Former Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, here with Matt Ryan and former Falcons coach Mike Smith (right), was fired as head coach at Tampa Bay. (Rob Carr/Getty Images
Photo: Jeff Schultz/Jeff Schultz blog
Photo: Jeff Schultz/Jeff Schultz blog

Koetter leading candidate for Falcons’ open OC position 

Confidante of Ryan shoots to top of the list 

After being fired as Buccaneers head coach on Sunday, Dirk Koetter is considered the front-runner to land the open offensive coordinator position with the Falcons, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

It would be a return trip to Atlanta for Koetter, who served as Falcons offensive coordinator from 2012-14.

The Falcons fired Steve Sarkisian on Monday along with their defensive and special teams coordinators. Former Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is scheduled to interview for the opening, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

The Falcons were setting up several interviews on Monday, following the dismissals. They could have the coordinator named quickly, according to the person with knowledge of the search. “It should move pretty fast,” the person said.

Koetter, considered the architect of the foundation of Boise State’s football success, worked well with Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in three seasons. 

The Falcons reached the NFC championship game after the 2012 season and built a 17-0 lead before the defense collapsed under the play of San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the second half.

In 2012 under Koetter, Ryan led the league in completion percentage at 68.9 percent. He threw for 32, 26 and 28 touchdowns with Koetter and went to two of his four Pro Bowls. 

The Falcons miscalculated the talent along the offensive line and were not contenders in 2013 and 2014 before head coach Mike Smith was dismissed. Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, were under contract, but left because they knew the new coach would hire his own staff.

Koetter finished his three-year stint as head coach of the Buccaneers with a 19-29 record, including  5-11 this season. His tenure ended after Sunday's 34-32 loss to the Falcons.

Ryan, 33, agreed to a five-year, $150 million contract extension which runs through the 2023 season. Ryan had a great relationship with Koetter. 

Bevell, who played quarterback at Wisconsin, was offensive coordinator for the Vikings from 2006-10 and for the Seahawks from 2011-17.

He visited with the Falcons last offseason.  He was the coordinator in Super Bowl XLIX when the Seahawks tried to pass the ball on second-and-goal from 1-yard line. The pass was intercepted by the Patriots’ Malcolm Butler. Conventional wisdom would have been to hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch, who was perhaps the best power runner of his time, in a play call questioned to this day. Peter King, who was with Sports Illustrated at time, called the play the worst call in Super Bowl history.   

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