FNF Coaches Talk — Cowboys OC’s Promising Start, Training Away Penalties, Friday Night Proposals

Welcome back, Coaches. We hope you had a successful football weekend. Here are a few stories for you today.


By the numbers, new Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s debut Sunday against the New York Giants couldn’t have gone much better.

His unit piled up 494 yards despite a quiet run game (89 yards, 3.0 per carry) and scored five straight touchdowns to decide matters in three quarters.

There were elements from the Chiefs, the Rams, the Patriots… and even a Lincoln Riley special from Oklahoma.

Moore’s scheme is from a different dimension, which was clear from his first NFL play call. With a 9-man protection, he called for two triple moves (stop-go-and-stop) outside, virtually an impossible route to cover with time (hence the 9-man protection).
From there, Moore layered in several packaged plays, primarily run-pass options, offering either a numbers advantage on a frontside run, or an easy throw for Dak Prescott with two O-linemen pass protecting on the backside. One of Andy Reid’s staples in Kansas City, Dallas’ RPOs are made more dangerous by the Cowboys’ run game. Prescott threw on seven packaged plays because New York overplayed the run (which is why Dallas was so pass-heavy early).

Moore put his own flavor on RPOs by running most with pull blockers, rather than traditional zone, usually with pin-and-pull designs attacking the perimeter. Using pullers — which he also did on many play-action designs — provides a juicy key for linebackers to bite on, one of Josh McDaniels’ staples in New England.

Much like the Chiefs and Patriots, the Cowboys employed myriad formations and pre-snap motions, putting receivers in advantageous spots while providing Prescott information via the defense’s movement (or lack thereof). A 10-yard screen to Ezekiel Elliott featured three shifts before a jet motion, which drew attention to the left as Elliott leaked out right, the sort of window dressing that would make Reid and McDaniels proud.

Various jet motion (both run and pass) and condensed formations reminded of Sean McVay’s Rams, with Elliott’s rushing TD a perfect example. There was even one of Riley’s favorite routes: a stop-and-go deep over by Amari Cooper on the Cowboys’ first play of the second half, an easy 45-yard gain.

Of all of the great offensive minds across pro and college football, whose scheme do you borrow from the most?

2. Training Away Penalties (USA Football Blogs)

Most of us are well into the start of the season, and we’ve all likely had to stomach a reminder of how costly penalties can be.

Andy Ryland, USA Football’s senior manager in education and training, believes that these penalties can be trained out of players who struggle to keep their emotions in check.

“[This is] one of those things that’s typically not talked about or can be difficult to train,” says Ryland. “[The question is] how do we create the emotion? How do we create some of the stress or the situation we’re going to feel on game day?”
Ryland goes on to explain that directly going after the first team maybe shouldn’t be the coaching staff’s goal. “[It could mean] making sure the scout team has success,” says Ryland. “And we’re really going to double-down and coaches are going to hoot and holler and we’re going to make it super intense. We’re going to feel like the sky is falling and the guys are going to have to pull themselves out of it.”

Brushing off a penalty in practice is another exercise Ryland will use. “An intentional holding [by a scout team member], and letting people work through those situations [is of use],” adds the former Penn State linebacker. “A lot of it has to come down to knowing your players. Knowing those relationships and being able to talk to who we need to talk to and make sure they understand the importance of the team win versus what they might perceive as a personal, one-on-one battle.”

Ultimately, the frequency of the penalties will come down to the coaching standard. “Sometimes the better players or sometimes the starters tend to get away with things in practice environment where the scout team guys don’t quite get the benefit of the doubt,” says Ryland. “So, we let them get away with a push on a young sophomore because, ‘Oh it’s developing toughness,’ or ‘We’re developing a good little comradery and good competition right there.’ We don’t hold those guys to the standard we know on gameday they’re going to be held to.”

That standard must be team-wide according to Ryland. “We have to make sure that our best players that are winning drill after drill and knocking guys down and looking super physical, [that] we’re not blinded by that fact and we start to ignore things that might be technically wrong with their skills,” adds the former U.S. Rugby Team member. “I think that’s an area for coaches where the shiny gets in their eye and they forget to look at what the outcome would be on gameday.”

How do you stress the importance of avoiding penalties to your players?

3. TOUCHDOWN: James River H.S. football coach proposes to cheerleading coach (ABC 8 News)

We always get a kick out of these Friday night proposals.

Two head coaches at James River High (Chesterfield, Va.) got engaged after their love for football and cheerleading brought them together.

The proposal happened Friday night in front of students — old and new, coaches, coworkers, family, and administration.

Five years ago, Anna Gahagan and James Riley III met while teaching at James River High School. They both were heavily involved in the school’s sports programs and even coached a season of wrestling together.

Congrats to the newly engaged couple.

How have you shared your love for football with your significant other?

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk!