Atlanta Falcons: Grading the Hire of Dirk Koetter as Offensive Coordinator

Atlanta Falcons, Dirk Koetter, Dan Quinn (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Atlanta Falcons, Dirk Koetter, Dan Quinn (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Falcons welcomed a familiar face to the brotherhood by hiring former offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to resume the same position with the franchise. We take a look at Dirk’s resume and why the move is a risk.

Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter made a name for himself as a college head coach, coaching Boise State and Arizona State universities. He is credited with the beginning of Boise State becoming a highly regarded College football program.

After being let go at Arizona State, Dirk Koetter got his first chance to call plays in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars, being hired as offensive coordinator in 2007. In his first year with Jacksonville, Koetter called played for the NFL’s number six scoring offense. The Jags were led by running back Fred Taylor and quarterback David Garrard.

As Fred Taylor began to decline, so did the Jaguars offense. They dropped to number 24 in 2008. The team also ranked number 24 in 2009, their first year without Fred.

Dirk Koetter’s offense improved slightly in 2010, ranking number 18 in the league in scoring, as Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for over 1300 yards for the second straight season.

2011 saw the Jaguars slip to number 28 in scoring, their lowest ranking under Dirk Koetter. Despite the low scoring season running back Maurice Jones-Drew had a phenomenal season. He was the NFL’s leading rusher with 1606 yards and eight touchdowns.

Dirk Koetter’s contract expired after the 2011 season and he accepted a job as the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator for the 2012 season. Under Dirk Koetter, Matt Ryan transformed from a game manager to one of the top passers in the NFL.

In Dirk Koetter’s first year with Atlanta, Matt Ryan set new career highs in several categories. He jumped in passing yards from 4177 to 4719. That season is still the third best passing yardage total of Ryan’s career thus far.

In that 2012 season, Matt Ryan also completed 68.6 percent of his passes and threw 32 touchdown passes, both career highs at the time. In fact Ryan threw for at least 45000 yards, threw at least 26 touchdowns and completed at least 66 percent of his passes, in each of the three seasons Koetter was his play caller.

The Atlanta Falcons seemed to give Matt Ryan more freedom to audible at the line of scrimmage, when Dirk Koetter was the offensive coordinator. The no-huddle offense was also used as a change of pace strategy much more under Dirk Koetter than in recent years.

During the three seasons that Dirk Koetter was the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, the offense was ranked number seven, number 20 and number 12. The Falcons had several key injuries in 2013 and 2014 including multiple wide receivers and offensive linemen.

The number seven ranking in 2012 is more indicative of the type of offense that Koetter can run when he has the talent. When Dan Quinn was hired he hand-picked Kyle Shanahan to run the offense, that ended Dirk Koetter’s first stint with the Atlanta Falcons.

Dirk Koetter moved on and accepted the offensive coordinator position with the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015. Tampa Bay finished with the number 20 offense in Koetter’s first year. The Buccaneers were coming off the worse record in the NFL, in which they drafted quarterback Jameis Winston with the number one overall pick.

Head coach Lovie Smith was fired after the 2015 season and Dirk Koetter was elevated to the head coaching position. The Buccaneers saw a marginal improvement in scoring in 2016 and 2017, ranking number 18 in both years.

This past season the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense improved six spots in scoring to number 12. They were a top offense in terms of yards produced, ranking number three in the entire NFL. Despite that fact, Koetter and his staff were fired and now here we are with Dirk back in Atlanta.

Dirk Koetter’s Average Scoring Rank: 17.25

Rehiring Dirk Koetter was a risk, but a calculated one. One thing that may concern many people is the fact that Tampa Bay ranked number 22 in rushing this past season.

Dan Quinn has stated multiple times this offseason that he want to run the ball more than the 35% the team ran last season. He also wants to run the ball more effectively. This associated press article published in USA Today details Quinn wanting more from the running game.

Personally I’m not concerned about Koetter not running the ball much in Tampa. The Buccaneers don’t have a great running back or offensive line.

Dirk Koetter showed in Jacksonville that he will run the ball with a good back and a good offensive line. Maurice Jones-Drew having three consecutive seasons of more than 1300 yards is evidence that he is not adverse to the running game.

The main concern is, that the Atlanta Falcons zone blocking scheme is typically not a part of Dirk Koetter’s offense. He generally emphasizes a power blocking scheme. With Jake Mathews and Alex Mack firmly entrenched as starters, the Atlanta Falcons may not be willing to change the blocking scheme forcing Dirk to adapt.

The concern of Dirk Koetter adapting to the blocking scheme is minor compared to the benefit of having an offensive coordinator that Matt Ryan knows and is comfortable with. This should eliminate the typical one year learning curve that it typically takes Matt Ryan to learn a new offense.

Short of hiring Gary Kubiak who the Falcons were denied permission to talk to, there wasn’t a candidate that made more sense than this for Atlanta at this stage of Matt Ryan’s career.

If general manager Thomas Dimitroff can shore up the offense line, Dirk Koetter can keep a good run pass balance and Matt Ryan is allowed more freedom to run the no huddle offense, the Atlanta Falcons will return to the playoffs next season. If Dirk Koetter and Matt Ryan can pick up where they left off, the Dirty Birds just might hoist the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl Champions.

ATL All Day Grade: B+

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