Will Dirk Koetter Work as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ New Offensive Coordinator?

He may be a traitor to Falcons' fans, but Dirk Koetter looks like a victorious hero coming to Tampa Bay.

One of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Julius Caesar, is a tale about epic hubris leading to destruction, about friends betraying friends in the name of ideals (and power), and the political maneuverings of a society that attempts to seem civilized but has barbaric instincts like all others before it.

So, yeah, I think Julius Caesar is a perfectly fair allegory to use for the NFL.

Well, it’s not quite the Ides of March yet, but it seems that betrayal has already been brewing in the NFC South. Former Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, as of yesterday, has jumped ship and signed on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a lateral move to the division rivals. Koetter left a franchise that had perennial All-Pro candidate quarterback Matt Ryan under center for one that has Josh McCown and went 2-14 this past season. However, the “hubris” of the Falcons’ organization in the draft and free agency has left the roster threadbare and aging, while it seems the Bucs are on the upswing of having an offensive powerhouse on their hands.

Can Koetter replicate the success he’s had in other stops when he gets to Tampa?

Friends, Romans, Countrymen

Dirk Koetter has coached in the NFL for eight seasons now, first as an offensive coordinator with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2007-2011, and then as the same with the Atlanta Falcons from 2012-2014. Unconventionally, this was his first foray into the league; he didn’t have to work his way up from a positional coaching job into a coordinator role. Koetter was a highly touted head coach of the Boise State and Arizona State NCAA football programs before Jacksonville snapped him up and brought him to the big time. So, what should we expect as he looks to bring a renaissance to the Tampa Bay offense?

The most important thing to consider when looking at how a coordinator might affect an offense is, well, the historical offenses themselves. In order to get a full picture of Koetter’s projected effect on the Bucs, we’re going to look at how his offenses performed via our signature metric here at numberFire, Net Expected Points (NEP). NEP is a measure of how a player’s contributions affects his team’s chances of scoring, which gives us a clearer picture of success on the football field than simple box score scouting.

The table below shows his Jaguars and Falcons offenses via their league ranking in Adjusted NEP (adjusted for strength of opponents). When we size Koetter up in NEP, do his offenses appear classical or just outdated?

YearTeamRoleAdj. NEP RankAdj. Pass NEP RankAdj. Rush NEP Rank

In his tenure in the NFL, Koetter has actually done some impressive work. We know the Jacksonville Jaguars now as the joke of the AFC –- if not the league as a whole –- but some day, our great grandchildren will look at those rankings and realize there was once a time when they were a force to be reckoned with. I actually throw the 2011 season out the window, personally, since that was Blaine Gabbert’s first year as a Jaguar and really the beginning of the end of their relevance in recent years. Not including that season, Koetter’s offenses had a top-five run game every year behind the efforts of Maurice Jones-Drew, not to mention a top-three overall season with David Garrard at the helm.

The work that Koetter did was enough to earn him a chance with Atlanta, which featured three top-10 overall offenses and two top-five passing attacks. The real thing to note here is the versatility of Koetter’s coaching style. He has a system he works in, but isn’t so proud that he forces his game plans onto pieces that don’t fit them.

I Come to Bury Caesar

The real question we still have, however, is how Koetter changed those offenses in his time with the teams. The table below depicts the average Adjusted NEP values and ranks for Koetter’s tenures in Jacksonville and Atlanta, and compares them to for the three years before his stints and for the three years after Jacksonville. With this, we can see not just how the teams did, but how they changed.

YearTeamRoleAdj. NEPRankAdj. Pass NEPRankAdj. Rush NEPRank

It’s very clear that Koetter’s time in Jacksonville made a huge impact. A middling team before his arrival, the Jaguars’ offense took off by at least four ranking slots in each phase of the game during his tenure. In addition, they averaged nearly nine touchdowns worth more of expected points each season that he was there than before he’d arrived. What really convinces me, however, is the stark drop off in offensive value after his departure. Sure, they had to struggle with the likes of Gabbert, Chad Henne, and Blake Bortles during that time, but falling off by an average of 160 expected points per season is marvelously horrendous.

YearTeamRoleAdj. NEPRankAdj. Pass NEPRankAdj. Rush NEPRank

The gains experienced in Atlanta were not as drastic, but still noticeable. It’s hard to improve a passing offense that ranked an average of seventh in the league the preceding three years, but somehow Koetter bumped that up to a top-five average yearly while with the Falcons. The running game dropped off sizably, but I chalk that up to a moving away from the run in the game plan due to poor personnel decisions by head coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Koetter worked with what he had and maximized the passing game of Atlanta, and it showed.

An Honourable Man

Koetter’s wisdom, again, comes from the fact that he plays to the strengths of his offense and highlights that in his game plans. When with the Jaguars, he made Maurice Jones-Drew the engine of the offense; when with the Falcons, Matt Ryan was his go-to weapon. Who will it be in Tampa Bay?

This is a team and offense in flux. Two years ago, it seemed that running back Doug Martin was the next coming of Ray Rice, but injury and exposure has shown him to be a lesser player than we originally thought. Quarterback turnover has been annual since Josh Freeman was shown to not be the face of the franchise a few years ago. The real strength of this offensive unit? The receiving corps. Rookie wide receiver Mike Evans is the up-and-coming star of this Buccaneers’ wideout group, veteran Vincent Jackson anchors this unit as a still-useful deep threat and possession receiver, and even rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins looks to be a huge boost for this group when he returns from injury in 2015.

If Dirk Koetter is given even a passable option under center, he can make some good things happen with these kinds of offensive tools. Before Koetter’s time in Jacksonville, the quarterback position averaged 11.46 Passing NEP for the Jaguars. With Koetter calling the plays, it averaged 42.08 Passing NEP. Part of this may have been due to phasing out Byron Leftwich and phasing in David Garrard, but I attribute a good amount to Koetter’s genius too. To prove that point for me, I present Matt Ryan’s numbers: before Dirk Koetter, he averaged 86.18 Passing NEP per season. With Koetter? 106.98.

We can debate until May about which quarterback will –- or should –- be running the Tampa Bay offense come NFL Kickoff 2015, but I don’t think it matters. Buccaneers fans, rejoice; the tyranny of offensive mediocrity may be ending sooner than you think.