As Cowboys enter watershed offseason with Dak Prescott, his offensive coordinator is expected to get opportunity elsewhere

Charles Robinson
·NFL columnist
·5-min read

As the regular season draws to a close and the Dallas Cowboys find themselves on the doorstep of a playoff berth, the team is grappling with the potential loss of a coordinator in the coming weeks — but not the one many critics expected to be on the hot seat.

Indeed, there is a possibility that offensive coordinator Kellen Moore — and not beleaguered defensive coordinator Mike Nolan — could be at the center of an offseason shakeup on the coaching staff.

Two sources familiar with the upcoming Boise State head coaching search and the aspirations of Moore have told Yahoo Sports that the Cowboys’ coordinator is expected to be at the top of the school’s interview agenda when Boise State finalizes an athletic director hire. Both sources also indicated that the Cowboys believe Moore would strongly lean toward taking the job if he is ultimately offered the position, but that multiple steps remain before that can materialize. The sources indicated it may be weeks before the school picks up momentum with the hiring process, which can’t formally begin until Boise State finalizes its search for an athletic director and then lines up an interview pool that is expected to reach out to a handful of candidates.

Beyond Moore, Boise State is expected to pursue an interview with Oregon defensive coordinator Andy Avalos and at least one or two other candidates. While representatives close to the school have already opened back channels to potential candidates, one source told Yahoo Sports that nothing formal will take place until after an AD is announced, likely within the next week.

Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore talks to quarterback Dak Prescott (4) during an NFL football training camp in Frisco, Texas, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore talks to quarterback Dak Prescott (4) during training camp in Frisco, Texas, on Aug. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Here’s how Cowboys would move on if Moore went to Boise State

It remains to be seen whether Moore will include himself in the forthcoming pool, but a source familiar with him said the Cowboys coordinator’s motivations go beyond an ambition to be a head coach at the alma mater where he achieved almost unparalleled success as a college quarterback. The source said the family atmosphere and highly invested community nature of some college head coaching jobs is something that Moore finds appealing, along with the potential to carve out a legacy in a town and program that has held a special place in his life. In some ways, that is a stark contrast to the career path as an NFL coordinator, which is often a more rigid and businesslike existence geared toward taking the next step to an NFL head coaching job. They can be two different lifestyles, particularly when a staff is grinding to establish a new culture under a first-year head coach.

For the Cowboys’ part, it appears the team is going to be supportive of Moore potentially landing the Boise State job — if team owner Jerry Jones’ recent remarks are taken at face value.

When asked about assistant coaches having the patience to take the right head coaching job, Jones told the team’s flagship station, 105.3 The Fan, “I’ll say this to anyone: Remember the two buzzards sitting on the limb and one’s got his neck turned around looking at the other and says, ‘Patience my ass. I’m going to kill something.’ As they surveyed the landscape. … I’m not really demeaning patience. You’ve got to have it, I guess. But the bottom line is that when it’s there, take it, and when it’s not there sometimes we’ll rustle it up.”

Jones’ seeming acceptance of Moore getting another opportunity isn’t surprising, given that ownership has believed that strides taken by quarterback Dak Prescott inside Moore’s scheme would likely land him on interview lists after this season or next. Beyond that, ownership also believes the coaching staff has been properly designed to move forward seamlessly if Moore were to depart — through the combination of head coach Mike McCarthy’s steeped experience on the offensive side of the ball, as well as the existence of offensive line coach Joe Philbin on the staff. Philbin had two stints as an offensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers under McCarthy, giving the two a natural fit when it comes to designing and calling a scheme. A source also said the Cowboys believe quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier has the capability to be considered for the opening if Moore were to depart.

Impact on Mike McCarthy and Dak Prescott

The bigger questions that would remain in the event of a Moore departure would likely orbit around Prescott and McCarthy.

Would McCarthy slide back into a role as an offensive play-caller? Could he wait a season to name an offensive coordinator and take over the role himself? Would he lean into Philbin, who would cede to McCarthy designing the game plan during the week and then calling the offense in whatever way McCarthy preferred?

How would Prescott factor into the decisions? Given the state of Prescott’s unresolved contract situation, would he have any input on the next coordinator, which would be Prescott’s third in four seasons?

All of those questions could be pushed to the top of the Cowboys’ agenda in quick order, giving the franchise even more to ponder in an offseason that is likely already heading for some tweaking on the roster, inside the defensive coaching staff, and likely with another drawn-out offseason of Prescott negotiation.

To invoke Jerry’s analogy, the buzzards will be lining up starting next month and there will be plenty to swoop on. But the first kill might go to Moore, if he’s given the opportunity.

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