Cowboys OC Kellen Moore out as head coach Mike McCarthy will take over play-calling in Dallas

The Dallas Cowboys had a top-five scoring offense in 2022. The unit averaged 27.5 points points per game — the fourth-most in the NFL — yet someone on the offensive side of the ball had to take responsibility for the team’s latest playoff defeat, a 19-12 divisional round loss to the second-seeded San Francisco 49ers. Quarterback Dak Prescott co-leading the NFL with 15 interceptions despite missing five games with a right thumb injury probably didn’t make owner and general manager Jerry Jones all too happy, either. Prescott became the first player in NFL history to lead or co-lead the NFL in picks despite missing five or more games. 

Turns out that someone is Kellen Moore, the team’s offensive coordinator for the last four seasons since 2019. The 33-year-old is now out of a job, as the two sides mutually agreed to part ways, the team announced Sunday. Dallas averaged 27.7 points per game across Moore’s four seasons running the offense, the second-most in the NFL since 2019 behind only the Chiefs’ 28.8 points per game.

“After continuing through our end of season review process and having additional discussion, Kellen and the Cowboys reached a mutual decision to part ways. I want to thank Kellen for his deep commitment, hard work and dedication that were a core part of his time with the Cowboys,” head coach Mike McCarthy said in a statement. “The production of our offense and his mentorship of Dak were at the center of Kellen’s impact, and we are grateful for his tenure and leadership. We wish Kellen and his wife, Julie, and their family the absolute best as they set out on the next chapter of their lives.”

The team announced that quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier also won’t return.

“We also wish Doug and his wife, Christi, and their family the best,” McCarthy said. “Doug is the consummate professional and brought a level of football insight, enthusiasm and focus to work every day that helped everyone he worked with during his time here with the Cowboys perform at a higher level.”

Moore may end up following in the footsteps of another fired offensive coordinator this offseason, Mike LaFleur. LaFleur, the New York Jets offensive coordinator in 2021 and 2022 who was fired early after the Jets missed the playoffs, quickly landed on his feet as the new Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator. According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Chargers both have interest in Moore filling their open offensive coordinator roles. The Chargers reportedly had already requested to speak with Moore prior to his firing. 

Prescott set a franchise single-season record with 37 passing touchdowns in the 2021 season, breaking Tony Romo’s record of 36 set back in 2009, a year after the former fourth round pick broke his ankle. That led to the Cowboys passer finishing second in 2021 NFL Comeback Player of the Year voting behind only Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, who led the Bengals to a AFC North division title after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee in 2020. Moore also benefited from Prescott’s rebound, reaching the finalist stage in the Miami Dolphins head coaching search before Miami went with 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel instead. 

Head coach Mike McCarthy will reportedly return to his roots as an offensive play-caller, something he did in six seasons as an offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints (2000-2004) and San Francisco 49ers (2005) as well as the bulk of his 13 seasons as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers from 2006-2018. He briefly gave up play-calling duties in Green Bay after the team’s collapse in the 2014 NFC Championship Game against the Seattle Seahawks before taking play-calling duties back from his then-associate head coach Tom Clements in Week 14 of the 2015 season. The Packers won Super Bowl XLV to conclude the 2010 season with McCarthy calling plays, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers won two of his four NFL MVPs alongside McCarthy in the 2011 and 2014. Rodgers set the all-time, single-season passer rating record during his first MVP season with McCarthy in 2011 when he threw 45 touchdowns and only six interceptions. 

The 2023 season will be McCarthy’s first as the offensive play-caller for the Cowboys since Moore was one of the few assistants retained from Jason Garrett’s coaching staff. 

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