So it’s no wonder Ryan was delighted to hear that offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter won’t be leaving to take a head coaching job with another NFL team.
“The thing I think everybody respects and likes the most is that he trusts our guys to go out there and make the plays,” Ryan said Wednesday. “He’s not afraid to be aggressive. It’s been fun.”
Ryan has worked just one season with Koetter, who has signed a contract extension to stay with the team through 2014, and the results have been impressive for the NFC’s No. 1 playoff seed.
Roddy White and Julio Jones each have more than 1,000 yards receiving. Tight end Tony Gonzalez leads the team in catches, and Ryan is having his best season as a five-year professional.
The only drawback has been the substantial decline of production from running back Michael Turner, but Ryan credits the coach’s game plans and play-calling in helping the Falcons (13-3) enjoy a bye week before they host a divisional-round game Jan. 13.
“I think he does a great job of putting all of our guys in position to succeed,” Ryan said. “He changes it up and puts different guys out there at different times.”
Koetter’s name surfaced this week as a head coaching candidate in Cleveland, Kansas City and Philadelphia. The Falcons moved to re-sign Koetter after his interview with Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt on Tuesday.
Atlanta coach Mike Smith declined to give details of the developments involving Koetter and other job offers.
“I don’t want to really get into any of the details,” Smith said. “Dirk is going to be here with us. He informed me of that last night. We talked at length. That’s where we’re at right now.”
Koetter, who spent the previous five years as coordinator in Jacksonville, oversees an offense that ranks second in third-down efficiency, seventh in scoring and fewest sacks allowed and eighth in total yards.
Much of the Falcons’ success offensively has been credited to the numbers produced by Ryan, White, Gonzalez and Jones, but Koetter doesn’t rely solely on his stars.
Everyone seems to get some action because Koetter has five potential receiving targets on the field for nearly every snap.
Relatively anonymous players like receiver Drew Davis, tight end Michael Palmer and offensive tackle Mike Johnson have caught touchdown passes.
Some personnel groupings include reserve running backs Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling on the field for the same play. And opponents don’t know if White, Jones or even Gonzalez will line up wide, in the slot or in the backfield.
“Using all your guys keeps everybody motivated, gives everybody something to prepare for each week,” Koetter said last week. “I think our high this year was 32 personnel groups. We usually average in the low 20s with how many different combinations of guys. It’s fun for the guys and lets the coaches who have different parts of the game plan be creative in how we use our guys.”
Koetter’s hiring last January was greeted with mixed emotions.
He had overseen a balanced attack during his first four years with Jacksonville as the Jaguars ranked 13th in total offense, seventh in rushing, fifth in third-down conversions and first in fewest interceptions.
But Jacksonville all but collapsed in 2011 as rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert struggled and the Jaguars finished last in total offense and in yards passing. Their 15.2-point scoring average ranked 29th.
When he arrived in Atlanta, Koetter wanted to earn the trust of his new players quickly so he went out of his way to keep his playbook simple.
“I think one of the biggest things that helped throughout the situation was him adapting to the terminology and a lot of the concepts that we had used and kind of the one guy changing for the mass as opposed to the mass changing for one guy,” Ryan said. “I think guys respected that and really appreciated that.”