Terrell ‘T-Sizzle’ Suggs checks in on Dirk Koetter

Terrell Suggs (Rob Carr, Associated Press)

Terrell Suggs (Rob Carr, Associated Press)

Before Terrell Suggs turned in to a terror for the Baltimore Ravens, he played for Falcons new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter at Arizona State in 2001 and 2002.

Our buddy Jason Butt, a former Falcons beat writer from the University of Georgia who now covers the Baltimore Ravens for CBSSports.com, asked Suggs about Koetter for us.

“He’s very inventive,” Suggs said. “He had a lot of practices based on stopping me. I think I ruined a lot of his practices. I got pulled out of a lot of his practices because I was ballin’ in college. But he’s a good coach. He’s going to be good for Atlanta.”

Here’s the Koetter story, where others, including Eagles head coach Andy Reid and ESPN analyst Merril Hoge, checked in with us about the Falcons new offensive coordinator.

Falcons’ Koetter follows in father’s footsteps

FLOWERY BRANCH — Back in 1985, Dirk Koetter decided to leave the small town of Pocatello, Idaho, to chase his dream of one day becoming like his father.

He was 26, four years past his college playing days at Idaho State. He had coached a few years in high school before going to San Francisco State to work on a three-man staff with head coach Vic Rowen and Andy Reid.

“Going to San Francisco was an eye-opener,” Koetter said.

Falcons new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan (left) and new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter (right).Johnny Crawford, jcrawford@ajc.com

Falcons new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan (left) and new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter (right).Johnny Crawford, jcrawford@ajc.com

He made his adjustment to the big city by burying himself in the playbooks that lined the shelves of the football office.

“We had a decent office,” said Reid, who now coaches the Philadelphia Eagles. “[Rowen] had playbooks from all over the country. We were well-educated.”

Determined to follow in the path of his father, Jim, an Idaho coaching legend, Koetter set off on a journey that led to him being hired last Sunday as the Falcons’ new offensive coordinator.

Reid and Koetter would stay together for nine years, going on to coach together at Texas-El Paso and Missouri.

“He was the coordinator, and I was the line coach,” Reid said. “We worked hand-in-hand. I’ve got a few years with Dirk, and we’re good friends.”

They both recall their start with Rowen as a vital first step in the profession.

“He was a great coach of coaches,” Reid said. “A lot of guys came out of there and moved on to nice college jobs and into the pros. He taught us well.”

While some questioned the Falcons’ hiring of Koetter because Jacksonville’s offense ranked 32nd in the NFL in total offense last season, Reid believes the move was a stroke of genius.

“I would tell you that No. 1, he’s brilliant,” Reid said. “He’s got a great offensive mind.”

Koetter watched his father coach in high school and then at Idaho State. Things didn’t go well at Idaho State, and the elder Koetter was fired after posting a 23-32-1 record from 1983-87. When his dad went to coach at another local high school, Koetter’s respect for him grew even greater.

“At this point in my career, I’ve seen a lot of coaches on a lot of levels, and my dad is one of the top two or three coaches that I’ve come across,” Koetter said. “He’s a better coach than I’ll ever be.”

Koetter studied his father’s organizational skills, how he handled people and the offseason weightlifting program he implemented before that was in vogue.

“I knew I wanted to be like him,” Koetter said.

The elder Koetter is 73. He and Koetter’s mother, Barbara, still live in Pocatello. They watch Koetter’s games on satellite television.

“I’m sure they’ll be signing up to get all of the Falcons games now,” Koetter said.

High praise

One of Koetter’s first star pupils was Merril Hoge, at Highland High in Pocatello, where Koetter was his offensive coordinator.

“He was forced to run the Wing-T,” Hoge said. “He doesn’t tell anybody that. In the first offense he coordinated, his halfback threw more touchdowns than his quarterback, and that was me. He’ll never share that. He’ll keep that a secret for the rest of his days, but I love him.”

Hoge went on to play for the elder Koetter at Idaho State. He played eight seasons in the NFL after being selected in the 10th round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1987.

“Him and his dad are two of the greatest football minds that I’ve been around,” said Hoge, currently an ESPN analyst. “I throw Chuck Noll into that category along with Ron Erhardt, Tom Moore and Bill Cowher.”

He credits the Koetters for his professional career.

“I knew the pro game,” Hoge said. “I knew how to pass block. I knew how to run routes. … We were doing pro-style stuff in college and high school.”

After his stay at Missouri, Koetter was hired by Tom Coughlin to be Boston College’s offensive coordinator in 1994. They never worked together because Coughlin left to become the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Former Falcons coach Dan Henning succeeded Coughlin, and Koetter worked for him.

Years later, when Coughlin was in Arizona to play the Cardinals and Koetter was the head coach at Arizona State, he apologized to Koetter for hiring him and then bolting for Jacksonville.

After his Boston College stop, Koetter went to Oregon and later landed his first head coaching job at Boise State, where he laid the foundation for the Broncos’ present-day success with back-to-back 10-win seasons and two bowl trips.

“We got that Boise State thing going,” Koetter said. “I was the head coach there for three years and had an awesome staff. When I left, Dan Hawkins took it. Dan had been on my staff. Chris Peterson and I were together at Oregon. Chris took it from Hawk.”

He left Boise State for Arizona State, where his offenses continued to put up big statistics, but couldn’t topple the powers of the Pac-10, now the Pac-12. His 2-19 record against ranked opponents was cited as one of the reasons for his firing in 2006.

The next year, he was hired as Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator.

Talent on hand

One undercurrent to Koetter’s career is that he has never had top-shelf talent.

“He’s got more out of nothing than I’ve ever seen,” Hoge said.

While the Falcons appear set to revamp their offensive line, Koetter has never had the collection of offensive stars that he will have at his disposal with the Falcons — tight end Tony Gonzalez, wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, running back Michael Turner, fullback Ovie Mughelli, right tackle Tyson Clabo and quarterback Matt Ryan.

“People don’t realize that the quarterback they had in Jacksonville last year [Blaine Gabbert] was horrible,” Hoge said. “It’s hard to coach somebody who’s scared.”

Koetter looks forward to the challenge.

“How everything fits together, that will be stuff that we’ll be working on,” Koetter said.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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64 comments Add your comment

TRUTH BE TOLD...........

January 23rd, 2012
5:43 am

TIME WILL TELL!!!

TRUTH BE TOLD...........

January 23rd, 2012
5:44 am

BUT 1ST THINGS………………….FIRST!!!

RodneyB

January 23rd, 2012
5:51 am

Here’s hoping for good things. No excuse now, you have the talent. Use it.

Johnny Carson

January 23rd, 2012
6:02 am

Great to learn dirk’s background from knowledgable NFL guys…..must read for Falcon fans!
I know I feel better about the guy.
Hope Arthur reads this too!

robertussen

January 23rd, 2012
6:11 am

progress and wins are the only thing that will sell me on koeter

D Orlando Bedwetter

January 23rd, 2012
6:14 am

Jagg off.

Admit you make mistakes with spelling and we won’t be so hard on you. Remove our posts when we point it out and we are at war.

It’s OK to be humble about some things.

Marcus

January 23rd, 2012
6:16 am

Nice digging …

Now, this is all well and good .. since we have all this firepower for our new OC, does this translate into a defense-heavy draft for 2012 for our DC?

Samuel

January 23rd, 2012
6:26 am

I hope he can instill mental toughness on offense and be able to win games on the road. I’ll be watching with one eye open. I don’t trust this team, they’ll have to win a playoff game before I can be optimistic..

slydog

January 23rd, 2012
6:34 am

Johnny Carson

January 23rd, 2012
6:02 am

Great to learn dirk’s background from knowledgable NFL guys…..must read for Falcon fans!
I know I feel better about the guy.
Hope Arthur reads this too!

While I am more than willing to give him a chance, this story tells me nothing I haven’t heard before nor does it give me comfort. Proof is in the pudding. Falcon fans do not ultimately care whether this guy is more “inventive” or creative. Did not Mularky trot out didfferent formations and plays every week? What concerns “rational” Falcons fans is Koetter’s play-calling ability. This guy could realistically keep Mularky’s playbook but just call plays in a more aggressive and assertive style. At least that is my hope. And at least we know when we play the Ravens, he knows how to scheme against Suggs, but so does Mike Smith.

robertussen

January 23rd, 2012
6:42 am

our line coach had zero to work with, but is one of the best in the nfl, how did he get canned and the excuse for the new oc is “he had nothing to nothing to work with in jacksonville”

Roddy White's "Plague"

January 23rd, 2012
7:18 am

DOL, you need to get over yourself. I saw where you removed all the posts pointing out your spelling error. Some of us did not forget.

Time for you to behave like an adult.

Tell it like it is

January 23rd, 2012
8:19 am

Harvey Diahl—Now i don’t know if i spelled his name right,but who gives a crap,he’s headed to the superbowl! Just another one of those Falcon cosy cutters!

Tell it like it is

January 23rd, 2012
8:20 am

That would be cost cutters.

Ex-Season Ticket Holder

January 23rd, 2012
8:30 am

No one at the AJC uses spell check. The following headline is on the front page of the AJC’s website: “Tornado watch issed in NW Ga.”. Issued is mis-spelled as issed.

jim

January 23rd, 2012
8:30 am

Who cares what anyone says about any coach. Today a new hire is the greatest thing.

3 years from now, their fired.

Next……

Tell it like it is

January 23rd, 2012
8:32 am

Looks like the NFL got its way again.Boston vs NY.The big markets teams allways seem to win out!

Ray Lewis' limo driver

January 23rd, 2012
8:40 am

Tell it like it is

January 23rd, 2012
8:32 am
Looks like the NFL got its way again.Boston vs NY.The big markets teams allways seem to win out!

-Just like that metropolis Green Bay last year. Oh wait..

SirReal

January 23rd, 2012
8:43 am

I thnk Koetter’s gonna end up better for us than we think. I’m optimistic. After all, if I were him I’d probably go mad from watching last years film of the offense and constantly handing the ball to Turner OVER and OVER and Over and over and……..

fan of falcons

January 23rd, 2012
8:46 am

I think that would be Micheal Boley, ex cost cutter of Atlanta that is headed to super bowl.

T4

January 23rd, 2012
8:55 am

Tell it like you don’t have a clue –
Our Harvey Dahl went to the St L lambs. I don’t know why I bother to read these sometimes – lot of know it alls not a lot of facts.

vesaversa

January 23rd, 2012
9:00 am

The Fans have no other choice but to give these two men a chance they can’t be any worst than those other two coaches who were let go.Are there any more of those Harbaugh boys left ?

I usually just read but....

January 23rd, 2012
9:01 am

WOW!! just look at that record. 2-19 record against ranked opponents@ Arizona State. His record @ Jacksonville? His dad couldn’t make college coaching but “He’s a better coach than I’ll ever be.” This hire is worse than the Nolan hire, and that is awful too. We were better off with what we had. This will not end well. This article is nothing more than putting lip stick on a pig. Still a pig!

joewhite

January 23rd, 2012
9:05 am

Well i know his background i do think he will have the offense ready for the new season go falcons.

Shane C.

January 23rd, 2012
9:26 am

Tell it like it is…you told it wrong Harvey Dahl plays for the Rams and you spelled it wrong not to be a ball buster

Shonuff

January 23rd, 2012
9:26 am

Yeah, Michael Boley is awesome! It has nothing to do with those animals that play in front of him.

Reality

January 23rd, 2012
9:27 am

I’ll say this for the Mike Smith & the other coaches, when they get beat in the playoffs, they get beat by the eventual Super Bowl champion.

Maybe that’s the Falcon’s fate. To be steamrolled by the eventual Super Bowl champion.

Bob Who?

January 23rd, 2012
9:35 am

Every team the Falcons lose to in the playoffs go on to the Super Bowl.
Cardinals, Packers, and Giants. So if we lose a playoff game next year that team will go to the Super Bowl.

Reality

January 23rd, 2012
9:43 am

Bob Who?

Amazing, isn’t it?

When it comes to playoff time, the great coaches get separated from the good coaches. So far, Smitty is a good coach.

Tell it like it is

January 23rd, 2012
9:44 am

Sorry folks,got Dahl mixed up with Boley,but you get my point.Falcons allways let the good players get away,because of FA.

1eyedJack

January 23rd, 2012
9:56 am

“Every team the Falcons lose to in the playoffs go on to the Super Bowl…So if we lose a playoff game next year that team will go to the Super Bowl.”

Or…we could not make it to the playoffs and end up with a big mystery. ;)

TD has no clue!

January 23rd, 2012
9:56 am

TD has no clue!

SawThat1nce

January 23rd, 2012
9:57 am

To be fair, Tell It Like It Is never said that Harvey D. was going to be playing in the SB, only that he WAS GOING to the SB.
I imagine that a lot of NFL players have tickets to the game. haha.

SawThat1nce

January 23rd, 2012
9:59 am

“NFL got it way”, I wonder if they told that 49er punt returner, to let the ball hit him?

Charlene B

January 23rd, 2012
10:00 am

You people only seem to complain all the time , give them a chance please.

SawThat1nce

January 23rd, 2012
10:02 am

IF the Falcons can build a good OLine, this team will be pretty darn good.

shesoleo

January 23rd, 2012
10:04 am

you could tell from the outset it would be the Giants & Patriots.

Los Angeles Falcons

January 23rd, 2012
10:04 am

We have not had someone like Suggs on our team since #97 Patrick Kerney left a few yrs ago. I honestly don’t care who the coordinators are, we just need someone who can unleash the BEAST! We need some nasty players! Did anyone see Aldon SMith for the 49ers, a defensive rookie from Mizzou — he had 14 sacks this year! Imagine if we had traded 5 draft picks for *HIM* instead of Julio … where would we be now???

MR BLANKS ALTER EGO

January 23rd, 2012
10:05 am

Nice feel good story but it all boil’s down can he WIN are not that’s all I care about this is a put up are shut up year for our Falcons way to much talent on this team to end it like we did this year hope Nolan can help our 2dary and our weak pass rush and Koetter does not hinder our QB like Mularkey we need to use talent we have JULIO RODDY QUIZ TURNER GONZO we did not do that this season blame it on a short off season because of lockout are whatever but it’s time to stop talking about the whole RISE UP movement and DO IT ATLANTA

GO FALCONS

Dan Reeves

January 23rd, 2012
10:13 am

We should have hired Belicheck away from the patriots.

Larry

January 23rd, 2012
10:22 am

read an article about the falcons are looking hard @ the senior bowl for gems in the draft. if the gems they have looked @ inthe past are like these (sidbury,jerry,wilson,) they need to look futher down the road. these have been a bust. and also some of the free agents (robinson, edwards ?) edwards i don’t have as much concern give 1 more yr and it will tell. on the hires oc and dc . dc will be good. but ? on oc. should have waited for clements from gb. on a offinsive line coach there should be a good one on the list somewhere. only time will tell on these hires. and spag going to no . no will be awesome.should have hired spag for dc.

shesoleo

January 23rd, 2012
10:23 am

I just really hope we keep Lofton and Abe most of the FA’s, bc without them we’re in trouble.

Game of Yards

January 23rd, 2012
12:07 pm

Makes me feel a little better about Koetter being an improvement over Mularkey, along with the pick up of Nolan, but I would like to see an OC adjust to and play a better chessmatch than the opposing DC. Mularkey was horrible in that regard. Would script 12-14 plays for the beginning of the game and stick to it no matter what ,, which was a testament to his incompetance and lack of being able to quickly assess and read a defense. Yesterdays conference c’ship games were the best reminders of how dominant defense will win championships., so hears to hoping the Falcons can start to build a formidable D. The Patriots D was the weakest of the bunch, but the 49ers, Giants and Ravens D’s were what gave every team a chance to go to the Super Bowl. The 49ers and Ravens both could have won (49ers should have won) ,, and look at their offenses. Matt Ryan still continues to be a huge question mark ,, as I do not think he has the field awareness and instincts to operate when the pressure is dialed up in the NFL. I still laugh when I hear Matty Ice.

Game of Yards

January 23rd, 2012
1:10 pm

Oh ,,,and Dirk ,,, as far as your thorough studies of game film and Ryan ,,, it would be great to see:

1) Ryan needs to learn to read defenses before he thinks he is going to audible to the tenth power everytime he comes to the line of scrimmage

2) Needs to learn how to hold onto the football for 2 additional seconds before bailing out of a play

3) Needs to “learn” how to move within a collapsing pocket without fear – this is the difference between him and an Eli Manning, a Drew Brees,,and many others.

4) Needs to learn how to really checkdown (see items 1-3)

5) Self-preservation is great ,,, but not when it costs you and your team b/c you are essentially playing scared. Koetter sounds like he is well versed in working with a scared QB.

An Dirk ,,, maybe you could have our receivers actually help Matt Ryan by learning how to get open when a play goes bust.

Good Luck with all of THAT!!

What Pass Defense?

January 23rd, 2012
2:09 pm

Time to celebrate. The Falcons just released their totally ineffective DBs coach. With any luck I can change my BLOG name to something else next season.

Maybe the folks at Flowery Branch are serious about evaluating themselves and the players. If the number of coaches let go is an indication, there may be a significant turnover of players also.

marco laredo tx

January 23rd, 2012
2:47 pm

Man everyone has got to chill for starterss…
matt ryan lost to cardinals(sb appearance), saints (sb champs), packers (champs) and
then didnt make next one…so atleast he lost to winners not losers but they have to finally make
a move or something cause little by little getting annoying

marco laredo tx

January 23rd, 2012
2:50 pm

and alot of people want play the what if card… what if we didnt get julio .. what if we got him or him or him blah everything changes with different team so think twice

whodat sisterz

January 23rd, 2012
4:11 pm

marco- anyone who beats the falcons ends up in the superbowl- a stepping stone so to say

Jay

January 23rd, 2012
5:44 pm

Rise up!!!

Go Falcons!!!

FACTS

January 23rd, 2012
5:58 pm

Any coordinator that inherits young talent has to be licking his chops. Julio was short of 1,000 yds by 41 yds while sitting out 5 games due 2 injury…..there is no coach in this league that would call that a bad decision to trade for a talent like that.There are a lot of positives about this young team, now fans get a chance see how this squad performs with two new perspectives being brought in by the new coordinators.One thing is for certain the element of surprise will be on the Falcons side especially with a chance to have a full camp, to get the new schemes down. All these changes are a sign that Mike Smith & T.D. realize their necks may be on the chopping block with another one & done playoff game……god forbid if the Birds do not even make the post season !!

Jason

January 23rd, 2012
6:07 pm

Nolan is a good hire and should make the Falcons defense better if Smitty allows him. The Falcons hire of Nolan should improve their defense, and I doubt Spags will make the Saints defense much better than it was this past season. Gain Falcons.