December 19, 2015: Kellen Moore becomes the first former Boise State quarterback ever to take a snap in a regular-season NFL game. Moore, the winningest QB in college football history, had waited almost four seasons for his chance before Dallas inserted him in the second quarter of a 19-16 loss to the New York Jets. Moore’s first pass went for a loss of a yard. His second was intercepted. But he hung in during a situation that could have gone south, and just before halftime he threw his first NFL touchdown pass to the Cowboys’ favorite malcontent, Dez Bryant. Moore went 15-of -25 for 158 yards. He also tossed three interceptions, but one of them was on a Hail Mary at the end of the game.
What analysts really liked about Moore’s night, interceptions aside, was that he got the Dallas wide receivers involved in the offense again. Kellen eschewed all the safe check-down throws that had dominated the Cowboys attack that season under Matt Cassel and, before him, Brandon Weeden, as the injured Tony Romo stood on the sidelines. Moore’s first eight NFL throws targeted wideouts, including the TD pass to Bryant. Moore aimed 18 of his 25 attempts in the game at wide receivers—seven of them to Bryant, who caught four passes for 50 yards.
Moore was in his first season as a backup with the Cowboys after serving as the No. 3 quarterback with the Detroit Lions for three years. He had gone undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft despite going 50-3 in his four seasons at Boise State. He was undersized and didn’t have the arm strength of his competitors, but the Lions kept him around because of his smarts and contributions in the QB room and on the practice field. When Detroit released him in 2015, the Cowboys scooped him up.
Eight days after his debut, Moore would be the first Bronco ever to start an NFL contest as he called signals for Dallas in Buffalo against the Bills. It was must-see TV in Boise, where the Fox affiliate was granted an exception by the network to show the game locally. There were lots of positives for Kellen—he was confident, aggressive, and poised. But in the end the Cowboys lost 16-6 to the Bills. Moore was 13-of-31 for 186 yards and no touchdowns with one interception.
Kellen’s grand finale as a player came in the Cowboys’ season-ending tilt against Washington, when he went off for 435 yards and three TDs against two picks in a 34-23 loss. The yardage was the sixth-highest number in Cowboys history and the best of the day in the NFL. But he sat out the 2016 season with a broken leg and was back on the Dallas practice squad in 2017. Kellen retired from the NFL in 2018 and became the Cowboys quarterbacks coach. He was elevated to offensive coordinator in 2019 and remained in that post for four seasons. Now, of course, Moore is the O-coordinator for the L.A. Chargers and is in an interesting position with last week’s firing of coach Brandon Staley.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)