Dirk Koetter will be once again calling plays in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game. Though this time, he'll be doing it for the division-rival Atlanta Falcons as their offensive coordinator as the two teams face off in Mercedes-Benz Stadium this weekend. Koetter, who was the Bucs' head coach for the previous three seasons was the only offensive signal caller Bucs' quarterback Jameis Winston ever had prior to the arrival of Arians and Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich. It means Koetter has a great understanding of Winston as a player and a person, but he's still unfamiliar with the scheme.
"I think he knows the guy and I would imagine he's saying it's the same old stuff, but I don't think right now they're changing what they're doing defensively, because they're playing really good and playing fast," Arians said on Monday.
Indeed defensively, the opposite side of the ball that Koetter is currently concerned with, has had somewhat of a rebirth since another former Buccaneers head coach took a share of the play-calling reins. Raheem Morris started the 2019 season as the Falcons' passing-game coordinator and wide receivers coach. Followng a 1-7 start, Atlanta Head Coach Dan Quinn shuffled his staff, making Morris – traditionally known as a defense guy as it is – the defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator. Since then, the Falcons' defense hasn't let up a touchdown in two victories, one over the Saints and last week over the Panthers.
"They simplified, it looks like," Arians said. "Defensively, they're playing really fast and they're not very complicated. The front four is teeing off and doing a heck of a job. Offensively, they're moving the ball [and] scoring points."
Both the Falcons and Bucs sit at 3-7 on the year. But Atlanta is on a two-game winning streak over two division opponents. They'll be looking for their third on Sunday at home. The Bucs suffered a loss at the hands of Brees and the Saints this past weekend but have an opportunity to be competitive in the division in Atlanta by stopping their NFC South-tear. With six games left, the focus is still on winning for Arians, period.
"Win them all," he said. "You can't win them all until you win one. [This week we have a] division [opponent] on the road and a team that's similar to us. They're playing really well right now and have kind of found their stride after their [Bye Week] and [have made] a lot of changes coaching staff-wise. They're playing with a lot of energy and it's showing on tape."
The Koetter-connection is clearly more significant as far as the information Koetter can give his new team. The only player on the Bucs' roster who played for Morris is right tackle Demar Dotson. But in true Koetter fashion, he downplayed the advantage he could give the Falcons over his former team.
"It's all out there on tape," Koetter said via the Tampa Bay Times. "And they're running a different scheme now. I can probably help them more with some of the defensive guys. I talk to our guys about the guys – I know they've got some new guys on defense, too. Again, in this league, everything is on tape. Everything is there for these guys to study."
Koetter's knowledge of defensive players may be even more valuable than his knowledge on Winston. For him, at least. Atlanta has the third-best passing offense in the league – one ahead of the Bucs – that was always a strength of Koetter's offenses. But as far as who his quarterback and pass-catchers will be facing, Koetter will see a lot of new faces on the other side of the line. Guys like Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean and Mike Edwards are rookies, and therefore new to Koetter. Same with guys like Darian Stewart. Koetter has about a half season of familiarity with Andrew Adams.
There are a few other connections of note. Bucs Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong spent the last 11 seasons in the same capacity for Atlanta prior to arriving in Tampa Bay. Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich actually played for the Falcons in 2007. Falcons' offensive assistant Ben Steele was the Bucs' tight ends coach under Koetter. Falcons' President/CEO Rich McKay was the Bucs' general manager for over a decade and his father was the Bucs' first head coach.