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Kellen Moore command of Cowboys offense depends on lighting

Cowboys Wire logo Cowboys Wire 5/20/2019 Todd Brock

Of all the wait-and-see elements the upcoming season will bring for Dallas Cowboys fans, perhaps the most nerve-wracking question mark hangs squarely over the head of first-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. Sure, former OC Scott Linehan had to go; that was a near-unanimous opinion. But when the front office handed the reins to Linehan's hand-picked protege, a 30-year old career backup with one season as a position coach under his belt, many wondered if the new guy was, well, too new.

Questions persist about Moore's presence in running the squad. Some see it as an issue of authority. The team's starting quarterback, however, is trying hard to put those concerns to bed. Dak Prescott calls Moore a leader that the 2019 Cowboys are ready to follow.

"He's shown so much command," Prescott told reporters over the weekend, as per Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram. "And a guy like that, maybe sometimes that's what people question, is his command: 'He played backup quarterback most of his career; does he have that? Can he take over the room?' And he most definitely can. He gets in front of the whole offense. He gets in front of the team, whatever it may be. He demands respect. He demands respect by his knowledge. He demands respect by what he asks of us."

But on a sideline that also includes head coach Jason Garrett and quarterbacks coach Jon Kitna- both former NFL passers themselves- Moore is still apparently finding himself in situations where it looks a lot like Coaching By Committee.

Longtime Cowboys insider Ed Werder relayed this story on his Doomsday podcast recently about a moment he witnessed in practice:

"At one point at the very end, they were running plays on offense. The tight end… Codey McElroy jumped prematurely; would've drawn a penalty flag. And it was not Kellen Moore who got angry and said, 'Back to the huddle!' It was Jason Garrett. It was Jason Garrett, who was lined up behind the defense, not Kellen Moore, who was lined up behind the offense and is supposed to be in charge of demanding perfection and execution out of his group.

"If anything causes me consternation about Kellen Moore, it's this. I think he's going to have to learn to assert himself more. He's a smallish guy, doesn't have a huge personality…

"That's one example where you would normally expect the offensive coordinator to become upset at the failure to execute a simple situation, and they're usually very irritated when there's a pre-snap penalty, as this clearly was. I just think Kellen Moore has got to take ownership of those kinds of things in front of the players for them to give him the credibility and attention that is going to be necessary if they're going to succeed."

But Werder went on to suggest Moore may already have enough credibility- with club management, anyway- to warrant a direct line to the team owner himself.

"I think the most interesting statement that we have heard the entire offseason was from Jerry Jones. Jerry Jones not only mandated offensive change and the implementation of new concepts and creative thinking, but he promoted Kellen Moore in a year where he did not extend Jason Garrett- who, oh by the way, his calling card is as an offensive playcaller himself- and he's again denied this offseason a chance to call plays with his own fate hanging in the balance here. Jerry said [to Moore], 'Look,' and he said this publicly, 'If you and Jon Kitna, if your ideas are not being implemented by the head coach, come to me. Come to me. Circumvent the head coach and come to me, and I will take care of it.'

"He basically told Garrett, effectively, to stand down and, 'You're going to work with what these guys want to go with, and that's who we're going to be because the way you've tried to do it just hasn't produced the results we want.'"

Moore's approach seems to be catching on with his offensive playmakers, at least. Speaking at the second annual Dak Prescott Women's Clinic at the Ford Center in Frisco, Prescott echoed earlier comments on Moore, made by starting running back Ezekiel Elliott, that speak to the enthusiasm around the collaborative effort taking shape at the core of the new Dallas offense.

"I think I read a quote; Zeke said it. [Moore] wants to know what we think. He wants to know what we want to do, and he wants to incorporate it into his plan. When you have a guy like that that's asking a player first, 'How can I help? How can I make this better, this situation better, this game better?' You know, you're going to have a lot of success. I'm just so excited for this year and what we all can do."

How vocal a rookie coordinator is in one May practice session or how collaborative the process is when everybody's wearing shorts in half-speed walkthroughs doesn't necessarily telegraph how things will go down when the team trails the Eagles by six in late December with two minutes to go and no timeouts left. But how much presence Moore has and how much command the team and coaching staff are willing to give him is already shaping up to be one of the key stories of a season that's still over 100 days away.

You can follow Todd on Twitter @ToddBrock24f7.

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