1. The Koetter Files: Dirk Koetter’s ability to adapt and blend offenses had to be attractive to the Falcons.
When he was hired in 2012 to lead the offense, he had a similar task. He had to blend the best of his vertical Air Coryell passing attack with the Falcons’ power attack that Mike Mularkey ran.
Here’s part of story that was published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Jan. 17, 2012.
By D. Orlando Ledbetter
FLOWERY BRANCH --- Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter shared some of his vision for the team's offense in a teleconference with the local media Monday.
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Koetter, 52, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars, was named to the post Sunday.
Koetter met with quarterback Matt Ryan for about an hour last week. He told Ryan that he's a proponent of the vertical passing game, running the football and that he's been ordered by head coach Mike Smith to improve the team's screen passing attack.
"Every team in the NFL knows that you have to be able to run it even when they know you're going to run it," Koetter said. "You have to be able to throw it even when they know you're going to throw it."
Some contend that the Falcons, who finished 10-6 in the regular season and were defeated in the wild-card round of the playoffs by the New York Giants, became too predictable on offense under former coordinator Mike Mularkey, who was announced as the new head coach in Jacksonville last Wednesday.
The offense finished ranked seventh in points scored (25.1 points per game), 10th in total offense (376.6 yards) and third in time of possession (32:05).
Ryan broke the single-season passing mark set by Jeff George in 1995 by throwing for 4,177 yards, but the unit struggled inside the opponents' 20-yard line. The Falcons scored 31 touchdowns on 60 red-zone trips (51.6 percent), which was 13th in the league. Detroit led the league at 66.1 percent.
Last season, after veteran quarterback David Garrard was released Sept. 6, the Jaguars went with inexperienced quarterbacks and finished last in the league in total offense, averaging 259.3 yards per game.
Koetter said he will combine the best parts of the two offenses.
"It would be foolish to not build on some of the things that Atlanta is already doing very well," Koetter said. "Watching from afar, Atlanta played well in the no-huddle. [From] talking to Matt Ryan, that is something that Matt is excited about, so the no-huddle will certainly be a part of it; what percentage is still to be determined."
He also came in and used the same terminology for quarterback Matt Ryan, who said that made it a smooth transition.
Quinn said adaptability would be key for the new offensive coordinator. Also, he couldn’t go out and get some first-time coordinator who’d have to learn on a job.
“We're not having wholesale changes on how we play in terms of a system,” Quinn said last week. “Not only is it important for the players and the staff, but also for Thomas (Dimitroff) and his staff as well in terms of the players that we're scouting for, to fit the system. I think adaptability is probably the top factor going in.”
The Falcons’ running game fell off last season, while the passing attack continued at a high level. Fixing the offensive line is a major priority this offseason.
The Falcons passed for 290.8 yards per game, which ranked fourth in the league last season. They rushed for 98.3 yards per game, which ranked 27th in the league.
“We’ll have both outside and inside zone for sure,” Quinn said. “And what ways we can feature the guys best. So, it will definitely be still heavy in the zone, but definitely new ideas, new ways to do things, that’s definitely a part of it.
“But not a wholesale change in terms of the philosophy. But as far as new schemes, new wrinkle part of it, adjustments, yes. (But no) wholesale changes to the scheme.”
2. Super Bowl Odds: After the wild card round of the NFL players, the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs have emerged as the favorites to play in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, according to bookmaker.eu updated odds.
While the Chiefs are the favorite to represent the AFC, the Patriots seem to be closing in. The Cowboys remain the longest shot to win the Super Bowl at 19.5 to 1 odds.
3. Jones out of Pro Bowl: Tampa Bay wide receiver Michael Evans will replace Julio Jones in the All-Star game, the Buccaneers announced. The game is set for Sunday, Jan. 27 in Orlando, Fla.
Jones played in all 16 games this season, but was on the injury report for a hip and ribs injuries for the final three games of the season.
Jones, who was voted to the AP All-Pro second team last week, had 113 catches for 1,677 yards and eight touchdowns in 2018. Jones made first-team All-Pro in 2015 and 2016.
Evans caught 86 passes for 1,524 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
Center Alex Mack was also selected to the Pro Bowl.
Ryan, tight end Austin Hooper and special teamer Justin Bethel are Pro Bowl alternates.
4. Compensatory pick projection: The Falcons, who are slotted into the 14th position of the NFL draft, are projected to picked up a fourth- and fifth-round compensatory picks to go along with the seven picks they already have.
The Falcons will get a fourth-round pick for losing Dontari Poe in free agency and a fifth-round pick for losing wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, according to Nick Korte of OverTheCap.com.
The NFL has not released the list of picks, but Korte’s projections have been accurate in the past with the complicated awarding formula.
“There will be some really good football players in the middle of the round each round,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said on Thursday. “That's our thought.”
The draft will be held April 25, in Nashville.
5. Hall of Fame finalists: Former Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez and former Georgia standouts Champ Bailey and Richard Seymour are among the 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2019, which was announced Thursday.
Gonzalez, who was drafted by Kansas City (1997-2008), played for the Falcons from 2009-13. He played in 270 games and was voted to 14 Pro Bowls.
Bailey, considered the top cornerback of his era, played in 215 games over 15 seasons with Washington (1999-2003) and Denver (2004-13). He was voted to 14 Pro Bowls.
Bailey, after starring at Charlton County, played at Georgia from 1996-98.
Seymour, a massive defensive tackle at 6-foot-6 and 317 pounds, played for New England (2001-12) and Oakland (2009-12). He played in 164 games over 12 seasons. He was voted to seven Pro Bowls.
He played at Georgia from 1997-2000.
6. Ridley vs. Harrison: Falcons rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley is coming off a strong first season.
His stature and build reminded me of Marvin Harrison all season long. Ridley is listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds. Harrison was 6-foot and 181 pounds.
Their rookie stats are eerily the same.
Harrison’s rookie season: 118 targets, 64 catches, 836 receiving yards, 13.1 yards per catch and eight touchdowns.
Ridley’s rookie season: 92 targets, 64 catches, 821 catches, 821 receiving yards, 12.8 yards per catch and a team-record 10 touchdowns for a rookie.
Harrison went on to play 12 more seasons. He finished with 1,102 catches, eight Pro Bowls and six All-Pro selections. He went in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the Class of 2016.
7. Watch out Tiger Woods: Our pal Matt Winkeljohn, who served as correspondent this past season, made his first hole-in-one yesterday at Fox Creek.
Winkeljohn was the beat writer on the Falcons for 16 seasons up through 2006 season.
8. Alford’s situation: Cornerback Isaiah Oliver subbed for Robert Alford on occasions late in the season to suggest that team officials are considering moving on from Alford, who next season is scheduled for a salary of $8.5 million with a $9.1 million salary-cap charge if on the team vs. a cap hit of $1.2 million if he’s not. The hit would be $600,000 if he were released June 1 or later, and then $600,000 in 2020.
9. Free agency -- Stay or Go: Here’s the stay or Go look at the potential unrestricted free agents. You can go vote in the previous blog.
Grady Jarrett, defensive tackle. Stay. The team stated that he was a priority after the round of contracts were handed out last season. He’s had another fine season. His market value is $15.3 million per year, according to spotrac.com.
Tevin Coleman, running back. Go. There is too much money out there for Coleman not to go into free agency. The Falcons seem to hold out hope that he’ll return and continue to be paired with Devonta Freeman. “For sure everything's on the table,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said when asked about Coleman staying. “Like I said, when we're in the scenario that we're in, which we're not very pleased at, you evaluate anything and everything. So, yeah, we're certainly going to consider every single option in every way.” Two words: Jerick McKinnon. (Four years, $30 million.)
Bruce Irvin, linebacker/end. Stay. Find some money to keep him.
Andy Levitre, left guard. Go. The same injury two consecutive seasons is a red flag. Maybe as cheap insurance.
Matt Schaub, quarterback. Go. Find the next backup quarterback and use his money on a position player.
Derrick Shelby, defensive end. Go. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Wonderful and awesome guy.
Terrell McClain, defensive tackle. Go. Was a place-holder this season.
Ben Garland, guard. Go. He’s been given plenty of opportunities to show he’s not an NFL-level guard.
Logan Paulsen, tight end. Stay. Veteran has been a steadying influence on Austin Hooper.
Justin Bethel, cornerback. Stay. Special-teams mavens are hard to find.
Justin Hardy, wide receiver. Stay. This won’t be a mega-deal, but he’s the type of dependable player as Eric Weems.
Kemal Ishmael, linebacker. Go. Improve the depth at the position.
Ty Sambrailo, tackle. Stay. Has played well down the stretch after taking over at right tackle for Ryan Schraeder.
Bruce Carter, linebacker. Go. Provided quality veteran depth.
Jon Condo, long snapper. Go. Josh Harris should return from injured reserve and was signed to a contract extension.
Jordan Richards, strong safety. Stay. Was a serviceable backup.
Zane Beadles, guard. Go. He should be replaced via free agency or in the draft.
Steven Means, defensive end. Stay. He essentially can take over Shelby’s role in the defensive line rotation.