Dirk Koetter and Glenn Thomas hope to bring Matt Ryan and the Falcons to the NFL's elite.
By THE SPORTS XCHANGEFS South
With two new key members, the
Falcons must re-establish their circle of trust on offense.
Former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and quarterbacks coach Bob Bratkowski left for Jacksonville. They were replaced by Dirk Koetter and Glenn Thomas.
The two new coaches will be the driving forces behind helping quarterback Matt Ryan climb to elite status in the NFL.
For the first time in Ryan's NFL career he faces a major fundamental change in how the Falcons will operate on offense.
Mularkey presented Ryan with a formula that led to instant success, three trips to the playoffs, one trip to the Pro Bowl and a franchise-record passing mark last season.
Under Mularkey, Ryan posted a 43-19 regular-season record, but 0-3 in the playoffs.
That's part of the reason why coach Mike Smith was extremely careful in selecting Koetter. He believes that if the quarterback/coordinator relationship doesn't work, the entire operation and possibly the team could implode.
It also must be noted that in 2012, Ryan will work with his third position coach. He worked with Bill Musgrave for two seasons, then Bratkowski and now Thomas.
"The relationship between the coordinator and the quarterback is one that probably needs to be the strongest one on the football team," Smith said. "I know that Dirk has worked with Matt as well as with Glenn."
The kid gloves are off on Ryan.
New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan unleashed a flurry of stunts and blitzes in the recently completed minicamp. The offense was bogged down and there were signs of frustration.
In part, that was by design.
"It hasn't been like the last few years, where Matt knows when he comes out here that the defense is going to install this coverage," Smith said. "It's been a little bit more of a chess match between the offensive coordinator and the defensive coordinator because it's the first time that they've worked together in terms of how we install our offense and defense. This is the first sequence that we had to do it as a new staff.
"That's always an interesting dynamic, not only for the coaches, but for the players."
Some of the major differences in the passing attack will be more vertical routes with an emphasis on getting the ball to receivers on the move. Also, the team will implement a package heavy in screen passes.
Koetter and Ryan's meetings have been fruitful.
"Matt will look you in the eye and tell you how he sees it," Koetter said. "By the same token, I can tell him what I think, what I see and what the coaching staff sees. He takes coaching well, but he also gives good feedback."
Ryan notes that there are some key differences from Mularkey's attack.
"We are still so early in the installation part of it that we are still on the basics," Ryan said. "We are ironing out some things that he likes and things that we've done well here in the past."
Wide receiver Roddy White has witnessed the give-and-take between Koetter and Ryan and believes that the relationship is headed in the right direction.
"Dirk has made it easy," White said. "He has things that he'd like to do. We have some things that we like to do, and he just put it together and we're rolling. Everybody has brought into the system. We are going to just keep rolling."