Fans of the Dallas Cowboys have become excited about the search for new coaches with the recent news that Kris Richard is expected to join the staff as the replacement for Matt Eberflus. His coaching resume with the Seattle Seahawks is very encouraging, and he is set to inherit a young, eager set of defensive backs to work with. The famed Legion of Boom in Seattle is now aging, but it is hoped Richard can create something similar in Dallas.
In addition to Richard, the Cowboys have also signed Paul Alexander as offensive line coach, and Sanjay Lal for the wide receivers. While they are not as widely praised as Richard, they do represent the “new blood” so many want to see on the coaching staff after the failures of 2017. The fact that the first hires have all been from outside the Dallas organization quieted fears that the team was going to rely heavily on internal promotions and hires.
But one name has cropped back up from that group, and most are looking at it with skepticism and even disdain. According to Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News, Kellen Moore is being signed as the new quarterback coach to replace Wade Wilson.
Jerry Jones said the Cowboys have finalized an agreement for Kellen Moore to join Dallas’ coaching staff as the new QBs coach. Dallas has also re-signed RBs coach Gary Brown.
— Brandon George (@DMN_George) January 23, 2018
The reasons many fans will voice disapproval are several. Moore certainly isn’t “new blood”, having been with the organization for three years, and also having time with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan as a member of the Detroit Lions. He was beaten out for the QB2 position in 2017 by UDFA Cooper Rush, and never came close to challenging Dak Prescott for the starting job. His skills as a pro QB are not really in evidence. His hire by some would be seen as a bit of a sop to Linehan, who reportedly got shut down in his attempt to stuff the offensive staff with his own guys from within the Cowboys organization. Linehan has long been seen as the only real reason Moore was with the staff to begin with, and the reasons for the OC’s infatuation with the left-handed passer have always been something of a mystery to many.
There are many other possible candidates for the job that have far more experience out there. The wisdom of bringing Moore into the coaching ranks to both correct the issues Prescott had last season and help develop Rush is questionable.
But there is another trend in the NFL that is widely decried. That is the apparent tendency with almost all teams to go with established names in hiring new coaches – despite the obvious fact that most are available because their old team decided to move on, or at least did not make enough of an effort to retain them when they saw other opportunities elsewhere. Still, the coaching ranks in the NFL continue to be a long game of musical chairs, with the same faces resurfacing over and over.
The logic in objecting to this goes that the NFL is too wedded to old ideas and ways. There is just not enough effort made to find truly fresh faces and ideas. The stunning success of Sean McVay as head coach of the Los Angeles Rams is a widely cited example of how that can turn things around for a team. After Jeff Fisher wasted Jared Goff’s rookie season, after discarding NFC championship quarterbacks Nick Foles and Case Keenum earlier in his tenure with the Rams, McVay got the Rams back into the playoffs, largely on his ability to properly use Goff’s talent.
The problem is that the early success of McVay is not often going to be duplicated. A far less successful attempt to turn a franchise around with an unconventional head coaching hire is Chip Kelly. He brought a truly different approach to the Philadelphia Eagles – and after one successful season, flamed out spectacularly. McVay has certainly turned heads, first as an offensive coordinator in Washington and now as the head man in Los Angeles, but at one time he was pretty much just like Kellen Moore: An untried candidate who got his first job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under Jon Gruden (which makes his ascension under Jay Gruden in Washington a bit of the “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” that governs so many hires in the NFL – and life in general).
If there are going to be any new coaches to come up through the ranks, which seems to be the hugely favored way of doing business in the NFL, then they have to get a chance somewhere. And that is one area the Cowboys seem to be making a conscious effort to nurture and develop talent, especially with former players. Currently, former players Marc Colombo and Leon Lett hold assistant positions in Dallas, and both are expected to stay with the team at least through this year. Additionally, Miles Austin, Andre Gurode, and Josh Brent are working with the scouting department, and both Austin and Gurode have been noted to have put in time on the practice fields as well. Austin was reportedly interviewed for the wide receivers job before Lal was hired, and still may wind up with some kind of job under Lal.
Moore is reputed to have a lot of the traits a good coach needs. Prescott has praised his contributions in meetings, practices, and on the sidelines. He is about to get onto the first rung of the coaching ladder. And given the backgrounds of both Jason Garrett and Linehan, his role in actually coaching the current QBs may not be as crucial as it would seem. As Mike Fisher put it in his most recent roundup on the coaching carousel:
Moore — Linehan’s prized protege — is destined to be the QB coach. There will be two layers of “QB coaches’’ above him, though: Garrett and Linehan. So Moore won’t be individually charged with the development of Dak Prescott; if that doesn’t happen in 2018, it’ll be Garrett and Linehan who pay the price.
To a great degree, Moore’s job will be to do what Garrett and Linehan tell him to, and to communicate their wishes to the QBs. And learn himself.
So maybe it’s time to put aside the angst and see how the process plays out this year. It is almost certainly a put up or get out situation for Garrett and Linehan. With that much at stake, they should be putting a lot of thought into who is going to be their quarterbacks coach. Let’s see if they get it right.