INDIANAPOLIS – Twelve years ago, Jason Garrett was in the same spot as Kellen Moore: a first-year offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys.
Garrett, now entering his ninth season as the full-time head coach, recalls the help he got from more experienced offensive assistants: Tony Sparano, Wade Wilson, Ray Sherman, Skip Peete. Guys who had coached in the league at least a decade.
"The biggest thing I learned is that it is a collaborative process," Garrett said Wednesday from the NFL Scouting Combine. "Those guys guided me in directions, maybe when I was going off course a little bit. I had a firm idea of what we wanted to be all about. But those guys helped that process. I do think we are going to try to create a similar dynamic with Kellen."
Moore replaces his mentor, Scott Linehan, who coordinated the offense under Garrett since 2014. It's a major promotion for the 30-year-old, who backed up quarterback Dak Prescott for two years before joining the staff as a first-year quarterbacks coach in 2018.
Signs point to Moore calling the plays, as Linehan did, with influence and direction from Garrett and others. Garrett hasn't been the primary play-caller since 2013, when he moved into an oversee mode.
"Certainly we think it's worked well having a coordinator that calls plays and having Jason be the head coach and the game manager and input," Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said. "That's certainly the way we're set up. We have a lot of confidence in Kellen. We also love our staff. It's a good young staff. I think someone pointed out we've got four former quarterbacks on the staff between Jason, (tight ends coach Doug) Nuss(meier), (new quarterbacks coach Jon) Kitna and Kellen. I think that's a good thing when you're talking about offensive football."
Moore is regarded as a bright offensive mind and, as a highly successful college quarterback – he set an NCAA record with 50 wins at Boise State – he's in tune with college concepts that are gaining prominence at the pro level. He also has an excellent relationship with Prescott, who's continuing to grow into the position despite taking his team to the playoffs twice in three seasons.
So, what will a Kellen Moore offense look like? Garrett says it's too early to make declarations, but there's no question the staff is in full evaluation mode. The offense's production grew after the midseason trade for Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper but finished 22nd in points per game (21.2).
Finishing drives were a primary issue; the offense ranked near the bottom of the league in red zone and goal-to-go efficiency. Tight end Jason Witten, back from retirement, can help in that area.
"What you do is you go through the process of evaluating what you've done," Garrett said. "We go through it play by play. Every play, we talk about why it was successful, why it wasn't successful. We group those plays together. We talk about why you liked that concept or not in the running game or the passing game. We're still involved in that process.
"That's the first step that you take, and then you pull back and say 'OK, what do we have on our team? Who's going to be available to us as we go forward?' And then you start putting the pieces together. So this process will go on for the next couple, three months as we lead up to OTAs."