It was one of the more bizarre off-season moves we've seen in a while. Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey was hired to Jacksonville to replace incumbent head coach Jack Del Rio, while Jags offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter left to take over the same post in Atlanta.
There's no point re-hashing whether the hire was a good one, because for as many jokes that can be made about Jacksonville's anemic offense, it's equally fair to realize that Koetter was working with Maurice Jones-Drew, and that's about it. The Jaguars are one of the consistently worst drafting teams at selecting offensive players, and that has left the side of the ball completely bereft of talent. Instead, I think it's pertinent to look at the schematic changes we could see with Koetter on board, and how that will benefit the Falcons in 2012.
Clearly in Koetter's offense there is a premium placed on the RB. MJD was his workhorse in North Florida, and Michael Turner should feel right at home. However, while Mularkey was relatively balanced on first down (56% run v. 44% pass), the plan in Jacksonville was to run it down the opponents throat; they ran on first down a league-leading 63% of plays, and liked everything to branch off the run.
The challenge for the Falcons will be to ensure this offense doesn't become predictable. It's a trap the Carolina Panthers fell into with John Fox at the help where a predictable 'two-run, then pass' offense was a large part of his downfall. In Jacksonville this was kept fresh with a smattering of play-action passes. The Jaguars were 8th in the league at running PA passes as they attempted 22% of all passes from the set. As a comparison the Falcons did this 17% of the time, or 17th in the league.
This is where the offense starts to get exciting. Look, the PA pass is nothing new-- it's almost as old as the forward pass. However, watching the Falcons last year you saw a team that needed to buy Matt Ryan some time. When given the opportunity he sells a very good play fake, and by nature the PA pass thrives with an excellent receiving TE, a role Tony Gonzalez should fill perfectly. Ryan is best when he is comfortable in the pocket, and should the play-calling keep defenses off balance he'll get the time he needs.
There is more than a healthy dose of skepticism surrounding Dirk Koetter, but I think he's due getting a chance. After being stuck in a bad situation offensively in Jacksonville he now has a bevy of talent at his disposal, including two of the best WRs in the NFL. This will be the time for him to show that his seemingly vanilla offense can get it done, and Ryan is the kind of QB who can do it.
Statistics for this article were from Football Outsiders 2012 almanac, which you can purchase here.
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