In today’s modern version of football, throwing the ball is the greatest indicator of any individual unit’s success. Think of the greatest offenses you’ve ever seen, either college or pros. The most dynamic, impactful, and fun offenses were those that were making dynamite plays through the air. In the NFL, the Draft focuses on those who throw the ball (quarterbacks) and those that can stop those who throw the ball (defensive ends). In college the best indicator of an elite offense is a dynamite passing game, and the trademark of an elite defense is an experienced secondary. There are those out there who find success without experience but, as a broader trend, it’s the best harbinger of quality.
Eli Drinkwitz’s Missouri offenses have not been known for their intimidating passing game. If anything, the pass has been secondary to Larry Rountree III/Tyler Badie/Cody Schrader and the ability for Mizzou to rack up yards on the ground. Whether that’s because of lackluster quarterback play, inexperienced receivers, or both, Missouri has zagged to the modern game’s zig embracing of “throw to win”. And the results have been...meh.
Enter: Kirby Moore. Fresno State’s long-time wide receivers coach - and one-year offensive coordinator - enters the offensive meeting room with the title to change how things are doing with the points-scoring bros. Whether the offense will be Drink’s stuff with Moore’s calls, Moore’s stuff with Drink’s calls, or a happy blend of both will never 100% be known to us in the fanbase sphere. But the fact that a relative outsider is given clearance to call plays and manage the offense with Drink (hopefully) being more of a manager than a helicopter parent should give Tiger fans new hope for the offense in ‘23.
Also, Kirby Moore is 31 years old, barely edging out Al Davis as the youngest member of Drinkwitz’s staff. Yes, you are old. We’re fine. We’re all fine here now, thank you. How are you?
Look at this loveable, floppy-haired doofus:
This unassuming go-getter was the younger brother of G5 darling quarterback Kellen Moore who led those daring Boise State teams of the late aughts into upsets of P5 programs and became the winningest quarterback in college football history. The younger Moore was no slouch, either: he finished his Boise career with 115 catches for 1,137 yards and 6 touchdowns. But his future in football was always going to be on the coaching side, and after a post-graduate spin at upstart College of Idaho’s brand new football program, joined his college coach Chris Petersen at Washington for the Playoff run of 2016. He then went to Fresno State where he coached wide receivers for five years.
Kirby Moore’s link to the rest of the staff
- None. He graduated the year before Drink took the tight end position at Boise and none of the other guys currently on staff worked in the Pacific Northwest.
Is he good at what he does?
Obviously any coaching hire a school makes is impossible to determine if it’s “good” or not until you see them operate. But we can see what he’s done in the past in an effort to figure out if that can translate in CoMo.
Let’s start with his first year as an on-field coach at Fresno in 2017:
With a very obvious #1 target and an older, non-mobile quarterback insistent on making safe throws, Fresno’s receivers were the most explosive they’ve been over the past five years thanks to All-MWC 2nd teamer (and current Buffalo Bill) KeeSean Johnson. De’Mari Scott and Jamire Jordan were an effective second and third option as well as those three combined for 89% of Fresno’s receiving yards. A 42% success rate is around the national average but it was Johnson’s ability, in particular, to create big plays that determined the overall success of the 60th-best passing attack in the country.
Johnson and Jordan were still very good - Johnson even elevated his game to 1,340 yards! - but there wasn’t much effective depth behind them to even out targets and catches. Still, this was the 16th-best passing offense in the country in 2018 but the fact that it was overly reliant on two dudes who were graduating meant that the following year was going to be rough in terms of breaking in effective new pieces (Missouri’s passing game in 2015 nods approvingly).
With no standout superstar to throw to and a brand new quarterback throwing the ball, the Bulldogs passing offense tumbled from 16th to 61st, relying instead on quick passes that could keep the success rate up. The trade off, then, was that it was not an explosive passing attack at all. The targets were more clearly spread out but no one did much with what they got. However, they were able to get a freshman, Jalen Cropper, on the field and that made a huge difference as the years went on.
I famously don’t put much stock - if any - into what happened in the 2020 season, but for Fresno, they were able to identify their stud quarterback (Jake Haener) and their play-making receiver (Cropper) and begin to grow that connection. Josh Kelly and Keric Wheatfall were decent secondary targets as well while walk-on Erik Brooks began carving out an effective spot as a reliable 1st-down conversion machine. The yardage wasn’t there (keep in mind they only played 6 games) but the reps and development absolutely paid off.
And here is the payoff! Cropper, Kelly, and Wheatfall all finished with over 600 yards receiving while Zane Pope threw in another 471. Haener threw for over 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns thanks to those four and, while the explosive factor wasn’t there, the Bulldogs finished 7th in passing efficiency.
Even though Moore was the OC in ‘22, I wanted you all to at least see what his guys did in the year that he was calling plays. The offense overall regressed with Moore at the helm - even with Haener returning - but had to go to a backup quarterback for four games when Kirby had to get creative in how he called plays. Still, the receivers once against finished with over 3,000 yards receiving and 19 touchdowns. And, once again, the passing game was Top 20 in efficiency (48% ranked 16th) and less than stellar in explosive plays (78th). Cropper managed to get over 1,000 yards on the year with Zane Pope and transfer Nikko Remigio combining for over 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns as well.
Here’s your TL;DR
- Is familiar with the Petersen/Boise/Drinkwitz-style offense
- Shown an ability to maintain, rebuild, and improve a receiving corps
- Has experience calling plays
- Has only been a coordinator in the college ranks for one year
- Previous stop had talent and program infrastructure much better than most of the competition they played against.
In a way, Moore is to Missouri’s offensive coordinator as Drinkwitz getting hired as the head coach at Mizzou. Both are super young. Both have very little experience. But both have a style that has been shown to work and the school is buying low in hopes that they grow and develop while at Columbia. Moore has experience calling plays and managing an offense and (hopefully) has the freedom to tweak and operate in the way that he wants. Finding the quarterback comes first. Calling an adaptable gameplan that schemes to weaknesses and plays to your unit’s strength is second. I don’t know how well he’ll do with any of that but I’m excited to find out.
Next week we’ll look at his one year at Fresno to figure out what a “Kirby Moore Offense” can look like.