Through two games, Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has been everything the franchise’s owner expected when he hired the 30-year-old.
But it’s going to take at least one more near-perfect performance for Jerry Jones to nail the former Boise State star quarterback’s name.
“Kevin’s got great communication skills,” Jones, who turns 77 next month, said Sunday after Dallas topped Washington 31-21 at FedEx Field. “It doesn’t surprise me at all that we’re seeing a lot of play action, that we’re mixing it up for the defense out there.”
Moore, who played two seasons in Dallas and served as the team’s quarterbacks coach last year, joked last week that Jones called him “Keelan.”
It’s OK — everyone else knows exactly who Moore is, just two games into his play-calling career. The results demand it.
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott finished Week 1 with a perfect quarterback rating. In Week 2, the Cowboys scored on five consecutive possessions, they racked up 474 yards of total offense and Prescott completed his final 18 passes.
Dallas’ first three possessions resulted in two three-and-outs and an interception. Washington led 7-0 when the Cowboys took over at their own 3 in the second quarter. Prescott drove Dallas 97 yards in seven plays, culminating in a 51-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith off a faked run play.
“Initially your fist objective is to really get that first, first down. It can be really challenging if you don’t get that first down. You’re backed up. You’ve got to punt. It’s bad for the team in general,” Moore said. “To turn those things into long drives is really, really special.”
The Cowboys offense, which certainly borrows from the Chris Petersen-era Broncos’ offense that Moore guided to a 50-3 record as a starter, is heavy on pre-snap shifts and motions. And Dallas is often spreading the field with one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers on the field.
“It’s naturally influenced by all your stops. Certainly Boise was a special place to me. I learned a ton of football there. Some of the variety that we played with,” said Moore, who started from 2008 to 2011.
With the score tied at the end of the second quarter, Dallas used that motion to create a favorable matchup. The Cowboys had two tight ends on the line of scrimmage, leaving Washington in big personnel facing first-and-goal at its own 2.
Before the snap, both tight ends moved to wide receiver positions, making Washington’s bigger players cover them. Veteran tight end Jason Witten slipped open for a 2-yard score — and Dallas never trailed.
The Cowboys scored on their first possession of the third quarter, too, this time on a 10-yard pass from Prescott to Amari Cooper.
“Those last 2 minutes before halftime and the first 2 minute after halftime, those are big transition periods,” Moore said.
Nine years ago, Moore delivered one of his greatest performances for Boise State on the same field. He tossed three touchdowns, including the game-winner with 1:09 remaining to defeat No. 10 Virginia Tech.
Now Moore has had an entire NFL career, spent almost exclusively as a backup or third-string quarterback with Detroit and Dallas, to learn. Moore played 2 1/2 games in 2015 with Dallas, including two starts, before retiring and joining the Cowboys’ staff in 2018.
Moore and wife Julie have three children 5 and under, including a daughter who turns 1 in a few weeks. They have moved full time to Texas.
Moore’s younger brother Kirby — a former standout wide receiver at Boise State — is coaching wide receivers at Fresno State. Moore’s parents still live in Washington but are expected to travel to four or five of each of their sons’ games this year.
The son of a high school coach, Moore’s coaching future has been nearly assured since before he arrived at Boise State. His Cowboys teammates saw it, too.
“We all knew it. We all had a lot of confidence in him. This is not a surprise to the players at all,” said Witten, who played with Moore. “He simplifies it. He’s a good communicator. I think he’s got a great feel for the game.”
Witten gave credit to former offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who coached Moore for most of his career and hired him to be quarterbacks coach in Dallas in 2018.
“Now he’s taken it into his own,” Witten said. “I think the biggest thing is the feel in the game and his alignment with Dak. They’re on the same page and it’s paying off for us.”
The Cowboys have developed a reputation for liking Boise State players, and Dallas suited up five Broncos on Sunday: wide receiver Cedrick Wilson (making his NFL debut), safety Darian Thompson, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and defensive linemen Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence.
Vander Esch, who grew up in Riggins, attended many Boise State games when Moore was the quarterback.
“The dude is a mastermind. Obviously he’s got a good thing going with that offense. Everybody loves him. We love Kellen,” said Vander Esch, who had five tackles in the game.
The Cowboys’ offense has been explosive, part of Moore’s attacking mindset. Smith’s 51-yard touchdown catch was Dallas’ third pass play of more than 42 yards this season. Prescott also rushed for 42 yards on one carry Sunday.
Prescott connected with seven different pass catchers in the Week 1 victory. In Week 2, eight Cowboys caught at least one pass. Smith was in a spot where former Colorado State receiver Michael Gallup normally plays, but the play call did not change with Smith getting the snap.
“The thing that is really neat to see is everything Kellen’s been preaching (to the) offensive staff, it’s kind of playing out,” Witten said.
Jones praised the deep plays, important to keep teams from stopping star running back Ezekiel Elliott, and the variety displayed through two weeks.
“We’re seeing what young people can bring to the table. Young people are supposed to make mistakes and young people are supposed to have more thought about the future and not get deterred,” Jones said. “We’ve got a young coaching staff, and I’m glad to see us taking advantage of that.”
Brian Murphy is a former Idaho Statesman sports columnist who now reports for McClatchy in Washington, D.C. He covered all of Moore’s Boise State playing career.