Koetter could be exactly what the Falcons need in 2019

Garrett Chapman
May 17, 2019 - 1:56 pm
Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter

© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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The Atlanta Falcons tabbed a familiar face to be their new offensive coordinator when they hired Dirk Koetter to come back to the Peach State. Koetter brings a wealth of offensive play calling experience and division familiarity to the coaching staff. Koetter spent the last three years in Tampa Bay as the head coach of the Buccaneers where he compiled a 19-29 overall record. 

In his first stint in Atlanta, Koetter helped guide the Falcons to the 2012 NFC Championship Game (Had it not been for some late-game heroics from one Colin Kaepernick, maybe even a Super Bowl.). His offense finished seventh that year in points scored at 26.2 per game and if it hadn’t been for offensive line issues, that success would have likely continued into the latter years of his first stint. 

With the offensive line failing to open lanes for the running game pairing with the world crashing down on defense, the demise of the coaching staff was set. Even through those issues, Koetter still had the passing game working. He finished no lower than seventh in the league in passing and even with no running game to speak of, Koetter still had the team hovering around as a top-10 offense. 

The problem wasn’t with the offensive coordinator.

However the decision to reinstate him was met with a bit of a lukewarm response from many Falcon fans.

Critics blame him for the rushing woes that plagued the team, and yes, while Koetter was in Atlanta the Falcons did experience a dramatic decline in rushing offense. Although that likely had much more to do with aging running backs and the aforementioned offensive line woes than it did with his commitment to the ground game. According to Pro Football Focus, that offensive line finished 30th in 2013 and 26th in 2014. Even the best offenses would struggle with that sort of protection. 

In fact, when given the necessary offensive line and running backs, Koetter can put together a solid running game. He has had three different seasons where his rushing attack finished top five in the league. 

With the heavy re-investment in the offensive line and a terrific running back in Devonta Freeman, the Falcons likely have the tools Koetter needs to succeed.

Other critics select his ineffective stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a reason not to get excited. However, that experience was nearly identical to his first time in Atlanta. Despite what the rather pedestrian overall record was, the offense was still exceedingly potent. Like in Atlanta, the ground game struggled. Although he never really had a dynamic threat at the position outside of the one season from Doug Martin in 2015 before injuries wrecked his career. The defense was also downright atrocious at times and was never able to get out of the bottom half of the league. 

All that being said, his passing offense remained in good company. His last year in Tampa saw the team finishing as the top overall passing offense at 320.3 per game and he was still able to finish top three in total yards at 415.5 per game. 

Again, the problem wasn’t with the guy calling the plays.

Bringing him back was the right call for more reasons than one, but most of all, it’s his familiarity with Matt Ryan.

While Ryan has been the model of consistency in his time in Atlanta, the same cannot be said of who is calling the plays. Ryan has had the unfortunate task of acclimating himself to a new coordinator four separate times over his 12 seasons, and three times in the last five years. While it is a tremendous feat for Ryan to have been able to adjust quickly to new coordinators every few years, it’s not something that any quarterback would envy.

Ryan experienced a lot of success under his old (or new?) offensive coordinator and they were a pretty electric pair. In their three seasons together, the veteran quarterback averaged a solid 4,642 yards, 28.6 touchdowns, a 67.43 percent completion percentage, and 94.1 passer rating. Those numbers were good enough to help Ryan finish top five in passing every season and garner two Pro Bowl selections. 

Wide receiver Julio Jones also had good experiences when Koetter was last calling plays for Atlanta. The then-very young wide receiver had a breakout season when Koetter first joined the staff. In that first season together, Jones went off for his first 1,000-yard season and scored 10 touchdowns, which is still a career high. In Koetter’s final year with the Falcons, Jones exploded again for nearly 1,600 yards, another career high at the time.

Koetter set the groundwork for Jones in the NFL and help take Ryan to the next level. That, by itself, should get Falcon fans excited. 

Koetter has shown the ability to get a high level of production from his players. With likely the best offensive arsenal he has had in his career, expectations will certainly be high. His hiring in Atlanta points to the understood identity of what the team wants to be in 2019. The Falcons will score, and then score some more. 

With a strong passing attack and a steady running game, Koetter will be tasked with getting the Falcons back to the level they were on in 2016. That sort of production is something the Falcons are certainly capable of since the team finished in the top 10 of the league in offense despite the rash of injuries that plagued the team. With Koetter at the helm, more will be expected. Even his Pro Bowl wide receiver in Tampa believes they will be a top five offense.

The Falcons are loaded on offense. They boast the best trio of wide receivers in the league, they have a surefire franchise quarterback, they have a Pro Bowl running back, and they have re-invested in the offensive line. 

Now, they have an offensive mastermind calling the plays.

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