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Spagnola: Maybe Something To Moore Genes


FRISCO, Texas – This is no accident.

Was bound to happen, sooner or later.

Just happened to be sooner in the life of Kellen Moore, one year a Dallas Cowboys backup quarterback, the next the quarterbacks coach and now the newly-named offensive coordinator at not only the tender age of 30, but equipped with just one season of actually coaching experience.

Some might say he's been preparing for this meteoric rise in the coaching ranks since he was a mere kid, before he even began playing quarterback at Prosser (Wash.) High School and then matriculating to a Heisman Trophy candidate career at Boise State.

Coaching is in his genes.

Most might remember his tale, the son of a high school football coach, Tom Moore, who spent 22 seasons at Prosser High, young son Kellen toddling along with dad to football practices; hanging out with dad at home watching and breaking down game film; known to be carrying around a notebook, marking down reminders before he even stepped foot in high school.

Way, way before he became his dad's starting quarterback at Prosser, where he was allowed to call his own plays that senior year. Way before a 50-3 career record at Boise State, most wins by a starting quarterback in D-1 FBS history, and before finishing fourth in the 2010 Heisman voting behind winner Cam Newton, then Andrew Luck and LaMichael James, an honor earning him a trip to New York for the Heisman banquet and announcement.

See, dad Tom won 21 league titles during his 22-year coaching career at Prosser (1986-2008), along with four state championships. So, a young Kellen had a great mentor.

But there were, uh, Moore coaching genes far before that. And this is a huge coincidence. See his dad's father, Thomas "Bert" Moore, Kellen's grandfather, had already been a basketball coaching legend in the South Suburbs of Chicago, from 1950-1960 at Chicago Heights (Ill.) Bloom Township High School, where he also taught classes.

Now here is the mere coincidence. That's where I eventually went to high school several years after Bert Moore retired from coaching. But his granddad was best known for putting Bloom basketball on the map, a tradition that would continue for decades to come, and was the head coach during the mid-50s when a guy by the name of Jerry Colangelo was a star basketball player at Bloom.

Yep, that Jerry Colangelo, one-time owner of the Phoenix Suns, the man whose ownership group brought the Arizona Diamondbacks to Phoenix, too, and currently the head of USA Basketball.

Colangelo was quoted as saying back in 2004 when Bert Moore passed away at age 83 this about his coaching skills at a racially diverse high school: "You have to give Bert credit for instilling our attitude of acceptance of difference races as early as high school."

Sure, can remember my dad telling me stories of some of the players on Coach Moore's team in the late 1950s, the ones who went deep into the Illinois state tournaments back when there was only one classification and each school in the state was entered into the regional tournaments. Not bad for an Irishman born in Belfast, who served three stints in the U.S Marines and had a Western Illinois University Hall of Fame football career.

Also remember when Kellen first came to the Cowboys in 2015 as a free-agent quarterback, talking to him about what we somewhat had in common, telling me how his family would return to the Chicago Heights area as a kid for vacations to visit his grandparents who lived the other side of the Forest Preserve from where I grew up.

Strange, huh.

But those were Kellen Moore's bloodlines that likely helped lead him to these offensive coordinator duties, following in the footsteps of Scott Linehan, Bill Callahan, Jason Garrett, Sean Payton (passing game coordinator), Ernie Zampese, Norv Turner, Dave Shula, Paul Hackett, Jim Myers, Dan Reeves, among a few others that would also include a few head coaches running the Cowboys' offense, from Tom Landry to Chan Gailey to Bill Parcells and even Garrett during his early years as head coach.

Now just understand Kellen Moore is not going to be an independent contractor at the coordinator position, like the whole deal landing on his shoulders. Garrett will have a heavy hand in the offensive game plans, with likely input from new quarterback coach Jon Kitna and tight end coach Doug Nussmeier, a former college OC himself.

As for calling plays, and remember Garrett does wear a headset on game day and will undoubtedly make suggestions, as he certainly did with Linehan the past couple of years, sure sounds from what I hear as if Moore will be calling plays.

Remember what Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had to say on the topic of Kellen potentially calling plays just one day before he was officially announced as the offensive coordinator: "Make no mistake about it, he's going to be a key guy in what play is run on the football field, by key probably having the ultimate responsibility."

Now this doesn't mean Kellen will be in charge of revamping the entire Cowboys offense. That doesn't figure to happen. Zeke still will be expected to be Zeke. They aren't going to turn Dak into something he's not. And let's take a deep breath and remember, minus the clunker this team turned in at Indianapolis this season, getting shut out 23-0, the offense in seven of those final eight games during AAC – After Amari Cooper's arrival – did average just more than 26 points a game. And in case you missed it, this very same offense did score as many touchdowns against the Los Angeles Rams in one playoff game (3) as the Saints and Patriots combined for against the Rams in the next two.

Oh, and it was an offense that put up 30 against the Rams in that 2017 regular-season loss, 35-30, and should have been 32 if not for that B.S. holding call on Travis Frederick nullifying what should have been a successful two-point conversion and as it turned about, a chance to attempt a lengthy field goal for a tie in the final minute of the game.

If Jones' endorsement of Moore is not enough, Dak Prescott sure didn't hold back his enthusiasm over the move during Super Bowl week, saying of Moore, "He's obviously one of these young genius phenoms in the game . . . he's special, he's special. He knows a lot about the game, just the way he sees the game, the way he's ahead of the game, he can bring a lot to us, a lot of creativity, something we need."

As we can see, Moore's promotion to offensive coordinator has not surprised Dak. Certainly not Jones. Still, though skepticism arises from afar, worrying about his youthful coaching age and scant experience.

But then most probably do not know Kellen Moore has been preparing for this since he was a kid. And just maybe there is something to those genes he's inherited, going all the way back to granddad Bert, a three-sport star and highly successful high school basketball coach, and through his father Tom, a junior-college quarterback himself and highly successful prep football coach.

Saw where back in December of 2010 a story in the Idaho Statesman with Kellen Moore on his way to the Heisman Trophy ceremony quoting Kellen talking about his family's coaching background.

"They were clones, that's the thing," he said of his dad and dad's dad. "Especially now that your dad gets old and you start to recognize a lot of the traits, the white hair.

"And you know you're going right down that same trail."

How prescient now some eight years later, an extensive coaching trail at that, stretching from Chicago Heights in the '50s, to Prosser over the three decades of the '80s, '90s and aughts, to now early 2019 right here at The Star in Frisco, Texas.

Kellen, just maybe another chip off the old block.