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Based on Dirk Koetter’s recent years, it’s hard to ignore how pass-happy the Bucs have been. It can easily lead to the belief that he himself imposes his will on the offense in favor of the pass game, and I’ve personally held onto that narrative. However, when you take a deeper look, Koetter has actually given the capable RBs he’s had some serious touches.
From 2009-2011, Maurice Jones-Drew averaged 361 touches per year with Koetter as his OC. He then had a series of years where the RB talent wasn’t quite there. He had Michael Turner in his last year in the league, followed Steven Jackson at age 30 and then 31. He then gave a 26-year-old Doug Martin 321 touches in 2015, followed by a terrible year for Martin despite averaging 20 touches per game in his 8 games played the following year.
The last two seasons he was choosing between a washed-up Doug Martin, Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Ronald Jones.
Recency bias would tell us that he’s incapable of producing a run game or valuing his RBs, but I’m not sure he had much to work with.
His starting RB this year is Devonta Freeman in Atlanta, and while Freeman has injury issues that are very concerning going forward, Koetter might not be a reason why Freeman or that running game would fail.
And while it makes sense to continue riding a great passing offense with all the weapons the Falcons have, we might not want to assume Koetter is a pass-happy guy coming into this situation. When he took over as the Bucs HC in 2016, which resulted in Todd Monken being named their OC, Koetter’s intentions were clear: “We’re going to be a run-first football team.” It’s definitely tougher when your defense doesn’t keep you in positive or neutral game scripts, but it’s possible that this pass-happy nature might be more of a Todd Monken thing than a Koetter thing.
With key defensive players making their way back from injury, the Falcons defense should be able to hold their own, potentially letting Koetter call games in a more balanced manner.
Depending on how Qadree Ollison and Ito Smith challenge Freeman for touches in camp, it’s possible that he’s used as a workhorse despite his previous ailments.