Koetter signs extension to stay with Falcons

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Quarterback Matt Ryan will avoid the fate of having three offensive coordinators in three seasons, as Dirk Koetter signed a contract extension to remain with the Falcons instead of pursuing several NFL head coaching vacancies.

Falcons head coach Mike Smith said he spoke “at length” with Koetter on Tuesday  night and Smith said he’s “very excited” Koetter will remain.

“Continuity’s very important, continuity on your football team and on your football staff is important,” said Smith, who worked with Koetter for a season in Jacksonville prior to hiring him in Atlanta almost one year ago. “I’m glad. Dirk’s a very good football coach. He’s done a nice job for us. Glad to put that to rest.”

Koetter reportedly interviewed on Tuesday for the vacant Kansas City Chiefs head coaching job and was scheduled to interview for open jobs with Philadelphia and Cleveland but has chosen to remain in Atlanta to work with Ryan and wide receivers Julio Jones, a first-time Pro-Bowler this season, and Roddy White, a four-time Pro-Bowler. During their bye week, the Falcons are not making their coordinators available to the media.

The news of Koetter’s contract extension, which is said to run through 2014, was first reported by FOXSports.com’s Alex Marvez.

Ryan said Koetter’s strength is putting players in a position to make plays and that Koetter isn’t afraid to be aggressive. The deep pass to both Jones and White has become a big weapon for the Falcons this season.

“I’m excited about it,” Ryan said. “Obviously, he’s a great coach and has helped us out a bunch. I think the guys enjoying working with him and learning from him.”

Ryan also cited another factor not only about the team’s success but one that says something about Koetter’s personality. Instead of installing a new offense with new terminology, Koetter learned the existing offense, keeping about 85 percent of it, along with the terminology so the players would not have to.

Right tackle Tyson Clabo said Koetter’s offense not only has simplified the assignments for the offensive linemen but his use of screens – a play former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey almost never called – has slowed down the rush of opposing pass rushers.

The players also seem to have warmed to Koetter’s attitude. In contrast, Mularkey had more of a school-masterly approach.

“Just his attitude and the way he approaches the game and the respect the guys in the locker room have for him, he makes it easy for us on Sundays,” long-time center Todd McClure said. “…Just his attitude in general makes it a fun place to be and a fun offense to be involved with.”

Koetter is in his first season in Atlanta, replacing Mularkey who left to become Jacksonville’s head coach a year ago. Mularkey served as the team’s coordinator in Ryan and head Smith’s first four seasons but prior to arriving in the NFL Ryan had two different offensive coordinators (and head coaches) in his final two seasons at Boston College. In Koetter’s first season, Ryan set a career-high in passing yards with 4,719, better than his previous mark by more than 600.

The Falcons owned the league’s eighth-ranked offense and ranked seventh in scoring at 26.2 points per game. Koetter was a head coach in college at Arizona State and Boise State but has never been in the NFL.

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, the former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, also is reportedly set to interview with Philadelphia on Friday and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong has interviews lined up with the Eagles and Chicago Bears. Asked for an update on Nolan’s situation, Smith again stood by his statement from earlier in the week that he would not comment on other teams’ coaching searches.

Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson, who has played his share on special teams, said Armstrong’s success speaks for itself. In Armstrong’s first four seasons in Atlanta, starting in 2008, his units finished in the top 10 each season and allowed the fewest punt return yards in the league during that span.

“Very detail-oriented guy, a lot like coach Smith,” Peterson said. “He has that knack for being able to reach the players. I don’t know what it is, but some guys got it. He’s one of those coaches able to reach players and, I guess, get the max out of them.”

Falcons coordinators interviewing for jobs has started to become something of an annual rite. Mularkey was considered for jobs after the 2010 and ’11 seasons and now three Falcons coaches are being considered for jobs, which says something about how other NFL teams perceive the organization despite its lack of playoff success to this point. Two of those teams, Chicago and Philadelphia, have been to Super Bowls more recently than Atlanta has.

“Everything comes with success,” Peterson said. “When you’re winning, everyone wants a piece out of that winner.”