Better believe it, Cowboys sticking with Kellen Moore

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IRVING, Texas -- Standing in the Dallas Cowboys' locker room after their 12th loss of the season, owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he believed his team could win games with Kellen Moore as their starter if something happened to Tony Romo in the future.

Nobody really believed Jones even after Moore threw for 435 yards and three touchdown passes -- as well as two interceptions -- in that loss to the Washington Redskins.

Later in the offseason, executive vice president Stephen Jones threw support behind Moore. Coach Jason Garrett expressed confidence in Moore, too. So did his football father, Scott Linehan, the Cowboys' offensive coordinator.

Nobody believed them either.

When free agency began, the Cowboys visited with Matt Moore but were not willing to pay a lot for the veteran, so he ended up back with the Miami Dolphins. They never really got in the game for Chase Daniel, Colt McCoy or any other veteran available because of price.

When Brian Hoyer was cut and Josh McCown was viewed as a potential cut, many thought that opened a door to the Cowboys. But Hoyer signed with the Chicago Bears and McCown remains with the Cleveland Browns. When it was reported this week that Nick Foles was staying away from offseason workouts with the Los Angeles Rams, the connect-the-dots game with the Cowboys started again.

In the draft, the Cowboys tried to trade back into the first round to select Paxton Lynch but were unsuccessful. Ultimately, they took Dak Prescott in the fourth round and Kellen Moore's status on the depth chart remained unchanged.

It seems nobody wants to believe Moore will be Romo's backup in 2016. They scream either on televisions, radios or with all caps on the internet: Don't the Cowboys know Romo turned 36 in April and hasn't played a full season since 2012?

"That's the NFL," Moore said. "The longer you're in it, the more you realize that and you don't worry about it. You have certain things you can control and worry about those things."

Moore can't worry about public perception. At 6-foot, 200 pounds, Moore does not fit the NFL quarterback mold. When he throws, the ball does not hiss through the air with a tight spiral. It almost looks like it bobs on the ocean, staying away from the defenders' arms before settling into a receiver's hands.

"He's not a guy that overly impresses you physically," Garrett said. "He's not an imposing figure when he walks into the room. He doesn't have an overly powerful arm. He's not overly athletic. But he has a lot of the things that really good quarterbacks have. He understands the game. He has a good feel for the game. He's instinctive. He's a very accurate passer. He's a quick decision-maker. And he's a very good leader."

When the offseason began, finding a backup quarterback seemed to be one of the Cowboys' top priorities. The Cowboys went 1-11 with Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Moore as their starter with Romo out with a twice-broken left collarbone.

Linehan was Moore's first offensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions in 2012. Moore never played a snap for the Lions, but Linehan liked him. When he was cut last summer, the Cowboys put him on their practice squad. When Romo got hurt, he was added to the active roster.

When the coaches decided they had seen enough of Cassel, they called on Moore. In three games, he had four touchdowns and six interceptions. He completed 61 of 104 passes for 779 yards.

"It wasn't perfect," Linehan said. "We had some adversity in those games. He had some mistakes, as everyone in those games did. The quarterback is definitely amplified. But we felt the execution of your offense was more like we would expect. There were two quarters we would like to throw out. But after that it looked like ourselves."

Despite his knowledge of Linehan, Moore feels like he will benefit from a full offseason of work. Terminology with the Lions meant something else with the Cowboys. Instead of learning the offense, he had to learn game plans.

This offseason, Moore is also studying Romo.

"One thing I like to focus on is there's the playbook way and then there's the way sometimes Tony does things," Moore said. "I think it's important that everything is kind of streamlined. If they're hearing something the way Tony does it, then I'm kind of using that same language, whether it's a cadence or communication at the line. You want to be on the same page."

The Cowboys seem to be on the same page with Moore, going back to Jones' comments in January. It's just that nobody else believes them.

Moore gets it.

"A lot of guys in my situation wait and never get that chance," Moore said. "You're fortunate to be in this situation."