal Football Joker.

That's the closest way I can phrase it, anyway. Because the 33-year-old is too young to be a wizard, and I'm not sure he went to school long enough to be a mad scientist. Yes, he feels more like a football anarchist in my mind - only, instead of wanting to watch the world burn, it's opposing game plans.

I'm sorry if this all sounds dramatic, it's just that my mind tends to run wild when I see so much fun playing out on the field in front of me.

The Cowboys are absolutely humming, averaging 34 points per game and scoring 40 in two of their last three. If that weren't good enough, they're finding ways to make it exciting each and every week.

Take your pick between a bevy of different screens, a reliable diet of jet action and a rotating cast of who to feature on any given week. If that's not weird enough for you, how about hilarious wrinkles like Connor McGovern as the league's coolest jumbo fullback.

"How do you come up with some of this stuff?" CeeDee Lamb laughed on Wednesday. "He reminds me a lot of Coach [Lincoln] Riley in college. It's just like, so smart, so smart for his own good. He knows it. That's why he brings so much success to this offense."

On Sunday, it almost felt routine that Cedrick Wilson motioned through the backfield, took a lateral pass from Dak Prescott and then fired a 22-yard strike to Noah Brown - a chunk play that actually could have been an 83-yard touchdown, had Wilson seen Lamb streaking down the right sideline.

"He was helping out his boy Noah, I guess," Moore quipped on Monday.

For me personally, the piece de resistance came earlier in the game, when the Cowboys scored midway through the third quarter to take control of the game. As you well know and as I breathlessly recounted on Twitter, Tony Pollard came in motion on a jet action, Prescott took the snap and faked a toss to Ezekiel Elliott - completely discombobulating a crashing defensive back in the process. With half the Giants' defense keying on Lamb over the middle, and with Logan Ryan stranded in no-man's land by the fake toss, Prescott simply lobbed the ball over his head back to Elliott, who waltzed into the end zone.

Listen, I'm well aware this isn't revolutionary stuff. College teams run things like that on a regular basis, and Prescott himself said the Cowboys may have run it in the past.

I'm not trying to convince you Kellen Moore is changing the game of football, but it's plainly obvious that he's got a great grasp of minor tweaks that can completely change the math for his offense, and his sense of timing for when to call them has been incredible so far.

It all adds up to create at least two play calls per week that make me cackle like a psychopath when I see them happen - and I can't help but imagine him doing the same when he thinks them up in his office at The Star.

None of this is to say Moore is running a gadget offense, mind you. In case you haven't noticed, the Cowboys are currently making their living by simply bullying opposing defenses with a pair of buffalo disguised as running backs. As much fun as the deceptive stuff is, there's something equally pure and fantastic about saying "We're going to run behind right guard until you give up, and there's nothing you can do about it."

Even still, I've been fascinated by the way Moore adds wrinkles to this offense. My interest was piqued a few weeks ago when I saw this video of Aaron Rodgers narrating the NFL's copycat nature, highlighted by the Cowboys using a similar screen to one called by Green Bay, two weeks later.

I had a chance to ask Moore about that process and he offered a peek at his Mondays, when he and quality control coaches Kyle Valero and Chase Haslett scour tape from other teams in search of ideas.

"We kind of have a little fun thing on Mondays where we kind of take a trip around the league, see all the trends that are going on, sometimes dabble in the college world," Moore said. "We're always looking for different inspirations."

There's so much to love about this approach. The Cowboys' staff sees a wrinkle they like in someone else's game, they throw it into a folder in their film catalogue. Then, they look at their own concepts and devise the best way to add it in.

"Does it feel similar to something, and you can apply it to a very similar concept we've been doing?" Moore said. "Is it a very new, broad subject that we need to maybe take some time and get two or three reps at it?"

In this case, the Schultz screen was something that had been in their back pocket dating back to last season - but that might not always be the case. Understandably, Moore isn't about to give away too much about his recipes. But as long as the Cowboys have time to practice an idea, anything might be on the table. It might be rare for Moore to put something into the game plan on one week's notice, but he definitely didn't rule it out.

"We've got Wednesday's practice, Thursday's practice, Friday's a walkthrough, Saturday's one more practice," he said. "You'd like to get at least one full speed rep of something."

You're not likely to get too much in the way of specifics on a topic like this. But it's evident that the creativity isn't just appreciated, it's embraced.

"I love having a coach that's open-minded and is willing to go grab another concept from somebody else, like 'Hey, let's try that,'" Schultz said. "At the end of the day, if we try something and it doesn't work, it doesn't work. But just having that confidence in him as a play caller, to call it at the right time and to implement it in our practice plan and try to put it in our offense, I think it's pretty cool."

My favorite thing is when the people I'm writing about say the same stuff as me, because I also think it's pretty cool. So while Kellen Moore's ever-evolving Cowboys offense might be some pretty standard NFL stuff, it is pretty effective - and it's pretty damn fun to watch.

And with any luck, we'll be keeping it weird and watching the world burn for many more weeks to come.

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