Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter discusses return to Falcons

Dirk Koetter was familiar with his surroundings Wednesday.

The new Falcons offensive coordinator returned to the team in the same position that he served from 2012-14, including when he helped the Falcons advance to the NFC Championship game in the 2012 season.

In particular, he looks forward to reuniting with quarterback Matt Ryan.

Yet, even with his sense of familiarity, there are some differences from the last time Koetter was a member of the Falcons’ staff. He returns to a different head coach, Dan Quinn, and many new faces on the field.

“When I was here the first time, coach (Mike) Mularkey had (Ryan) here as a rookie and you saw that evolution,” Koetter said. “In those days it was Roddy (White) and Julio (Jones) and Harry Douglas and Tony (Gonzalez), and now Julio is really the only one in that group left.”

Koetter is looking to balance the run game and the passing game next season. Establishing a sense of balance between the two creates problems for the opposing defense and can allow opportunities for key offensive plays.

“I’ve never met a defensive coach that didn’t say the hardest thing to defend was balance,” he said. “I believe in that, too. I believe when you are in a first- or second-down situation and the defense doesn’t know if you are going to throw it, run it, play-action, bootleg it, whatever you want to do, any defensive coach will tell you that’s the hardest thing to defend.”

The experience Koetter brings, paired with the addition of tight ends coach Mularkey, creates a sound offensive staff. Mularkey’s previous experience as the offensive coordinator for the Falcons, along with Koetter’s, builds an atmosphere of inclusion and ability to buy-in to the overall vision.

Koetter said it allows him the chance to listen and to find mutual ground in ideas to build the direction for the offense.

“I’d say it’s safe to say we are going to have plenty of plays,” Koetter said. “I’ve never been in a game yet where you didn’t have enough plays. I mean really all we’re trying to do is see how is the best way to utilize the guys we have, and we have a lot of really good players, let’s utilize them, play to our strengths. Every team has weaknesses, you’ve got to try and hide your weaknesses.”

Quinn said the addition of Koetter, along with Mularkey, illustrates that he and the staff are looking to add more leadership and communication and build on the team’s ability to attack.

“When you do meet somebody for that time and you get to see how they see football and philosophy-wise, and background and how to attack, you know you are aligned together,” Quinn said. “That’s why it was the best fit for us here.”

A lack of familiarity with players new to him brings excitement for Koetter. Players such as tight end Austin Hooper — who last season caught 71 passes for 660 yards and four touchdowns to earn a spot in the Pro Bowl — and wide receiver Calvin Ridley — who in his rookie season caught 64 passes for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns — bring young talent to the offense and build a strong group around Ryan.

In his 10th season with the Falcons, Ryan passed for 4,924 yards and 35 touchdowns. Koetter said Ryan’s growth over the years is evident, and he believes Ryan is playing the best football of his career. He wants to maximize Ryan’s abilities.

“And one of the things I like best about Matt is, every quarterback I’ve worked with, they can all tell you what they like,” Koetter said. “What Matt can do, and he did it even before when I was here the first time. He can tell you what he doesn’t like and why.”