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Examining Dirk Koetter’s 2012 offense for lessons in 2020

What did Koetter do that worked in 2012, and how can the Falcons translate that effectively to 2020?

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When former Coach Mike Smith brought Dirk Koetter in as offensive coordinator in 2012, he wanted to implement a more explosive and vertical offense than was offered by previous OC Mike Mularkey’s infamous run-first group.

Coach Smith wanted Koetter to take advantage of weapons like Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez and be able to stretch the field, something Mike Mularkey was not particularly fond of doing. Koetter showed the capability to add a passing element to an offense that was built on pounding the rock. The 2012 offense went from 4,192 yards and 29 touchdowns to 4,509 yards and 32 touchdowns, with Matt Ryan’s yards per attempt rising and more downfield success for Roddy White in particular keying a run to the NFC Conference Championship Game despite a lesser run game.

Fast foward to 2020. Coach Quinn brought Koetter back for a 2nd stint, but he’s looking for a more balanced attack. Which will we get from Koetter? His first year back suggests Koetter will lean heavily on the passing game again, but I wanted to examine how Koetter ran the offense in 2012 that could give me an idea (and a little hope) as to how he’d use the current crop of talent in 2020 in his second year of his second stint at OC. To do that, I looked at the the All-22 when the Falcons played Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football during that 2012 season, and one moment in particular.

This is the start of a 3 play sequence. All were in 21 personnel where Koetter makes decent use of the fullback. This is basically an I formation with the FB offset on strong side right. Gonzalez is in line with Roddy White as the Z and Julio Jones as the X. In this play, there’s play action to Turner as Roddy runs a 9 route to clear Jason Snelling underneath for the flat. Matt Ryan gets the ball to Snelling for a decent gain.

The following play of the sequence, Koetter used the same personnel, but this time the FB is offset on strong side left (TE was moved to left side of the formation as well). That play end up being a run on the strong side to Michael Turner which also resulted in a strong gain.

The final play of the sequence was also 21 personnel, but in a shotgun max protect formation with Turner and Snelling on the opposite sides of Ryan. In this play, Tony Gonzalez runs a square in with Roddy stemming for a 7 route as the Z. Ryan connects with Gonzalez for a good gain. The Falcons kept things rolling all year by making effective use of their personnel in this fashion, and were able to maintain an effective passing game with a fullback in, something they didn’t always do in 2019.

After watching film on that game, what I saw is Koetter having the capacity to be productive in running different formations and plays in different personnel groupings which can make him versatile in his play calling. So for 2020, I’d fully expect him to use multiple personnel groupings.

However, there’s a level of inconsistency with him that I hope he overcomes in his second stint. Coach Quinn is going to look for him to be more balanced in his play calling and less predictable, so he definitely is going to have to make a few changes. Now, history has also proven that Matt Ryan does much better in his 2nd season under a new coordinator. All of these factors have given me a little hope, but a lot more will have to be shown by Koetter this season to put me fully on board.