TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — A trip to Duke University a year ago to help Peyton Manning work his way back from neck surgery turned out to be just as beneficial for his longtime offensive coordinator, Tom Moore.
Knee problems had forced the highly respected coach into retirement, although he doesn’t like the word. And as Moore tells it, when Duke coach David Cutcliffe saw all the pain the old coach was dealing with, he said, “We’ve got to do something about that.”
A visit to the top specialist in the field at Duke led to surgery to replace both knees, one last April and the other in August.
“It’s like a new world,” Moore said on Friday. “All of a sudden you’re pain-free, you’ve got all your energy back, you’ve got your quality of life back, and it’s a new world for me.”
Five weeks helping the Tennessee Titans convinced the 74-year-old coach he was ready to return to the work he loves.
“Don’t worry about my chronological age,” he said, “because I feel like I’m about 50 now. So when Bruce (Arians) gave me this opportunity, I jumped on it. I’ve still got a lot of coaching to do. I love coaching. You know, I’ve lived a dream. To be able to continue to coach, it’s a privilege.”
Arians, hired by the Cardinals to replace the fired Ken Whisenhunt after going 9-3 as interim head coach in Indianapolis last season while Chuck Pagano was being treated for leukemia, said he saw Moore “bouncing around” a hotel in Jacksonville last season and told him, “If I’ve got a job, you’ve got a job, no matter where that might be.”
Moore and Arians worked together for three years with the Colts, tutoring the young Manning before Arians left to climb the coaching ladder, eventually becoming offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh. Arians returned to Indianapolis as offensive coordinator last season.
Moore stayed in Indy and oversaw the development of one of the game’s most prolific offenses and one of its greatest quarterbacks.
Moore, now the Cardinals’ assistant head coach and passing-game coordinator, will be entering his 35th year as an NFL assistant. Among active coaches, only Dick LeBeau (40) and Wade Phillips (36) have been around longer.
“I really can’t put into words what it means to have this gentleman sit next to me,” Arians said at Friday’s news conference. “He forgot more football than most people in this league know. His knowledge of offense and the way he can simplify it — I’ve been around a longtime myself, but nobody can teach it better than he can.”
While Moore’s knowledge base is extensive, he said he wanted to make sure he was physically able to give it his all in Arizona.
“I wanted to make sure I could do it justice, because I believe in professionalism,” Moore said. “I wasn’t going to take a job unless I could give it 120 percent total commitment, because people deserve it — the players deserve it, the organization deserves it and certainly Bruce deserves it. So here I am.”
The challenge is a big one. The Cardinals’ offense was the worst in the NFL last season. The offensive line has struggled for several years, and there is no sure-fire starting quarterback, although Kevin Kolb showed glimpses of becoming that player early last year, starting 4-1 before having his season ended by a rib injury.
Moore, who said he learned most of what he knows about football while spending 13 years working for Chuck Knoll, said a coach should not try to force players to fit his system.
“You don’t come in with preconceived ideas and say, ‘Hey, I’m Tom Moore and this is what we’re going to do,'” he said.
Instead, he said, coaches must build around the strengths of the players, quarterback or otherwise.
“You’ve got to do what your players can do,” he said, “find out what they can do, what they’re the best at, find out what their strengths are and then make sure you take advantage of their strengths and maximize them. As a coach, your job is to make sure you give your players a chance to be the very best they can be.”
He and Arians are in the midst of identifying the Cardinals’ strengths.
“Everything in the passing game starts with protection,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. There’s all kinds of pass patterns, millions of pass patterns and all good pass patterns. But the biggest single thing you’ve got to work on initially at first and get established each week is your pass protection.”
To that end, Kolb was sacked 17 times in a two-week span prior to being hurt.
Moore was asked if he could fathom that stat.
“That’s history,” he said. “I don’t deal in the past.”