When you heard Chris Mortensen report former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will take over the same position on the Atlanta Falcons coaching staff, your second question was, "But weren't the Jaguars really, really bad last year?"
(Your first question was, of course, "Who?" There was also probably something about why the Falcons didn't simply hire the 1999 vintage of Mike Martz.)
Let us seek answers.
If we need to know one thing about Koetter, it's whether he'll be more fearless in crucial games than Mike Mularkey was. And it's safe to say he prefers aerial aggression. Four verts is music to the ears at this point. So check off the first box, in pencil for now.
He really didn't have very much to work with during his Jags period, which is when he shared a staff with Mike Smith for the 2007 season. David Garrard had the two best full seasons of his career during Koetter's reign in Jacksonville, but the team had a different leading receiver for all five years of his tenure. Whether that's a roster management problem or a development problem may not be entirely concluded.
But look beyond his five-year run as Jacksonville OC -- which included, well, a top-10 offense in his first year, then threeeeeeeeee top-20 offenses, and finally a top-32 offense -- to see an extensive body of college work.
For one, he coached the Arizona St. Sun Devils to a couple bowl wins, a ranked finish and a 40-34 record in six years. His ASU offenses finished in the top 20 in scoring thrice, including one No. 7 effort. It was during his time in Tempe that he developed his national rep as a vertical passing guy. His time with the Sun Devils was done in by his team's inability to win big games. (Though when fired by ASU, he stuck around to coach his players in that year's bowl game.)
He also led the Boise St. Broncos to their first three winning seasons in FBS history, including their first two 10-win efforts. One year before his arrival in Idaho, Houston Hutt won four games. The Broncos led the country in points per game in 2000.
He spent much of the '80s and '90s hopping throughout the country, with the UTEP Miners, Missouri Tigers, Boston College Eagles and Oregon Ducks before taking over his native state's soon-to-be elite school. (He later expressed regret about leaving Boise State for Arizona State just at the cusp of BSU's BCS success.)
UTEP's offense the year before his arrival: No. 85 in the country. During his three years: Nos. 32, 20, and 11. The year after he left: No. 75. He was great at UTEP! He followed head coach Bob Stull to Mizzou, where things didn't go quite as well. That Tigers offense never ranked in the nation's upper half during their five years in Columbia.
His two years at Boston College with Dan Henning don't offer much to go by, with two dismal offenses produced, but each of his three Oregon offenses under Mike Bellotti ranked in the nation's top 25, including a No. 6 finish.
Most locally relevant, Nick Saban wanted him. Koetter also interviewed for the Alabama Crimson Tide job earlier in the week. We are a collegiate-minded folk, Falcons brass, so please be sure to find a way to emphasize these latter things.
As Julio Jones found when handed his first Atlanta playbook, the Falcons and the Tide have used very similar offenses as of late. If Saban thinks it'll work in Tuscaloosa, there's a good sign as to why Mike Smith thinks it'll work in Atlanta. We'll have to go digging to find more evidence as to whether Koetter is capable of constructing bolder attacks than Mularkey was, but there are signs he's been able to produce when working with sufficient resources.
The risk the Falcons are taking, in my mind, is on whether his significant college success can translate to NFL success, especially when given a set of talent that should rank among the NFL's elite.
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