DALLAS — All it took to link Dallas Cowboys’ offensive coordinator Kellen Moore to the Boise State job was Bryan Harsin to take the Auburn job.
The 44-year-old will replace Gus Malzahn with the SEC West program, and, as soon as the vacancy came available, the rumor mill was spitballing and speculating if Moore, 32, would return to the program where he compiled an NCAA record 50-3 mark as the Broncos' starting quarterback from 2008-11.
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has spent his entire career with Moore. When Dallas drafted Elliott fourth overall in 2016, Moore was a backup quarterback for the first two seasons before transitioning into quarterbacks coach in 2018. For the past two seasons, Moore has been the offensive coordinator and play-caller.
"I think Kellen could make a good head coach," Elliott said. "I think he will be a hell of a head coach."
What Elliott emphasized as Moore's greatest strength is his knowledge of the game, which was evident as a player, not just as a coach on the sideline.
"And then I’d say probably just his ability to be personable, his ability to motivate," said Elliott. "He has a little bit of a different technique but it still gets the job done and you know I think he’d do a great job being a head coach."
The former 2012 undrafted free agent, who spent his first three seasons with the Detroit Lions, has faced a tremendous challenge in 2020 of steadying an offense that has lost its starting quarterback in Dak Prescott, its starting bookends in left tackle Tyron Smith and right tackle La'el Collins, and had to play without All-Pro right guard Zack Martin for four games. Moore has also had to work with an offense that has had over 10 different starting combinations — a colossal hurdle in establishing continuity among the offense's most rudimentary group.
According to coach Mike McCarthy, Moore has been instrumental in the Cowboys winning the turnover battle the past two games, committing zero turnovers while the defense has generated seven takeaways.
"Kellen has done a really good job of particularly emphasizing [ball security] and we try to emphasize it in as many ways as you can, and the fact that you like to focus on ending every series with a kick, even if it's a punt," said McCarthy. "And that's what you have to do in the league, especially in December football."
McCarthy says he has not talked with Moore about the Boise State opening or any other coaching vacancy at any level.
Said McCarthy: "First, I have not talked to Kellen yet about it. So, it's not abnormal. Wednesday is a busy day. We're putting in the base and the third down game plan and obviously Tuesday being a heavy day. But I'm sure that if there's something to talk about we'll definitely talk about it. I think just like anything with career advancement. You just handle those opportunities on an individual basis because it's usually unique to the individual."
If Moore were to take over as the head coach for any team, Elliott says the former 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist has a way to motivate players without raising his voice or being demonstrative with his emotions.
"He somehow finds a way to get you hyped, to get his point across in his tone of voice which is very like — I don’t know how to describe it but very mellow," Elliott said. "But somehow he still gets the job done. So I mean it’s different but I think it’s something that works well."
Moore taking a new gig would mean McCarthy and the Cowboys would have a significant decision to make in the offseason in regards to finding a new coordinator, who would become the third offensive coordinator since Prescott became starting quarterback in 2016.
Do you think the Cowboys should do whatever it takes to retain Kellen Moore for their coaching staff? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.