ATLANTA – Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan knows a thing or two about leading productive offenses, and he believes Atlanta can be as good as it’s ever been, offensively, under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.
“There is no ceiling, to me,” Ryan said. “I think that we have talented guys, he’s a very good football coach, and we’re capable of being the very best. Now, we’ve got to go do it. We all have to do it. But, to me, there shouldn’t be any limitations on what we’re capable of doing.”
Atlanta parted ways with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian after the 2018 season, his second with the Falcons, and brought back Koetter, who served that role with the team from 2012-14. While working with Koetter, Ryan was twice named to the Pro Bowl and threw for 13,928 yards with 86 touchdowns and 45 interceptions.
In 2012, the Falcons reached the NFC Championship Game in part because of an offense that gained 369 yards and scored 26.2 points per game, which ranked eighth and seventh in the NFL, respectively. Ryan, the NFL MVP in 2016, believes he’s grown as a quarterback since he last worked with Koetter.
“I think, for sure, I’m open to different concepts,” Ryan said. “I think the play-action pass game that I learned from Kyle [Shanahan] is different, and I see the value in that. I think experience helps you evolve too, and you get a better feel of what do I like, what do I like in certain situations, who I am as a player at this point. I think just in those type of ways. Schematically, a little bit different, and then confidence and maturity I think I’m different.”
This is the fourth time in Ryan’s career the Falcons have made a change at offensive coordinator, but unlike the other three instances, Ryan has a high comfort level working with Koetter. That experience, Ryan says, will allow them to jump ahead in the learning process.
“You kind of bypass a lot of that getting to know each other and getting to know how people operate,” Ryan said. “I also think that one of the hardest things to do when you transition is to understand how people work on gameday and in game situations. I know how Dirk operates like that, and he knows how I operate – what makes me tick and how I play my best, what he needs to do to coach me to be my best.”
As was the case with Sarkisian, the Falcons will keep their same offensive philosophy and terminology in place, putting the onus on Koetter to adjust instead of the players.
With a veteran group of core offensive players, the Falcons would rather keep things as familiar as possible. That core group of players consists of All-Pro Julio Jones, breakout rookie Calvin Ridley and Pro Bowlers Alex Mack, Devonta Freeman and Austin Hooper.
Atlanta remains one of the most talented offensive units in the NFL. And while fans may fear another first-year malaise as Koetter adjusts to an offense that isn’t his own, Ryan doesn’t see that happening with this particular coordinator.
“Actually, when he came in in 2012 he adjusted to the system that Mike Mularkey had before, so he’s done this twice with me,” said Ryan, who was making the rounds on behalf of Delta at radio row on Thursday morning. “It’s a different terminology now, but he’s done that before. He’s really good with that.”
If Koetter hits the ground running, the Falcons have plenty of pieces in place to once again be among the best offenses in the NFL. In Ryan’s opinion, they could be right at the top.