Dallas Cowboys: Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn are coordinating greatness

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Four weeks into the 2021 season, the Dallas Cowboys look like a team destined for greatness. This isn’t your father’s Jason Garrett-led squad of RKG’s playing opponents straight up. This is collection of great players winning through innovative and deceptive schemes and concepts. This team has been winning with their game prep, strategy, and coaching just as much as they’ve been winning with their talent.

And with all due respect to Mike McCarthy, the reason the Dallas Cowboys are accomplishing all this and rocketing up the power rankings, is because of their two coordinators, Dan Quinn and Kellen Moore.

Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn are two big reasons why the Dallas Cowboys look so great.

For years the Dallas Cowboys have been trend chasers. They were late to the single high safety (Cover-1/Cover-3) bandwagon, they were late to the spread offense, they were late to RPOs, they were late to feature heavy nickel personnel, they were late to just about everything.

This year that changed. Instead of Dallas trying to copy successful offenses and defenses, they’ve worked to create it on their own. Whether that is by Mike McCarthy’s plan or just a fortunate accident brought on by innovative coaches, it’s noteworthy and deserves our attention and praise.

Kellen Moore and the Dallas Cowboys offense

We didn’t know exactly what to expect from Kellen Moore this season. For years he was seemingly under Jason Garrett’s oppressive thumb. And last year, his first full year in control, he was without his franchise QB and 4/5 of the starting O-line most of the year.

As a fan base we hoped we see an innovative and deceptive attack but we didn’t really KNOW what to expect. So when the Dallas Cowboys came out passing against Tampa Bay’s stout run defense, and running against Los Angeles’ top pass defense, we were thrilled.

This pick-your-own-poison philosophy was a thing of beauty. Instead of “imposing their will” or “playing for manageable third downs” like Garrett insisted on for years, the Dallas offense began this season with a bloodthirst previously unseen ‘round these part. And despite playing two of the NFL’s top defenses and going against arguably the best young defensive mind in the game (Brandon Staley), the Dak Prescott-led offense is the top attack in the NFL.

Moore hasn’t been killing opponents with overly complicated motions or formations. He’s not dialing up trick plays or gimmicks. He’s doing it with creative personnel groupings and mismatches. He’s assessing the opponent (many times through Dak’s eyes) and attacking their weaknesses. Since the Cowboys have strengths everywhere on offense, it’s something he can easily do.

On the play above, the Dallas Cowboys were facing a critical fourth down situation they needed to convert. Facing the top-rated defense in the NFL, converting would be no easy task. So Kellen reached into his bag and pulled out this doozy.

The Cowboys are in 22 personnel and have both TEs on the left and are pulling most of Carolina’s defenders with them. In the past this could mean one back would go one way and the other a different way or Dallas would be using Zeke as the FB and Pollard as the HB. But we got a hand-off with a weakside option pitch outside. Carolina played it nicely they just weren’t able to handle Pollard’s inevitable cut-back.

Earlier in the game Kellen dialed up this bad boy…

The Cowboys essentially rubbed the coverage off Blake Jarwin and gave the play-making TE a wide open TD. The point is: Moore made the play easy for his players.  Every game there are plays like this that make things easy for the offense. To Moore it’s not about beating the man in front of you but rather – attack the most beatable man and/or put him in conflict.

Dan Quinn and the Dallas Cowboys defense

When Dan Quinn came to Dallas it was seen as recalibration more than a defensive shift. Quinn, made famous for his days with the Legion of Boom, represented the return to the familiar. For years Dallas had been mimicking the Seattle single high and after a brief (and tragic) experiment under Mike Nolan, Jerry Jones discovered the grass wasn’t greener on the other side and even an outdated coverage scheme was better than what we saw in 2020.

After six years in Atlanta, we thought we knew what he would bring. He wasn’t a carbon copy of the Seattle single high, but he leaned on single high concepts heavily, alternating between Cover 1 and 3 76  percent of the time! So when he came to Dallas, I highlighted his creativity and transparency as a concern I had heading into this season.

But in Quinn’s first season, he’s been anything but transparent and arguably more scheme diverse than he has at any point in his career. Some of that is out of necessity but some of it appears to be according to plan. According to Jori Epstein, Dallas has fielded 30 different defensive players this season. Not many teams can go that deep into their roster without seeing major issues arise. This just speaks to Quinn’s abilities as a head coach.

This year, the Dallas Cowboys have been using middle of the field open and middle of the field closed looks. They’ve often disguised which one by waiting until the snap to move the second safety into position. Quinn has often used Trevon Diggs to shadow the best opposing WR and all Diggs is doing is leading the NFL in interceptions.

The starting front is alternating between odd and even man fronts. They are stunting and blitzing (albeit not gratuitously) and they are using guys like Micah Parsons, Chauncey Golston, and Jayron Kearse creatively.

And I’m not sure if anyone’s noticed this, but the Dallas Cowboys defense  is kind of good at taking the ball away, Dallas is leading the NFL in turnover differential and that’s a team effort by both Quinn and his boys, and Moore and his.

light. Must Read. How the 2021 Draft already saved Dallas' season

Next. There's just one thing missing from this Cowboys team.... dark

The Dallas Cowboys are an innovative team, Cowboys Nation. And most of that is because their two coordinators.

  • Published on 10/05/2021 at 12:54 PM
  • Last updated at 10/05/2021 at 14:31 PM