Once the name Dak Prescott was called, members of the media couldn’t wait to take shots at Kellen Moore. They were lying in wait like a pack of hungry wolves waiting to pounce on a spring lamb.
Dak Prescott fell to the 4th round for a reason sports fans. USA Today columnist, Patrik Walker, had his fangs bared and came after Kellen Moore with a vengeance in a recent article titled: Op-Ed: Moore of Less? Cowboys naming Kellen Moore as backup is huge mistake.
Really? Based on what? I know what some are thinking: Kellen Moore went undrafted for a reason. Yep he sure did. He didn’t pass the eye test. People are still using the same lame excuse to this day. He’s too small. He isn’t athletic enough. He doesn’t have enough arm strength. Gosh. Dak Prescott has the size, athletic ability and arm strength teams covet: so why did he fall to the 4th round? If the Dallas Cowboys didn’t reach for him, there is no telling how far he would have fallen. We have all seen the Jones success rate at grading QBs since Troy Aikman retired. These same journalists that are taking shots at Kellen Moore, are the ones who have been bashing Tony Romo for years.
It’s really easy to distinguish between a journalist and an analyst. Anyone who is credible is going to mention the film. Believe it or not, there are some credible people out there who actually study it. A journalist is going to present a combination of opinions and manipulated stats to make his case. Just because someone went to college to get a degree in journalism, doesn’t mean they can distinguish between a Pro Set, a Pistol and a Double Wing. A basic 4-3, a 4-3 over and a 4-3 under. What about a 4-3 Swim, 4-3 Slide or 4-3 Umbrella?
Patrik said: “Immediately following the downtrodden 2015 season, the Cowboys made it known quarterback Kellen Moore would not only remain on the team; he would not be ousted from his post backing up Tony Romo. Their lack of pursuit of a veteran free agent signal caller seemed to indicate they were sincere in their statement. They’d go on to eventually draft Dak Prescott in the 4th round (135th overall) which led many to believe Moore would immediately be demoted to QB3; or possibly shown the door in 2016.”
Cowboys’ Owner/GM Jerry Jones begs to differ.
Is Kellen Moore the Cowboys’ backup QB in 2016? Jerry Jones on @1053thefan: “Yes.”
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) May 5, 2016
After giving a brief history of Moore’s success at Boise and his stint with the Detroit Lions, Patrik went on to say:
The Cowboys would then sign Moore to the Cowboys’ practice squad being activated only when Romo went down with his first broken clavicle. He’d become backup to Brandon Weeden until he was demoted following the trade for Matt Cassel; further proving his inability to earn/retain his standing. If Dallas truly believed in Moore as offensive coordinator Scott Linehan so desperately wants them to, why trade for another QB?
A fact seemingly lost on Jones at the moment.
“Yes,” Jones said when asked if Moore is the backup, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I think Kellen Moore has shown the ‘it.’ He has the instincts. He has the anticipation. He knows what’s going on. He gives me and us a great feeling about basically improving. Obviously those interceptions were not something you can live with, but some of the stuff he was doing was pretty obvious that the team was responding. He was able to move the team.”
My response to Patrik: Clearly Jerral Jones had to actually see Kellen Moore under center in a live game with his own eyes to understand what Scott Linehan was saying. He was going solely off of the eye test. You can play arm chair GM all you want, but I trust my eyes and what the coaches think over your opinions. Allow me to educate you a bit.
Typically there are 6 or 7 types of passes utilized in a West Coast offense or a variation of it such as the Air Coryell offense. It is imperative that an NFL quarterback has the basic fundamentals down pat before he ever sets foot on the field. He must not only be able to play from under center which requires near perfection when it comes to foot work, he needs to be able to walk up to the line, read the defense and have the ability to call the proper play at the line to attack it.
He needs to be able to read blitz, feel the pressure, get through all of his reads in 2 seconds or less and deliver an accurate pass without having to think about what his feet are doing. Footwork is imperative. Especially on timing based routes. This also requires a great deal of anticipation from the QB. He needs to be able to anticipate where his receiver is going to be, and/or have the ability to throw him open. Lets take a closer look at the basics.
Three-Step Drop- This type of pass is designed to be the ball control part of the passing game. A three-drop is the most appropriate play to use for “taking what the defense gives you.”The three most basic plays that use the three-step drop combination are the quick out (Omaha), slant (Lion) and Hitch (Thunder). These pass plays are most often utilized (though not always) as part of the audible process.
Five-Step Drop- This type of pass play forms the basis of the timing pattern package. Designed to be thrown before the defense has time to respond, the five-step drop pass can be thrown utilizing three different footwork techniques: quick five-step drop, the big five-step drop, or the five-step drop with a hitch step.
- Quick Five-Step Drop- The quarterback throws a pass off his fifth step, using a quick balance-throw action.
- Big Five-Step Drop- The quarterback takes three big drive steps, a throttle step to slow his drop, and a fifth step for balance.
- Five-Step Drop with Hitch Step- The quarterback takes a normal five-step drop, with one or two hitch steps.
Seven-Step Drop- A seven-step drop is designed to give the receiver time to maneuver before the ball is thrown. This technique gives maximum separation between the receiver and defenders, whether running a vertical route or one that crosses the field. Two other advantages to a seven step drop are the ability to incorporate layered routes into plays and letting the receiver run “double-move” routes.
Play Action Pass- “This type of pass is designed specifically to develop and take advantage of a defensive conflict. A fundamentally sound play that strives to contradict the basic principles of a defense, the play-pass gets the defensive team to commit to a ‘fake’ run and then throwing a pass behind the defenders off the fake.” (Quote from Bill Walsh)
The play action pass is particularly effective against defensive teams that are very active against the run. This type of pass exploits the intensity and aggressiveness of a defense. Teams will run the play action pass off of their most successful running plays.
Listed above are the bare minimum requirements for an NFL QB. I don’t care how big he is, how athletic he is, or how strong of an arm the quarterback has, if he can’t do these things on a professional level, you’re in trouble offensively. If Patrik actually took the time to study some film, he would know that Kellen Moore has been doing all of this at a very high level since he started as a freshman at Boise State. Moore not only has 4 years of experience in a pro-style offense at the college level, he has 4 years of experience doing it at the NFL level.
What does all of this mean? Before you go penciling Dak Prescott in as the backup to Tony Romo, you better grasp the fact that Prescott was never asked to perform any of the basic fundamentals required by an NFL quarterback in college. That’s right sports fans. He will need to learn how to play quarterback all over again at the NFL level. Before you suggest bringing in a veteran, you better pay attention to not only who is available, but how much 3rd tier QBs are costing these days. The Philadelphia Eagles are paying a 3rd tier QB (Chase Daniels), who has no more live game experience than Kellen Moore, and is pretty much the same size, about $7 million a year. The Cowboys don’t have that kind of salary cap space to waste on a backup QB. Going cheap will bring another Matt Cassel or Brandon Weeden. If you are going to criticize the Cowboys decision, you damn sure better have a feasible better option.
It never ceases to amaze me how the same people saying Moore didn’t have enough experience last year want to pencil in a guy who never ran a Pro-Style offense. Never took a snap under center in a live game and never called a play at the line. Al and I have said this numerous times, but I will say it again: 90% of playing QB at the NFL level is mental. Before Dak Prescott can even begin to master the mental part of the game at the NFL level, he is going to need to learn the basic fundamentals. It blows my mind how anyone can think a QB who still needs to learn footwork of all things, is ready for the NFL.
At times I get so caught up in my frustration over personnel decisions made by the Cowboys front office that I lose track of why I became a sports writer in the first place. Someone needs to objectively report the truth. Not what they think people want to hear or what they think will grab a headline. I don’t do this to win any popularity contests. If I am going to criticize the Cowboys brass when they make a bad decision, I better also defend them when they make a good one. If you have ever studied some Kellen Moore tape or listened to anyone that ever coached him or played with him, you will realize that he is a very special player.
The Jones’ decision to go with Kellen Moore not only makes sense from a salary cap standpoint, them recognizing Moore’s complete understanding of how football works and his natural ability to lead a team, combined with his poise accuracy and anticipation, made it a brilliant move. You can’t coach the way he sees the field or the instincts he has. His ability to read a defense and call the right play at the line goes unmatched.
Patrik wasn’t finished: he went on to attack Moore’s in game performance.
He never actually beat out Cassel for the spot. The Cowboys were taking the opportunity to see what they had in Moore for the future being no longer able to stomach Cassel’s play. He’d reward them with a two additional losses to end the season and only four TDs to six INTs.
He’d have his best outing in the finale against the Redskins in which he’d deliver 435 yards which led many to believe pyrite is actually gold; not taking into account his one “good” game was against a Washington team that had already clinched the division crown and were throwing backup players at Moore. Even then he’d still toss two interceptions.
Moore’s career in the NFL is telling of his inability to perform at the highest level, despite what he accomplished in college.
The fact is Moore is not a capable starter in the NFL and has now shown he is not a capable backup, either. It’s said by his supporters he needs more snaps to prove himself. This is the complete antithesis of what a QB2 should be. The job of a backup signal caller is to be able to step in and produce wins immediately to prevent bleeding until the starter returns. To say he needs more snaps as a starter to become a better backup is an oxymoron of the highest yield.
Really Patrik? Really? Did you even watch the game? Are you aware of the fact the Redskins left their starters in the secondary? Did you see the blitz packages they were sending at him? Are you aware of the fact Moore was missing Dez Bryant when he threw for the 2nd most yards in NFL history for a players first home start? Are you aware of the fact he had no training camp with the team and had only two weeks worth of reps with the starters to try and develop any timing with the receivers? Are you aware of the fact both Cole Beasley and Jason Witten sat out of practice that week? Did you see him out there directing traffic like Tony Romo? Telling guys where to line up, sending receivers in to motion and making checks at the line?
Do you really think a QB can just walk on to the field with minimal reps and automatically have chemistry with the receivers? If you are going to take shots at my Cowboys, you better not bring a knife to a gun fight.
“He just needed a chance, and he just needs a chance,” Linehan said. “And until you put him out there, you’re not going to know. And I think we found out a lot of things about him that prove that he belongs.”
“He was made for this,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said of Moore. “He was prepared to play. You can just see how much experience he has. He never gets rattled. He made a couple of really nice checks, which I’ve never seen a guy starting his first game do, and got us some big plays. I’m really impressed with what he was able to do in his first start.”
“We had a rough start to our final game, had some turnovers early. The last three quarters that Kellen played, I was really proud. I think he ended up with maybe one of the six best passing days in Cowboys history, or something like that, in a regular-season game, as far as yards and production. For your second start, that’s a good start.
“I think we’re excited about his future and moving forward and, now that he’s able to get a good off-season and training camp with us, hopefully, it will give him a little more of a head start. He was having to come in and adjust to a lot of things. He did a great job of that.”
In case you forgot, despite having a full training camp to develop some chemistry with the receivers, Troy Aikman completed 155 of of 293 passes (52.9%) for 1,749 yards, 9 TDs and 18 interceptions for a passer rating of 52.9. It’s a good thing the coaches didn’t use your logic and cut Aikman after his first 2 starts. Let alone following a horrific rookie campaign. Keep in mind the Cowboys went 1-15 that year. Despite being the 1st overall pick in the draft, Troy Aikman needed live game time to develop. Any QB does.
In closing, here is a little friendly advise from a first ballot hall of fame coach:
“It’s a very easy thing to say, ‘Go get a backup quarterback.’ Now tell me where to get them. You just can’t dial them up.”
“Quarterbacks are missed on so often in the NFL because scouts and coaches get so caught up in the intangibles they see, but forget to look for the the things you don’t normally see on the outside. The things you don’t see are what will make or break a QB in the NFL” – Bill Parcells…
I am not going to say Dak Prescott wont develop in to a good NFL quarterback. I wont get out the anointing oil yet either. What I will say is: Kellen Moore is much more mentally and technically prepared for the NFL. When asked if he thought Dak Prescott was Tony Romo’s heir, Jerral Jones said:
“I wouldn’t put him out there week one. No.”
“I am not going to write a check to you with my mouth that he has to honor.”
Even the forever optimist, Jerral Jones, didn’t pencil in Dak Prescott as the #2 QB in Dallas. Nor did he show any signs of believing Dak Prescott would be Tony Romo’s heir.