Koetter Hired to Revive Tampa Bay's Offense
Lovie Smith said the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wanted to be thorough in their search for someone to lead their offense, but to find the answer as soon as possible. They managed to do both and hit upon the right man for the job less than two weeks into the new year. On Thursday, the Buccaneers announced they have agreed to terms on the hiring of Dirk Koetter as the team's new offensive coordinator.*
Tampa Bay didn't have to look far to find Koetter; he spent the last three years in the same position for the division-rival Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons, currently in the midst of a search for a new head coach after releasing Mike Smith from his contract on December 29, granted permission for the Buccaneers to interview Koetter for the lateral move.
“I’m very excited to welcome Dirk to our staff,” said Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith. “With over three decades of experience at both the college and the NFL level, Dirk has a proven track record as a top offensive coordinator. During his time in Atlanta, he led one of the most productive offenses in the league and I believe he will enjoy similar success here with the exciting young players we have on offense. It became very apparent early in our conversations that we share some of the same philosophies regarding the offensive side of the ball and I look forward to working with Dirk as we begin preparing for the 2015 season.”
The Buccaneers spent the 2014 season with Quarterbacks Coach Marcus Arroyo as the de facto play-caller after a health issue forced Offensive Coordinator Jeff Tedford from his post in late August. If the team was looking for an experienced play-caller and leader to take over the offensive moving forward, they certainly found one. Koetter has been coaching on the collegiate or professional level since 1985 and has been either the offensive coordinator or the head coach for his team in each of those 30 seasons. His resume also includes five seasons (2007-11) as the offensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars and a combined nine years as a head coach at Boise State (1998-2000) and Arizona State (2001-06).*
Check out photos of the new Offensive Coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dirk Koetter. (Courtesy of AP Images & Atlanta Falcons)
Koetter has found significant success at each of those stops, as well. In his first year at the helm of the Falcons' offense, he helped Matt Ryan and company rank seven in the NFL in points scored, eight in total yards and sixth in passing yards en route to a 13-3 record and a spot in the NFC Championship Game. Despite a 2014 season marred by injuries, particularly to the offensive line, the Falcons still ranked 12th in points scored, eighth in total yards and fifth in passing yards.*
Koetter obviously played to the Falcons' strengths in recent years, with Ryan throwing to the likes of Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons did not have an efficient rushing attack during that time, but Koetter has experience making the most out of that strength as well. His Jaguars teams made good use of Maurice Jones-Drew, in particular, while ranking in the top 12 in rushing in four of his five seasons, including a second-place finish in 2007 and a third-place ranking in 2010. In 2007, with David Garrard and Quinn Gray as his starting quarterbacks, Koetter helped the Jaguars finish sixth in the league in points scored, seventh in total yards, second in rushing yards and first in interception percentage. The Jaguars compiled an 11-5 record and made the playoffs that season.
In addition, in six of his eight seasons as an NFL coordinator, Koetter has seen his offense rank among the league's top 13 in fewest turnovers committed, including three top-10 finishes. Those are numbers that are likely to make Head Coach Lovie Smith smile.
The Falcons are looking for a new head coach after finishing the season 6-10, with a defense that ranked last in the league in terms of yards and 27th in terms of points. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are looking for a significant improvement on offense after finishing 30th in the league in yards and 29th in points.
Koetter's offense produced 284.6 passing yards, 378.2 total yards and 23.8 points per game. Ryan threw for 4,694 yards, 28 touchdowns and a 93.9 passer rating. In 2012, Ryan had his best season as a pro, with career highs in yards (4,719 yards, touchdown passes (32), completion percentage (68.6%) and passer rating (99.1).*
At Boise State, Koetter took over a team that had compiled a combined 7-15 the previous two seasons and, in three seasons, led the Broncos to a 26-10 record, two Big West Conference titles and two bowl victories. At Arizona State, Koetter also handled the play-calling duties in addition to being the head coach, and he helped the Sun Devils average almost 30 points per game over his six combined seasons at the helm. The ASU passing attack frequently ranked among the Pac-12 leaders behind such quarterbacks as Andrew Walter, Max Hall and Rudy Carpenter.
*Before becoming the head coach at Boise State, Koetter was the offensive coordinator for Oregon (1996-1997), Boston College (1994-1995), Missouri (1989-1993), UTEP (1986-1988) and San Francisco State (1985). He began his coaching career as a high school coach for Highland High School in Idaho, his home state, in 1983.
*Joe Kania contributed to this report.