Cowboys heap praise on rookie OC Kellen Moore: 'Keel-an' the 'Pizza Boy' is a 'genius' and an 'animal'

Mike Fisher

FRISCO - Late into the Arlington night, the wildly successful Dak Prescott reveled in telling the story of how once upon a time, he was intimidated by Kellen Moore's football IQ.

As a 2016 rookie listed well behind starter Tony Romo, third-string QB Prescott would go into the film room with second-stringer Moore and find himself amazed at what Moore could do with his brain. The dissection of defenses. The analysis of decisions.

“It was tough,” Prescott said. "I didn’t like it. But I also admired that part of him and wanted to be that some day. ... He’s one of those geniuses.''

Prescott looked every bit of "that'' in the Week 1 win over the Giants, a 35-17 drubbing in which the fourth-year QB - on the verge of being handed the largest contract in franchise history - produced the first "perfect game'' (a 158.3 QB rating) in franchise history.

"I sure do know,'' Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joked to me, "Dak can walk out there and can play without a contract!''

That status will change soon (Jones used the word "imminent'' in regard to the deal) and Cowboys Nation hopes its as successful as the obvious change in Dallas' offense. As predicted, the actual plays are essentially the same under Moore as he takes over for his deposed mentor Scott Linehan. But the look is different. The feel is different the attitude is different.

And besides the individual stats (the five TDs, four of them thrown by Prescott, and big receiving days for five different guys) there are advanced stats that tell the story. Per, Moore in Week 1:

*Used play action on 48 percent of Prescott's passes (last year that number was 25 percent.)

*Used motion on 73 percent of the Cowboys' total plays (last year: 45 percent)

*Put his offense in 11-personnel on 73 percent of its plays (last year: 63 percent)

Said Jones: "Kellen made that game exciting, made it a challenge for the Giants ... We all saw things we just haven't seen in the past. We saw a lot of our players used ... I really am excited. My most excitement about this game is how varied our offense was.''

While young Dak was intimidated by his first interactions with Moore, Kellen's public persona is something short of "intimidating.'' I used to refer to him as "The Paper Boy.'' FOX TV guys Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on Sunday went with "The Pizza Boy'' (as in "pizza delivery.'')

Part of this is about talent; Amari Cooper had six catches for 106 yards and a TD, Michael Gallup seven for 158, Randall Cobb four catches for 69 yards and a score, and there were TD passes to tight ends Blake Jarwin and Jason Witten on a day when Prescott totaled 405 passing yards on 25-of-32 passing.

But it's hard now to fight the view that a previous offensive philosophy held back the talent before. Dak won't say that, but he'll go with "genius.'' Defensive guys like Tyrone Crawford (Moore's fellow Boise State legend) calls him "an animal.''

Said Moore himself, when told of the praise given him particularly by owner Jones: “Well, he got my name right. He used to call me 'Kee-lan.' It must mean I’m doing something right.”

Comments (1)
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Under Linehan plays were predictable. He almost always ran the ball on first down. Moore had Dak throwing on first down which kept the Giants defense off balance.