Atlanta Falcons Retaining Dirk Koetter Shows Long-Term Focus Is on Matt Ryan
Dirk Koetter re-signed with Atlanta on a two-year contract, effectively ending his bid to become a head coach for the 2013 and 2014 NFL seasons (h/t Alex Marvez of Fox Sports). Koetter's inclusion as the Falcon's offensive coordinator is the best move he has made in his professional career.
Saddling him with Pro Bowl receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones to go along with Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Ryan and future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, gave the Falcons one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the league.
Even the running game has a ton of talent between Michael Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling. However, he used them more as options in the screen and passing game.
But the way the Falcons have been building, it's obvious that Koetter has come in to help Matt Ryan take the next step into becoming an elite quarterback. That Ryan has turned in the best year of his career already shows that Koetter has been effective.
Screen Passes Galore
The biggest complaint coming into this past season was that the Falcons never ran any screen passes. That completely changed under Dirk Koetter. Matt Ryan threw the second most screen-pass attempts in the NFL this year.
According to ESPN's Stats and Information department (h/t Pat Yasinskas of ESPN), Ryan went 60-for-67 (89.6 percent) for 483 yards and six touchdowns. The 7.21 yards per attempt average on screen passes is a big reason why Ryan had a career season.
But they also opened up deep throws and passes over the middle of the field. Ryan would use the screen pass mainly in the game versus Detroit to spread them out horizontally before taking a couple of deep shots to Roddy White and Julio Jones.
Hey, Look! The Falcons Can Throw Deep, Too!
It's not just screen passes that have improved for Atlanta. The deep passes have worked a lot better this season as well. Matt Ryan has been a career best 22-for-50 (44.0 percent) for 814 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions on passes thrown over 20 yards.
The increased productivity on the deep ball stems from better play calls, better routes to take advantage of Ryan's mid-range arm accuracy and more play-action.
Locking up Dirk Koetter will provide to be huge in the development of the deep passing game in Atlanta. Despite how productive they've been this season, there's still some room for improvement. By continuing with the same coordinator for another two years at least, Ryan will be able to show it.
Improvements Will Come In the Form Of Added Slant Routes
The biggest lack in the Falcons' passing game seems to come from a lack of slant routes and attacking the middle of the field. While this was a staple under Mike Mularkey, it looks to have gone the way of the dinosaur under Koetter.
If the Falcons add these passes back into their arsenal, they could be one of the most varied offenses in the NFL. Julio Jones and Roddy White love the slant routes because it takes advantage of their physicality and speed.
Matt Ryan would also benefit more with the slants being added into the playbook again. Then again, it is all about giving him the best shot to succeed. So why not increase that by having him and Koetter get together and add some more to the offense—especially with the bye week?
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.
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