Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore isn’t guaranteed to return as their play-caller in 2023. Moore was a finalist to become the next head coach of the Carolina Panthers, but Carolina hired Frank Reich instead. That seemingly allows Moore to return to the Cowboys in 2023. Not so fast. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy stopped short of guaranteeing Moore’s return when speaking with reporters on Thursday. Moore should be Dallas’ offensive coordinator in 2023, but McCarthy could have other plans.
“Kellen Moore, just like the rest of the coaches, will be evaluated,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy is in the process of evaluating his coaching staff following Dallas’ disappointing 19-12 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers in last weekend’s divisional round. There’s one change that won’t occur. Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn recently announced his intentions to return to the Cowboys in 2023. Quinn had interviewed for multiple head coaching vacancies.
But McCarthy didn’t renew the contracts of several assistant coaches. McCarthy confirmed the exits of five assistants, including senior defensive assistant George Edwards, running backs coach Skip Peete, and offensive line coach Joe Philbin. Could Moore also be on the chopping block?
When McCarthy analyzes the Cowboys’ premature postseason exit, he’ll review the tape of a lifeless offensive performance against the 49ers. The Cowboys managed just 12 points and a pathetic 282 total yards of offense. Moore didn’t put together an effective game plan. Cowboys starting quarterback Dak Prescott struggled mightily, completing 23-of-27 passing attempts for 206 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Moore should be held accountable, but firing Moore altogether would be overly reactionary.
The Cowboys finished the regular-season ranked 11th in total yards gained per contest (354.9), an outcome that was spearheaded by their ninth-ranked rushing offense (135.2/game). Most importantly, the Cowboys finished fourth in scoring by putting up an efficient 27.5 points per outing. It’s difficult to look at those numbers and reach a conclusion that indicates Moore shouldn’t return in 2023. He should.
In 2021, Moore oversaw the league’s top-ranked scoring offense (31.2/game). The Cowboys finished second in passing yards per contest last season (282.4). Their passing-game numbers dropped dramatically this season (219.8), but that could be explained by the departure of No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper, the early-season absence of Michael Gallup, and a shifting offensive strategy that took better advantage of Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield.
It’s worth noting this isn’t the first time McCarthy has publicly toyed with Moore’s job security. McCarthy put Moore on notice following Dallas’ 19-3 Week 1 defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McCarthy has been considering making a change at offensive coordinator.
“In Kellen’s time as a coordinator, he’s been able to play very, very aggressively,” McCarthy said. “But we’re in a phase right now where we have to be a little smarter in certain situations. That’s all part of growing as a play-caller,” McCarthy concluded.
Jerry Jones and the Cowboys are reeling after yet another early postseason exit. NFC Championship Game appearances and Super Bowls continue to elude the league’s most passionate owner and fan base. Changes must be made to the Cowboys’ blueprint this offseason as they pursue improvement. Moore, who’s an excellent offensive coordinator, shouldn’t be a part of McCarthy’s coaching staff changes.
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