Eight takeaways from new Chargers OC Kellen Moore’s introductory news conference
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.
1. The Chargers and coach Brandon Staley have focused most of their offensive coordinator search on the Kyle Shanahan-Sean McVay coaching tree. They interviewed three assistant coaches on the Rams staff from McVay to 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 under former Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. Moore, of course, is not from this tree.
Moore was asked about the emphasis Staley had on that specific tree — something Staley spoke about explicitly during his post-season press conference. And Moore explained his core beliefs and philosophies in the context of this tree.
“Offensively, you take pieces from everyone,” Moore said. “And I think that’s the beauty of it. We are going to build a Los Angeles Chargers offense in 2023.”
He later added: “Naturally, just because you haven’t trained with certain coaches doesn’t mean you aren’t (not) greatly influenced by those guys. Certainly the young offensive head coaches have had a huge impact on this league and are guys that I watch every week, and I love watching these guys and studying their offenses and hopefully being able to incorporate some of them.
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 offensive coordinator in 2021. Quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Shane Day, who was let go with Lombardi last month, had coached at the both Shanahan and McVay. Tight ends coach Kevin Koger had spent two seasons coaching under Matt LaFleur, who coached both Shanahan and McVay. Staley talked about creating a mix and incorporating some of those elements.
It never really materialized. The offense more or less worked in Lombardi’s image with a heavy dose of shorter development routes and concepts. The Chargers periodically moved Justin Herbert on bootlegs — a staple of the Shanahan-McVay offensive style — but it was never a backbone or major part of the scheme at any time. What was particularly missing was what Staley called the “marriage of the run and the pass.”
So I’m in wait-and-see mode when it comes to incorporating some of these elements into the offense, given Moore’s track record.
3. Moore mentioned two systems when discussing his basic 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, created by legendary 49ers coach Bill Walsh.
Moore has ties to both systems.
He spent the last three years of his NFL playing career as a reserve 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 served as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator from 1994 to 1997, and Garrett was a backup quarterback for Dallas during those seasons. Moore then coached under Garrett for two seasons at Dallas, first as quarterbacks coach in 2018 and then as offensive coordinator in 2019. The Air Coryell system is truly a passing down offense.
Moore then learned the West Coast system from Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy. Moore has been McCarthy’s offensive coordinator and point guard for the past three seasons. McCarthy coached under Paul Hackett for nearly a decade, first at the University of Pittsburgh and then with the Chiefs. Hackett coached under Walsh for three seasons with the 49ers.
The West Coast offense, which is mostly rooted in shorter horizontal timing 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 it is passed down and shaped by different coaches. But that connection is worth mentioning, especially since there might be some overlap between what Herbert learned in the previous offense and the West Coast concepts that Moore will bring.
“Will you be able to see the Air Coryell-Jason Garrett side? Absolutely,” Moore said. “Can you see the West Coast and Mike McCarthy? Absolutely. We’ll keep things in place here that Justin feels really, really good about. And then we’ll be ready to explore.
Kellen Moore said the Chargers will retain elements of their offense that Justin Herbert loves while being “willing to explore” more. (Ron Chenoy / USA Today)
4. This marriage of running and passing is a crucial part of what Moore needs to build. The Chargers lacked a certain level of intention when designing and preparing their running game, and there was a lack of synergy and cohesion between the running game and the passing game in offense from Lombardi, particularly in 2022. Moore was asked about this phrase from Staley – the marriage of running and passing.
“It’s the lineup, and a lot of it is the presentation,” Moore said. “Certainly the running game and the play-action pass and the movements on first down and second down, when those two are in sync, the presentations are similar, it puts the defenses in conflict. I think that’s something that we’re really excited to build here and certainly develop in the first and second game. And it will allow you to be more aggressive, to get the ball down. Granted, that doesn’t mean you go crazy with it, but you can build those marriages. And we all know the best offenses in this league and the beauty. When those two things are in sync, it’s a beautiful thing.
Seems like a good start and a comprehensive approach. We’ll see if Moore can put it into action.
5. Moore referring to pushing the ball “down” should be a welcome sight for Chargers fans. In Lombardi’s two seasons, Herbert ranked 35th out of 38 qualified quarterbacks in aerial yards per attempt, according to TruMedia. With Herbert’s arm talent, there’s no reason for him to be this low. Part of that is Herbert’s propensity to skim through his reads and get to his checkdown. But ultimately, it’s up to the coaching staff to put Herbert in positions where he’s encouraged to make those types of throws.
Much of this conversation is also about staff. The Chargers need to add more speed to the receiver so they can access these areas of the field more consistently and dangerously. Moore spoke rather refreshingly about what speed can do for an offense.
“Speed is always dangerous. We’ve definitely seen that throughout this league, and when you have speed that’s definitely a huge advantage,” Moore said. “You hope you can find a way to create these opportunities always from a schematic point of view. But speed, you can’t coach. Speed is very special. Surely you want some of it. Not all guys need it. There are lots of ways to play football. But certainly when you have it, it’s a nice little perk to be able to use.
6. Moore and Herbert had the chance to connect last summer when they did a commercial for Kendall Auto Group, a chain of car 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 on you,” Moore said. Moore is from Prosser, Wash. Herbert is from Eugene, Ore. Moore played at Boise State. Herbert played at Oregon. Moore said he and Herbert had a “cross-over relationship” from their Northwestern roots.
“He’s a great, great person,” Moore said of Herbert. “Awesome player, definitely know all the physical talent. But I’m just really, really excited to work with him.
7. Moore’s hiring process went quickly for the Chargers. Moore said he had conversations with the Cowboys on Friday and Saturday about his future. Sunday morning, they had agreed to separate. Moore said he then had a conversation with Staley “pretty quickly” and things evolved from there. Staley and Moore spent time together in August when the Chargers and Cowboys held joint workouts.
“Every time you do one, you get to know the other staff members well,” Moore said. “Spend a lot of time organizing practices and schedules and scripts and all that kind of stuff. And I really, really enjoyed my time with Brandon during those few days.
Moore said he and Staley stayed in touch through the season via text, and those joint practices paved the way for how quickly the Chargers were able to move and bring Moore on board.
Kellen Moore previously coached practices at the Chargers facility after the Cowboys came to town in August for joint sessions. (Kirby Lee / USA Today)
8. As for the rest of the Chargers’ offensive staff, Moore gave the impression that this group will remain mostly intact.
“Brandon and I have been able to talk about it over the last few days, and I love how he really likes these offensive personnel,” Moore said. “Every interaction I’ve had, I’ve really, really enjoyed. So I’m really excited to be working with these guys.
The Chargers have an opening at the quarterbacks coach, and that should be filled here in the coming weeks. I could see the Chargers making a change to the offensive line coach. Brendan Nugent was hired last offseason to replace Frank Smith, who left to serve as offensive coordinator in Miami. Nugent was brought in from New Orleans, where he had previously worked alongside Lombardi. This connection has obviously disappeared. And with so much emphasis on improving the running game and building that marriage between the running game and the passing game, an offensive line coach who knows Moore would make sense.
(Top photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)