Dirk Koetter not retained by the Falcons

Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter gestures before game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Atlanta won 34-27. (Danny Karnik/AP)
Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter gestures before game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Atlanta won 34-27. (Danny Karnik/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was not retained after a two-year second stint with the Falcons, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution learned Wednesday.

Koetter, 61, was offensive coordinator from 2019-20 and previously worked under former coach Mike Smith from 2012-14. The failed rebuilds of the offensive lines were factors in both Smith getting fired after the 2014 season and Dan Quinn getting fired during the 2020 season.

Koetter stopped just short of announcing his retirement on social media. He plans to return to Idaho.

“After 39 season of coaching football, it’s time to move on to the next phase of life,” Koetter wrote on his Facebook page. “From 1982 at Highland High through the 2020 season with the Atlanta Falcons it’s been nothing but football year round with not nearly enough time for anything else, especially family.

“Anybody taking the time to read this probably knows me through one of the 12 stops along the way. So many great people and way too many to mention, but thanks to all, especially the players on those 39 teams. The players make it fun for the coaches by making the game plans come to life and now following you with your own careers and families.

“Special thanks to Kim and my kids for putting up with all the moves and all the moods. Kim and I will soon be relocating to Boise and McCall. We will get to see fall in McCall for the first time. We will be big fans of Boise State, Idaho State, the Highland Rams, and all of the individual coaches we have crossed paths with throughout the country. We also look forward to reconnecting with all those that the football life has not allowed time for. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2021 and beyond!”

The offense, which was loaded with big salaries and high draft picks, did not produce as expected, as the Falcons went 7-9 and 4-12 over the past two seasons. The offense was designed to carry the team, but could not.

In 2020, the unit amassed yards, but stalled in the red zone. The Falcons ranked in the top half of the league in one key category, passing yards per game (272.7, fifth).

They averaged 368.4 yards per game (18th), 95.8 rushing yards per game (27th), 24.8 points per game (16th) and converted on 53.45% of the trips inside the opposition’s 20-yard line (26th).

Koetter had a top-10 scoring offense in 2012, the first year of his first stint with the Falcons, which ended in the NFC Championship game. He also did it with Jacksonville in 2007. But Koetter’s units ranked 23rd or worse in scoring in seven other seasons as coordinator.

The Falcons ranked 19th in points scored with Koetter last season.

Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and quarterback Matt Ryan go through their paces during an offseason practice in 2019. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)
Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and quarterback Matt Ryan go through their paces during an offseason practice in 2019. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

The Falcons committed one-fifth of their 2020 salary-cap space to quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones. The Falcons have former first-round picks across the offensive line, at No. 1 tight end and No. 2 wide receiver.

With the hiring of former Tennessee offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, the Falcons have signaled that they are going back to the outside zone system that they ran under former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Smith also said he was going to call his own plays, which freed the team not to retain Koetter.

Before coming to the NFL, Koetter helped to turn the program at Boise State into a national power. He went on to coach at Arizona State.

He entered the NFL with Jacksonville in 2007 and was their offensive coordinator until 2011 before joining the Falcons. After 2014, he went to Tampa Bay and was the offensive coordinator for one season before becoming the head coach from 2016-18.

Chicago’s pass-game coordinator Dave Ragone and Carolina wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson are candidates to become the Falcons’ offensive coordinator, according to NFL Media. Neither have called plays in the NFL.

Ragone, a former third-round pick who played quarterback at Louisville, was with Smith in Tennessee in 2011-13. Under the revised Rooney Rule, minority candidates also must be interviewed for coordinator-level positions.

Jackson played at Western Illinois and made Cleveland in 2002 after going undrafted and played with the Browns from 2002-06. He coached in the college ranks from 2008-16 before landing a job with the Titans in 2017 as the wide receivers coach.

In addition to Koetter, offensive line coach Chris Morgan, one of the original members of Quinn’s coaching staff, Mayur Chaudhari (assistant special teams), Greg Knapp (quarterbacks), Tosh Lupoi (defensive line/run-game coordinator) and Chad Walker (safeties) also weren’t retained.

Outside linebackers coach Aden Durde is headed to the Cowboys for a reunion with Quinn.

Morgan was named the offensive line coach of the year by Pro Football Focus in 2015 and was a part of the Falcons’ record-breaking offense in 2016. However, the unit started to slide backward after the retirements of guards Chris Chester and then Andy Levitre. Also, the quick descent by right tackle Ryan Schraeder did not help.

The rebuilt offensive line, which included two first-round picks in the 2019 draft, didn’t come together quickly. The offensive line has given up 41, 48 and 42 sacks over the past three seasons.

Durde’s introduction to the Falcons came in 2016, when Quinn granted him a spot with the Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship, thanks to a reference from former defensive pass game coordinator Jerome Henderson. Henderson knew Durde from his stint with the Cowboys.

Durde joined the Falcons in 2018 as a defensive quality control coach. He was the team’s outside linebackers coach last season and helped with the development of Foye Oluokun.

Falcons’ 2021 draft position

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

2. New York Jets

3. Miami Dolphins (via Houston)

4. Falcons

5. Cincinnati Bengals

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