Kellen Moore spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since agreeing to terms with the chargers to be their new offensive coordinator.
Here are my takeaways.
one. The Chargers and coach Brandon Staley focused most of their offensive coordinator search on the Kyle Shanahan-Sean McVay coaching tree. They interviewed three assistant coaches from McVay’s rams personal in Thomas Brown, Zac Robinson and Greg Olson. they interviewed vikings assistant quarterbacks coach Jerrod Johnson, who coached under Shanahan with the 49ers in 2017 and spent last season with former Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. Moore, of course, does not come from that tree.
Moore was asked about the focus Staley had on that specific tree, something Staley spoke about explicitly in his season finale press conference. And Moore explained his core beliefs and philosophies in the context of that tree.
“From an offensive perspective, you take pieces of everyone,” Moore said. “And I think that’s the beauty of it. We’re going to build an LA Chargers offense in 2023.”
He then added: “Naturally, just because you haven’t trained with certain coaches, it doesn’t mean you’re (not) heavily influenced by those guys. Certainly the younger offensive head coaches have made a huge impact in this league and they’re guys that I watch each and every week and I love watching those guys and studying their offenses and hopefully being able to bring in something of that”.
Why the Chargers hired Kellen Moore as OC and what it means for Justin Herbert
2. We heard similar projections after the Chargers announced Joe Lombardi as their offensive coordinator in 2021. Quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Shane Day, who was fired along with Lombardi last month, had trained with Shanahan and McVay. Tight ends coach Kevin Koger had spent two seasons training with Matt LaFleur, who trained with both Shanahan and McVay. Staley talked about creating a mix and incorporating some of those elements.
That never really materialized. The offense operated more or less in Lombardi’s image with a heavy dose of shorter-development routes and concepts. The chargers got justin herbert on the move periodically on bootlegs, a staple of the Shanahan-McVay offensive style, but never at any point a backbone or major element of the scheme. What was missing, most notably, was what Staley called the “marriage of the run and the pass.”
So I’m in a wait-and-see mode when it comes to incorporating some of these elements into the offense, considering Moore’s background.
3. Moore mentioned two systems when discussing his core philosophy. One was the Air Coryell system, developed and made famous by former Chargers head coach Don Coryell. The other was the West Coast system, originated by legendary 49ers coach Bill Walsh.
Moore has ties to both systems.
He spent the last three years of his nfl career as a backup quarterback for former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. Garrett adopted the Air Coryell system from Ernie Zampese, Coryell’s assistant from 1979 to 1986. Zampese was the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator from 1994 to 1997, and Garrett was Dallas’ backup quarterback during those seasons. Moore then coached Garrett for two seasons in Dallas, first as the quarterbacks coach in 2018 and then as offensive coordinator in 2019. The Air Coryell system is very much a downfield passing attack.
Moore then learned the West Coast system from Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy. Moore was McCarthy’s offensive coordinator and playcaller for the past three seasons. McCarthy coached Paul Hackett for nearly a decade, first at the University of Pittsburgh and then with the bosses. Hackett was Walsh’s coach for three seasons with the 49ers.
The West Coast offense, which relies primarily on shorter horizontal time routes, has a rich history in the league. Lombardi, in fact, is a descendant of Walsh. Lombardi learned the system from Sean Payton, who learned it from Jon Gruden, who learned it from Mike Holmgren, who learned it from Walsh. The system, of course, goes through different iterations and variations as different coaches pass it down and shape it. But this connection is worth mentioning, especially since there could be some overlap between what Herbert learned in the previous offense and the West Coast concepts Moore is bringing.
“Will you be able to see the Air Coryell-Jason Garrett side? Absolutely,” Moore said. “Will you be able to see the West Coast and Mike McCarthy? Absolutely. We’ll keep the things that are in place here that Justin feels really, really good about. And then we will be willing to explore.”
Four. This marriage of the run and the pass is a crucial piece of what Moore needs to build. The Chargers lacked a certain level of intent in designing and preparing their running game, and there was a lack of synergy and cohesion between the running game and passing game in Lombardi’s offense, particularly in 2022. Moore was asked about this Staley’s phrase: the marriage of the run and the pass.
“It’s alignment, and a lot of it has to do with presentation,” Moore said. “Certainly, the running game and the pass play-action and the moves on first and second down, when those two are in sync, the presentations are similar, it puts defenses in conflict. I think that’s something that we’re very excited to build on here and certainly develop into the first-second-chance game. And it will allow you to be more aggressive, to take the ball down the field. It certainly doesn’t mean you go crazy with it, but you can build those marriages. And we all know the best offense in this league and the beauty. When those two things are in sync, it’s a beautiful thing.”
This sounds like a good start and general approach. We’ll see if Moore can put it into practice.
5. Moore referring to pushing the ball “downfield” should be a welcome sight for Chargers fans. During Lombardi’s two seasons, Herbert ranked 35th out of 38 qualifying quarterbacks in passing yards per attempt, according to TruMedia. With Herbert’s arm talent, there’s no reason he should be ranked so low. Part of this is Herbert’s propensity to move quickly through his readings and get to verification of him. But ultimately it’s up to the coaching staff to put Herbert in positions where he’s encouraged to make those kinds of shots.
A large part of this conversation is also personal. The Chargers need to add more receiver speed so they can access these areas of the field more consistently and dangerously. Moore spoke rather refreshingly about what speed can do to an offense.
“Speed is always dangerous. We’ve certainly seen that throughout this league, and when you have speed, that’s certainly a huge advantage,” Moore said. “You hope you can find a way to create those opportunities even from a schematic standpoint. But the speed, you can not train. Speed is very special. You certainly want some of that. All men do not need it. There are many ways to play soccer. But certainly, when you have it, it’s a nice little perk to be able to use it.”
6. Moore and Herbert had the opportunity to connect last summer when made a commercial for Kendall Auto Group, a chain of automobile dealerships in the Pacific Northwest. Moore said the two spent “a few days” together doing the commercial. “It’s amazing how life can come full circle here with you,” Moore said. Moore is from Prosser, Wash. Herbert is from Eugene, Ore. Moore played at Boise State. Herbert played in Oregon. Moore said he and Herbert have some “crossover relationships” from their roots in the Northwest.
“He’s an incredible, incredible person,” Moore said of Herbert. “Impressive player, I certainly know all the physical talent. But I’m very, very excited to work with him.”
7. Moore’s hiring process moved quickly for the Chargers. Moore said he had discussions with the Cowboys on Friday and Saturday about his future. By Sunday morning, they had agreed to part ways. Moore said he then had a conversation with Staley “pretty quickly” and things moved on from there. Staley and Moore spent time together in August when the Chargers and Cowboys held joint practices.
“Any time you do one of those, you get to know the rest of the staff pretty well,” Moore said. “He spends a lot of time just organizing practices and schedules and scripts and all that kind of stuff. And I really enjoyed my time with Brandon over those two days.”
Moore said he and Staley kept in touch throughout the season via text messages, and those joint practices set the stage for how quickly the Chargers were able to make their move and bring Moore on board.
8. As for the rest of the Chargers’ offensive staff, Moore hinted that that group will remain largely intact.
“Brandon and I have been able to talk about this over the course of the last few days, and I love the way he really likes this offensive corps,” Moore said. “Every interaction I’ve had I’ve really enjoyed. So I’m very excited to work with these guys.”
The Chargers have a quarterbacks coach vacancy, and that should be filled here in the next few weeks. I could see the Chargers making a change as offensive line coach. Brendan Nugent was hired last offseason to replace Frank Smith, who left to take over as offensive coordinator in Miami. Nugent was hired from New Orleans, where he had previously worked alongside Lombardi. That connection is obviously gone. And with so much emphasis placed on improving the running game and building that marriage between the running game and the passing game, an offensive line coach who is familiar with Moore would make sense.
(Top photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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