O'HARA: Kellen Moore taking the steps to build a career

Posted Apr 3, 2015

Kellen Moore has done more than jog in place in three seasons as the Lions’ third-string quarterback.

Kellen Moore has done more than jog in place in three seasons as the Lions’ third-string quarterback.

It doesn’t show up in his stats – for the obvious reason that Moore has never been active for a regular-season game – but he has taken the small steps and made small gains that add up to building a career for a quarterback in his position.

With little fanfare and not much notice, Moore signed a two-year contract on March 6 to return to the Lions. He would have been a restricted free agent on March 10, but Moore chose to re-up rather than test the market to see if he could get a better deal elsewhere.

Signing back with the Lions was a step up.

Kellen MooreQB Kellen Moore (Photo: Gavin Smith / Detroit Lions)

“It’s a good place, a good situation,” Moore said in a telephone interview from Boise, where he is spending the offseason with his wife, Julie, and their young child.

“Ideally, the hope was to be able to go back, as long as there was a little plan in place. I feel like it’s a good situation to go back to. I didn’t have to deal with all the variables.”

When Moore says “little plan in place,” it’s the opportunity to improve his status on the quarterback depth chart.

Barring injury or some unforeseen circumstance, the Lions are committed to going into the 2015 season with the same three quarterbacks as last season with Matthew Stafford locked in as the starter. Dan Orlovsky and Moore are in reserve.

A change in the order of backups is possible. Orlovsky, who also re-signed before the start of free-agency, was the backup last year and was active on the 46-player game-day roster for every game. As the No. 3, Moore was not active for any games.

Moore has no assurances, but there are indications that he’ll have a chance to compete to be No. 2.

“They all have a chance,” head coach Jim Caldwell said at the recent NFL Annual Meeting. “He’s got some qualities that you really like.”

Also at the Annual Meeting, GM Martin Mayhew said that the offensive coaches Moore has worked under in Detroit have been impressed that he is always prepared and does not make mental errors.

The two-year, $1.825-million contract Moore signed showed how he is valued. A signing bonus of $340,000 was a considerable jump from the $20,000 he got on his three-year rookie deal after not being taken in the 2012 draft.

“It’s nice that they see some value in you,” Moore said. “As a backup quarterback, you’re not seen on the field, other than a few August games. But hopefully, you still have an impact on the team – with the other players, helping in the film room.

“We enjoy Detroit – stuff that’s not football related. Obviously, in the football side of it we have a good room. Matthew’s obviously a tremendous quarterback. Dan’s been awesome. It’s awesome that we’re all set to come back.”

Moore’s accomplishments at Boise State and at Prosser High in Washington, where he played for his father, Tom, are so far above the level of what qualifies as excellent that on stats alone, Moore would qualify as a high first-round draft pick.

He threw 67 TD passes as a senior at Prosser. At Boise State he had a career 50-3 won-lost record as a starter, throwing 143 TD passes against 28 interceptions.

His size – slightly under 6 feet and 197 pounds – and lack of a strong arm are measurable qualities that kept him from being drafted.

But above the neck – football smarts, savvy, work ethic, professionalism – he more than meets the requirements. Those qualities are part of why the Lions signed him in the first place, and why they signed him back.

“I think it’s fair,” Moore said of his contract. “You’re reasonable in your expectations. At the same time, I feel like they expressed a value in me. And hopefully, there’s a plan that includes me in the future.

“Obviously, at the end of the day all of us love playing the game of football. Only so many guys get to play. We’ve got good guys, and we’ve got a great starter in Matthew.

“You have to take advantage of opportunities, whether it’s preseason games or whatever.”

Playing quarterback can be a tenuous existence in the NFL. What seems set in stone can be broken apart in an instant.

In 2008, the Lions used three starting quarterbacks – Jon Kitna, Daunte Culpepper and Orlovsky – and went 0-16.

In 2013, their NFC North rival Green Bay Packers used four starters  -- Aaron Rodgers, Seneca Wallace, Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien -- because of an injury to Rodgers. They wound up winning the North.

Last season, 19 of the 32 teams started the season with three quarterbacks on the roster. The other 13 had two.

Seasons and careers – for starters and backups – can be changed by one hit. Stafford missed 19 of 32 games because of injuries in his first two seasons and has started all 64 games the last four years.

“Bottom line, there are crazy things that happen in this world,” Moore said. “Opportunities come in unique situations.”

In 12 preseason games with the Lions, Moore has completed 99 of 167 passes for 1,028 yards, eight TDs and three interceptions.

Last year, Caldwell never said that there was competition between Moore and Orlovsky for the backup job, but there was speculation that it was up for grabs. Open or not, Moore had a strong preseason, completing 35 of 51 passes for 361 yards, three TDs and no interceptions.

When the regular season began, he and Orlovsky went back to their roles of providing support for the starter. Moore had made his mark as a player in the preseason, though.

“For the most part, you get limited opportunities,” he said. “Most of those come in August. You might throw 40 to 60 balls in the preseason. That’s a very small sample size, compared to a season.

“There are four games in August each year. Hopefully, you take advantage of those opportunities when you get out there. This really is a neat opportunity.”