Kellen Moore made an impression on Chris Petersen long before he played a game.
Last September, Petersen — who stepped down as Washington’s head coach following the Las Vegas Bowl win over Boise State — stood in a team room off Husky Stadium’s northwest tunnel, wearing a purple hat with the word “DAWGS” printed across the bill. It had been eight years since he last coached Moore at Boise State, and five since he accepted the head job in Seattle.
And yet, Petersen was still telling the same stories.
“I’d never been around anybody at that time that had prepared like him,” Petersen said of Moore, his starting quarterback in Boise from 2008 to 2011. “When he redshirted his first year there, it blew me away how he was in meetings. He didn’t say a word. He’s not a talkative guy, really. But the focus that he brought every day … I always have a story that when we were actually in Hawaii playing in a bowl game (in 2007), he was redshirting. And I remember our last practice, in the meeting with the quarterbacks, I kept watching him. And it was like he was playing. And he was completely redshirting.
“But I had never seen anyone bring that intensity to meetings, certainly at that age.”
There’s only one problem: Moore made an impression on Jerry Jones and Mike McCarthy, too.
On Wednesday morning, the Dallas Cowboys officially announced that Moore — who served as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2019 — is expected to remain with the organization in the same role under new head coach Mike McCarthy. The press release states that “recently, Moore was linked to the University of Washington offensive coordinator job but he apparently decided to return for a second year in Dallas under McCarthy.”
So, no, Moore won’t be bringing that intensity back to his home state. The Prosser, Wash., product earned the all-time record for wins by a starting quarterback (50) while playing under Petersen at Boise State from 2007 to 2011. As a redshirt freshman in 2008, he was named the Broncos’ starter over senior Bush Hamdan — who, ironically, was relieved of his duties as UW’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach a day after last month’s 38-7 Las Vegas Bowl win over Boise State. Moore threw for 14,667 yards with 142 touchdowns and 28 interceptions in a prolific college career, compiling a 50-3 record in the process.
Following a relatively quiet six-year NFL career, Moore was immediately named the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterbacks coach in 2018. He was then promoted to offensive coordinator prior to the 2019 season.
Despite owning an underwhelming 7-9 record, the Cowboys led the NFL in both total offense (431.5 yards per game) and yards per play (6.5) in the regular season. They also ranked second in offensive DVOA, second in passing offense (296.9 yards per game), second in completions of 40 yards or more (16), tied for second in third-down conversion percentage (47%), third in yards per pass attempt (8.2), fourth in yards per carry (4.8), fifth in rushing offense (134.6 yards per game) and sixth in scoring offense (27.1 points per game).
For an inexperienced offensive coordinator, this was an intriguing (and unsurprising) debut.
“We knew all along (that he had a bright future as a coach),” Petersen said of Moore in September. “In fact, back in the day, when he first came to us, we had a bunch of younger coaches. His dad (Tom Moore) was a coach, and he knew he wanted to coach. His brother (Kirby Moore) wanted to coach. That was one of the reasons that he came to Boise back in the day.
“So for him to play the NFL card for a few seasons and see what that’s all like … there’s nobody that’s around Kellen, that knows him, that knew him in high school, that is surprised that he’s coaching well at that level.”
It comes as little surprise, then, that Dallas wanted so desperately to retain him. But, on the other side, where does Washington go from here?
Several prominent candidates — including Rhett Lashlee, to Miami; Mike Yurcich, to Texas; and Mike Sanford, to Minnesota — have already found their future homes. Former Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, former Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Todd Monken, current Oregon State offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren and current Tulane offensive coordinator Will Hall, among so many others, remain on the market.
It’s up to first-year Husky head coach Jimmy Lake to find the right fit for Washington.
And then, after that, all he has to do is win.