The Atlanta Falcons are welcoming back offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter for his second stint with the team. Koetter returns with his explosive air raid offense, but does that mean success for quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons?
Dirk Koetter reunites with the Atlanta Falcons after four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, three as the head coach. He was the offensive coordinator for the Falcons from 2012-2014. In those three seasons, the Falcons finished twice in the top 10 in total offense. Ryan made the Pro-Bowl twice and averaged 4,642 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. It seems like a no-brainer that the return of Koetter is an upgrade and will help the Falcons get back into the playoff picture.
Koetter’s offense consists of long developing route concepts with routine downfield shots. His scheme results in gaining yards in chunks, but he also preaches “take what the defense gives you.” It is a very high risk, high reward style and makes it exceptionally hard for his quarterbacks to succeed. On the surface, it seems as though this would lead to more opportunities for the Falcons and be an upgrade. However, looking deeper into a pattern in Koetter’s offenses could spell the opposite.
A common theme among Koetter’s offenses has been turnovers. I am not just talking about his tenure with the Buccaneers and Jameis Winston either. During his first three year stint with Atlanta, Ryan had three of his highest four interception seasons in the league. Ryan has averaged 11 interceptions per year in his career without Koetter while averaging 15 interceptions over the three seasons in Koetter’s offense. For comparison, the “turnover prone” labeled Winston has averaged 14.5 interceptions per season under Koetter.
A good defense and solid running game is key to winning with that type of offense. If you are always turning the ball over and putting your defense in bad spots, they are going to need to make stops. Another way to help mitigate the damage of turnovers is to control the clock with the ground game. Not having that luxury is precisely what lead to the departure of Koetter in Tampa Bay. You could also make the same case for Koetter’s last two seasons in Atlanta. From 2013-2014, Atlanta had 51 turnovers, giving them the 12th highest total in the league in that span. The Buccaneers also sported a 19-29 record under Koetter’s tenure.
The Falcons have a window that may only last a couple more years. Ryan is entering his 12th season and turning 34 years old. His contract has a cap hit that doubles next season and eclipses $33 million. It only grows from there as the next two seasons jump to a $36 million cap hit.Atlanta needs to solidify its defense, as well as get their talented offense back on track to get back to making runs at the Super Bowl.
The Falcons went with the familiar route of bringing back Koetter in hopes of a more natural transition for Ryan and the offense to succeed quickly. With Ryan already knowing the offense, there won’t be the typical “learning period” that can stall a team, especially at the beginning of the year.
Time will tell if Atlanta made the right decision going with comfortability over a possibly better scheme elsewhere. Even with a top 10 offense in his last year in 2014, Koetter and the Falcons only managed a 6-10 season. The high amount of turnovers on the offensive side, along with a struggling defense, looks very familiar to what the Falcons have currently. An important draft is on the horizon to fix the defense and Koetter will need it to give his offense more room for errors.