Dirk Koetter, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new offensive coordinator sat down with Buccaneers.com this week to discuss such topics as his own career, the talent he is inheriting in Tampa and the team's chances for rapid improvement. Koetter also shared some of the philosophical underpinnings of his approach to creating an effective offense in the NFL.
There are many ways to win in the NFL. That's a belief held by Dirk Koetter, who was named the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive coordinator on January 9 after eight years in the same post with the Atlanta Falcons (2012-14) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2007-11), and one surely influenced by his experiences in both places. Koetter's first NFL offense made the postseason behind the powerful running back duo of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. Five years later, he tasted the postseason again with a Falcons team that moved the ball primarily through the air with Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones.
Obviously, Koetter knows how to mold his attack around the strengths of his personnel. There are, however, some ingredients to offensive success that remain the same no matter who is cooking up the touchdowns. Four ingredients, in particular, are critical:
Protecting the football.
"There is a group of critical factors that are time-proven on winning in the NFL," said Koetter. "Number one, don't turn the ball over. As an offensive team, part of winning a game is not losing a game, and the fastest way to lose it is turning it over."*
During Koetter's eight previous seasons as an NFL offensive coordinator, his teams ranked in the top 13 in terms of fewest turnovers seven times. The playoff-bound 2007 Jaguars tied for fourth in that category with just 21 giveaways, while the 2012 Atlanta team that advanced to the NFC title game tied for 7th with 18.
Creating big plays.
"The second one is creating explosive
Check out photos of the new Offensive Coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dirk Koetter. (Courtesy of AP Images & Atlanta Falcons)
plays," said Koetter. "Your percentage of scoring touchdowns is going to go way, way up the more explosive plays you have. It's one thing to say you're going to beat down the defense, but you can make 'explosives' in your run game, you can have 'explosives' in your pass game. We've got to create 'explosives.'*
Despite the Falcons' struggles in a 6-10 campaign last season, Atlanta's offense still ranked fourth in the NFL with 61 passing plays of 20 or more yards. Moreover, during his five years at the helm of the Jaguars' attack, Jacksonville ranked fourth in the league with 283 rushing plays of 10 or more yards.
Avoiding sacks and winning on third down.
"Three and four would be sacks – we've got to cut down our sacks, every team is trying to do that – and we've got to be a great team on third down because third down is your money down," said Koetter. "Those are four of 10 things that we're really going to try to hang our hat on."*
*From 2007-11, with Koetter calling plays, the Jaguars ranked 10th in the NFL in third-down percentage, converting on 40.9% of their tries. The 2012-14 Falcons were even better in that regard, ranking third in the league with a conversion rate of 44.1%. Despite a rash of offensive line injuries over the past two seasons, Koetter's Falcons were also 11th in the league from 2012-14 in fewest sacks allowed.