There is not enough tinfoil stocked in Frisco for Mike McCarthy to get on board with the conspiratorial buzz swirling around The Star.
In a Friday radio interview with 105.3 The Fan, McCarthy strongly refuted an increasingly popular theory that team owner Jerry Jones is forcing offensive coordinator and play-caller Kellen Moore on the Dallas Cowboys‘ first-year head coach.
“Oh my God. That’s 100 percent false,” McCarthy said, via The Athletic. “Hey, I’ve been in the league long enough to understand that when things don’t go right, there’s opportunity to create the perception of drama. Kellen Moore was part of my presentation to Jerry and Stephen during the interview. This was the one opportunity where I felt it was important based on where Dak was in his career to try to build off the momentum that was created with him in his first four seasons. That was the goal coming in. I just don’t know why that was ever questioned. Trust me, I love calling plays. Did it for a long time. But I can’t say enough about the job that Kellen’s doing and just the way we’ve put this thing together. But he’s running it and I’m in total control of those decisions.”
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The power structure outlined above — Moore’s full autonomy of the offensive operation but McCarthy’s final say — is the setup they agreed to upon the former accepting Dallas’ head-coaching job in January and quickly deciding to retain Moore, a holdover from the Jason Garrett era.
Although McCarthy won a Super Bowl calling plays for the Green Bay Packers, he almost immediately delegated control to Moore, the wunderkind who helped franchise quarterback Dak Prescott to a career passing year in 2019. Not only that, but McCarthy also left the playbook mostly intact, a sign of his sincerity.
“I wanted to make sure we were able to capitalize on what has been established here,” McCarthy said on Jan. 16, after confirming Moore as his OC.
The marriage was off to a historically explosive start, the Cowboys able to score at will, prior to Prescott’s season-ending ankle injury in Week 5. Incredibly, he remained the NFL’s leading passer following Sunday’s round of games and was on pace for a league-record 5,939 yards. As it is, Dallas still ranks first in total yards per game, averaging 464.0.
But things hit the rocks the moment backup QB Andy Dalton was thrust into duty, and the proof is in the Week 6 pudding. In his first full start, the ex-Bengal was, to quote Jones himself, a “pretty glaring” contrast from Dak. Dallas failed to reach the end zone until late into fourth-quarter garbage time en route to an embarrassing 38-10 home defeat.
None of the club’s elite wide receivers cracked the century mark. Star running back Ezekiel Elliott was held to 49 scoreless yards on 12 carries, “adding” two lost fumbles. Perhaps worst of all, Dalton logged a whopping 54 attempts and averaged a paltry 4.9 yards per throw — the antithesis of Prescott’s aerial acrobatics.
The transition from No. 4 to No. 14 figured to take a bit longer; even if Jones is interjecting, it wouldn’t have mattered much Monday night. Perpetuated controversy was inevitable amid the team’s third defeat in four opportunities, as McCarthy touched on.
But Moore offered a telling comment Friday that paves the way for a true litmus test.
“Shoot, we threw it 50-some times again. I’m trying not to do that. I swear,” he told reporters, via The Dallas Morning News.
Sunday’s road trip to Washington will expose a potential rift in the working relationship between the parties, should one exist. An apparent aversion to leaning on Dalton, combined with Moore’s insistence that “Zeke’s going to get a whole bunch of carries,” paints a clear picture of the expected game plan.
And if the duo really is in harmony, the script will be stuck to.
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