When Jerry Jones really wants something, he's virtually impossible to beat at the negotiating table when he's handling the matter directly. This is what Boise State found out the hard way at the start of 2021, when they attempted to woo away Kellen Moore from the Dallas Cowboys. The young offensive coordinator spoke with his beloved alma mater on at least one occasion to gauge interest, sources told CBS Sports in December, with a formal interview set to occur the moment the Cowboys season ended. Instead, Jones swooped in and put an offer in front of Moore he couldn't refuse, and the two sides agreed to a three-year contract extension that secures him through the 2023 season -- those same sources confirmed as the team readies for its regular season finale against the New York Giants.
The financial component was always set to be a key talking point in Moore's decision, considering his contract was set to expire in Dallas once the season concluded. Jones once famously noted he, and Moore's deal is said to be a handsome one.
"I am very excited to remain with the Dallas Cowboys as the offensive coordinator," said Moore in an official statement. "I will no longer be pursuing the head coaching job at Boise State. I love Boise State. I will always root for them, and I hope one day to be a part of their program again."
But while the money certainly helped sway Moore, so did the fact he'd remain on the NFL fast track to a head coaching job in the professional ranks, assuming things eventually turn the corner in Dallas -- which is where quarterback Dak Prescott comes in. The Cowboys have continually hammered home their desire to lock in Prescott for the long term, a feeling that is completely mutual, and the temperature of the relationship found its way into the conversations with Moore -- sources tell CBS Sports -- the young offensive coordinator sharing a prolific relationship with the two-time Pro Bowler.
Moore accepted the extension in Dallas feeling confident a deal will finally be brokered for Prescott, the latter being just as committed to his offensive coordinator, so retaining the former helps grease talks with the latter, while promising to retain the latter helped grease talks with the former.
It's all hogtied together in North Texas.
"We are building something special here in Dallas," Moore added. "I am thankful for the Jones family and [head coach] Mike McCarthy for providing me with the opportunity to coach these special players. I am excited for us to put it all together and finish the job."
As it stands, Prescott is ahead of schedule in the rehabilitation of his right ankle and on track to report for the start of offseason conditioning -- unsure if it'll be under a $37.7 million franchise tag or a long-term deal. Moore, Prescott and the Cowboys are all in lock step in wanting it to be a multi-year extension, but the hurdle of four versus five years (the team wanting the higher number) will again play a big part in how long it takes to agree to terms. They were very near closing the deal in the witching hour on July 15, but the game of chicken ate too much time off of the clock, and they were unable to hash out contract language before the 4 p.m. EST deadline arrived.
And so, they were forced to pause until the end of the season, which could arrive as early as Sunday evening -- if they lose to the Giants or if the Washington Football Team defeats the Philadelphia Eagles.
Prescott has been an absolute force as a passer with Moore as coordinator, even more so than in his record-setting rookie season, and was on pace to obliterate the single-season passing record held by Peyton Manning before he was lost for the season with a compound fracture in his ankle in Week 5 against the Giants. His development of Prescott is why McCarthy passionately lobbied to keep him on staff during a time when the rest were being swept out as McCarthy took the reins this offseason. So when it again came time to convince Moore to stick around, McCarthy was front and center with a checkbook-wielding Jones.
"I can only tell you that we think the world of Kellen," McCarthy said, when asked about Moore potentially leaving the Cowboys to join Boise State. "He's done an incredible job here."
And, now, Moore will have plenty of time to continue doing so.
It's no secret he wants to be a head coach one day, considering he also said it out loud last week, but he'd prefer it to be in the NFL ranks. With that being his end game -- namely to continue a career arc that is currently similar to Matt LaFleur, Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan, Kevin Stefanski and the like -- remaining with the most visible sports franchise on the planet, who also happens to also have an embarrassment of riches when healthy on the offensive side of the ball, it's a perfect formula for Moore to position himself as the next big, young football mind in the league.
General managers around the league are tracking his progress, and none more so than the one he currently works for, with Jones having helped groomed Moore into what he is today; a point that not so coincidentally conjures comparisons to the genesis of Jason Garrett's coaching career in Dallas and could ultimately lead to him one day taking the reins in a post-McCarthy era. That aside, for now at least, it's McCarthy's show and he wants Moore riding shotgun, and both want Prescott steering the offense for the foreseeable future -- something Jones will again attempt to nail down in the coming days/weeks/months ahead of July 15.
"At the end of the day, I know my team needs me," Prescott said recently, in a conversation driven by the progress in his rehab and how he continues to support the Cowboys emotionally in a trying season. "I know that they need me now for support but they'll need me again later."
Even with the improved play of Andy Dalton, Moore agrees, and it's why he wanted to be sure Prescott was still the final crown jewel in the Cowboys plans for 2021 and beyond. And because that remains the plan, along with the other aforementioned motivators (and a few unmentioned), Moore is agreeing to stick around and drive his NFL stock that much higher. Continuity for Prescott was a key driver behind McCarthy keeping Moore in 2020, and it's now a key driver in Moore staying put for at least the next three seasons, in an equation that sees one hand washing the other.
Moore wants Prescott. Prescott wants Moore. The Cowboys want both.
One down, one to go.