Is Cowboys Play-Caller Kellen Moore on a Long Career Path But on a Short Leash?

Mike Fisher

FRISCO - Mike McCarthy has said over and over again that his year away from the NFL was about a purpose: Personal growth as a football leader and a football thinker.

If his surprising decision to allow offensive coordinator Kellen Moore to continue as the Dallas Cowboys play-caller is a result of that "new thinking'' and pays early 2020 dividends?  McCarthy - given the fact that he's also said over and over how much he loves to serve as his own play-caller - should be lauded for his unselfish vision.

And if the decision is deemed at any time to be a failure, as was the case in Green Bay in 2015, when McCarthy gave up the job but then grabbed the steering wheel again after the Packers disappointed?

It'll be the result of Moore, 31, being on a short leash.

“Kellen was someone I was watching from afar, regardless of what opportunity worked out for myself,'' McCarthy told us here at The Star this week. "The opportunity to work with Kellen was something I was going to pursue either way.”

There is no "wrong'' answer here, especially if McCarthy - who, after 30 years in coaching and starting his 14th year as an NFL head coach is obviously a better play-caller than Moore - is actually the designer of the playbook and the game plan. 

And McCarthy tells us that will be the case. Therefore, it'll be Kellen calling plays on Sunday that McCarthy has taught him to call. Additionally, it's a smart bet that the McCarthy and Moore headphones during game day will be a wide-open form of constant communication.

Dallas will make some changes. There will be a slight shift from some of the fundamentals of the Coryell-based offense to a "West Coast System'' favored by the new coach. There will be the same Cowboys language in place on offense, with McCarthy charging himself with being the newcomer who will learn that language rather than forcing Moore and QB Dak Prescott and the rest to do so. (The retention and shift of tight ends coach Doug Nussmeier to QB coach, by the way, could very much be about the well-versed Nussmeier assisting McCarthy in learning the new verbiage.)

"I wanted to make sure we were able to capitalize on what has been established here," McCarthy said, and we interpret that to mean that Prescott and Moore together are part of the solution in 2020 and beyond.

We're told, by the way, that this change in thinking on McCarthy's part was not some order from on high from the Jones family. (Really, think about this logically: Jerry's given McCarthy carte blanche to choose his own staff, including the dismissal of a handful of under-contract former staffers who will be paid by the Joneses for not working ... but at the same time Jerry is making demands about minutiae like the identity of the play-caller?)

This was, as with all of the staff decisions, McCarthy's call, with "the best way to help Prescott'' at the center of it. And if Kellen-as-play-caller turns out to be something short of McCarthy's vision?

Mike McCarthy becoming the Cowboys play-caller will be Mike McCarthy's call, too.