Ask the QBs Coach: How Many Plays Are in the Cowboys’ Playbook?

by | Jun 20, 2018 | Articles, Entertainment, The Team

Quarterbacks coach Kellen Moore goes one-on-one with 5 Points Blue to answer readers’ questions about the Cowboys’ playbook and the process of “installing” the offense as the team prepares for the 2018 season.

Q:  How many plays are in the playbook, and do those number of plays in the offense’s game plan vary week-to-week depending on your opponent?   Audrey; Frisco, TX

MOORE:  It can be a light week where there are 70-80 plays, or it could be a week in which you have 100-plus plays.  I kind of varies.  Each week is its own deal, and it can vary depending on your opponent.  Sometimes there is some overlap depending on how their defense plays and what you’re looking to attack based off your own personnel. Sometimes there is no overlap at all.

But as for the overall playbook, it almost feels unlimited because of all the moving parts and different variations you can do within plays.

Q:  When did the Cowboys and the NFL start using iPads instead of paper notebooks for their playbooks?  Kate; Atlanta, Georgia

MOORE:  It’s been several years.  Ever since I’ve been in Dallas (2015), we’ve had them.  In college at Boise State, we were all paper.  When I joined the Detroit Lions (2012), we were just starting to get into the iPad world.

I’m a little more old-school in that I like the paper version.  Maybe the quarterback world is a little different because we still like to have the printed copies because we take a lot of notes.  But, certainly, the iPads are valuable because it’s awesome to have all that information stores in one small space.

If you had to carry all that in paper, you’d be carrying encyclopedias of all the information. But with the iPad, it’s all there and it’s easy to flip in-and-out and find all the references and the playbooks and the installs.

Q:  How is an NFL playbook organized?  Running plays and passing plays?  And how do coaches introduce the playbook to the new Cowboys who may have played in different types of offenses during college or with other NFL teams?  Staci; Dallas, TX

MOORE:  For the most part, the installation of the playbook is organized by play styles. Certainly, the run game and the play action (which begins with a fake-handoff to the running back before the quarterback passes the ball) and the screen (short pass, usually to a running back) are all lumped together into certain concepts.

From there, as it evolves, you install things for certain situations.   Those situations could include goal-line plays, two-minute drill, red zone plays, or 3rd-down plays.  Whatever the situation, those things are installed specifically for those days of practice.

The thing is, if you spend all your time trying to learn everything at once, you’re never going to learn much.  So, you focus on each day.  Use each day to learn what is installed that day.  And then, as you progress through each day, your knowledge base gets bigger and bigger.

We did a 9-day install at OTAs (3 weeks, 3 practices per week).  Then for Training Camp, you do the same daily install.  Hopefully for guys like (rookie QB) Mike White, our young guys, they go through the daily installation and it helps them.  It’s a good system.  You progress through each day of true install, and then from there you keep adding stuff as you go.

But ‘install’ really goes beyond the practice field.  It’s time in the classroom and it starts in the offseason.  You spend only 2 hours-or-so on the field, but you spend much more time in the classroom.  And during OTAs and Minicamp, practices are non-contact and no pads.  In that regard, so much of the work is mental, especially because its’ the beginning of the year and there are so many new players. There are new receivers this year. We have new draft picks.  You’re trying to get everybody on the same page.

Q:  How are you enjoying your first year as a football coach?  It must be tough to make the decision to give up playing football to go into coaching.  Good luck this season!   Louis; Dallas, TX

MOORE:  IT’s been a good transition and I couldn’t ask for it to go more smoothly.  I’m fortunate because of all the familiarity.  Being here as a player, you understand the people you’re going to work with.   You know the offense.  Maybe even more importantly, from a personal standpoint, your family knows Dallas. For us, it’s been a smooth transition and we’ve enjoyed it.  There is still plenty to learn on the coaching side, but it’s been good.