Former Steelers coach Moore guiding Colts' offense
February 3, 2010 10:00 AM
Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
MIAMI -- He sounds like Jimmy Stewart and preaches the simple philosophy. You would never know Tom Moore as the mad scientist behind Peyton Manning and all those football hieroglyphics that take place at the line of scrimmage every time the Indianapolis Colts get ready to snap the ball.
You might especially find it bemusing if you watched the Steelers force Moore out of his job as their offensive coordinator after the 1989 season because his style was too stodgy. The fact he coordinates the NFL's cutting-edge offense with the Colts and has teamed with Manning his whole career in Indianapolis has to be sweet revenge for Moore, 71.
Yet he would admit to none of that yesterday as he relaxed in a seat at the newly named Sun Life Stadium. He would not even acknowledge the irony that, 20 years later, the Steelers president expressed a desire for his team to run the ball more consistently next season.
"Whatever," is all Moore said to that one.
The cherry on top can be found in the additional detail that the current Steelers coordinator is Bruce Arians, Peyton Manning's first quarterbacks coach who worked under Moore in Indianapolis. The two coaches remain friends and surely share some philosophies, but Moore would have none of that either. He says he has one overriding philosophy on offense.
"There are lots of systems, there are tons of systems," Moore said. "But the trick is no systems, the trick is players and making sure you take something that the players can do and not get into, 'Well, this is mine and this is what we're going to do.' It's what's best for the players."
Chuck Noll hired Moore in 1977 to coach his wide receivers in an era in which Noll served as his own offensive coordinator. Moore helped develop the new passing attack they used in '78 when the rules changed and suddenly Terry Bradshaw's offense turned into one of the best in the league at throwing the ball.
"We went to the Super Bowl in '78 and '79 and we got more involved in passing and we still had the good running game, we were two-back because that's what our personnel dictated," Moore said.
The Steelers adapted, and they tried again in the 1980s when their talent at quarterback was not so good and they ran the ball more often and suddenly Moore's offense became "stodgy."
"I never called it that," Moore said, laughing. "I thought it was productive, I don't know.
"You have to change, you have to adapt, you have to do what your people do. It's a game of people. I was at Detroit and we had three wide receivers and one tight end and Barry Sanders, so that was our offense. It's people, playing your people, and as a coach your job is to give them every opportunity they can possibly have to succeed. That's our job. It's not about us, it's them.
"Chuck Noll taught me everything I know about pro football. One of the biggest things is utilization of people, do what your people do and have a belief and stay with your belief and be consistent when everybody might not be that way."
Moore did not have a style in mind for Manning when the two came together for the first time in Indianapolis in 1998, certainly did not draw up the no-huddle offense with all of Peyton's hand signals and pauses and runs down the offensive line as the 40-second play clock ticks down.
"He's trying to make decisions at the line of scrimmage," Moore said. "It's a decision-making progress, so that's what he's doing. It's evolved over the course of time; audibles have been in since the game started, so it just evolved.
"Chuck Noll ... was a great teacher. It was the thing to do with Terry. I wasn't there initially, I came there in '77, but it's a coach's philosophy. It's one of my philosophies. You get a guy like Peyton who has that capability and why not let him do what he does well?"
This could be it for the Moore and Manning partnership. Moore "retired" after last season because of a complication in the NFL pension system. He returned when the Colts found a way around it, but some believe Super Bowl XLIV Sunday might be it, including Manning.
"I am certainly aware this year probably will be his last year," Manning said.
For all anyone knows, Moore never was a serious candidate to become a head coach in the NFL. It might be that simple philosophy of trying to do what's best for his players and his offense rather than trying to showcase himself.
If so, it worked for him and his teams including, for a long while, the Steelers.
"I don't know if there will ever be an assistant coach in the Hall of Fame, but if there is one, Tom Moore has got to be the first one in," Manning said. "He has paid his dues.
"I am sure he at least had aspirations at one time to be a head coach, but his goal was to be the best assistant coach there was. He has been a coordinator most places he has been and he has been one of the top coordinators around. I will be indebted to him."