During the three seasons Dirk Koetter served as the Falcons' offensive coordinator, Matt Ryan was consistently one of the NFL's best quarterbacks. Among those who appeared in at least 20 regular season games from 2012-14, just eight players threw more touchdowns; only two threw for more yards; and other than Peyton Manning, Ryan posted the highest completion percentage in the league.
That success, it turns out, has greatly benefited the QB Atlanta will face on Sunday.
When the Buccaneers drafted Jameis Winston in 2015, Koetter, then Tampa's OC, was tasked with getting the No. 1 pick ready to start from the get-go. One of the most valuable tools at their disposal was film that showed how to effectively operate in Koetter's system.
And Ryan provided no shortage of that.
"For a good three months, all I was watching was Matt Ryan," James Winston said Wednesday. "So I definitely know the caliber of quarterback that Matt Ryan is. He's a great guy. So I definitely took some of his little techniques that he used in Dirk's offense and definitely applied them to mine."
According to Koetter, who's now Tampa's head coach, drop backs, mechanics and movement in the pocket were areas Winston focused on as he observed Ryan's tape. He studied footwork, too — specifically, how to time his feet with the depth of his receivers' routes.
"I think that's one of the hardest things for a young quarterback coming out of college to learn," Koetter said. "Even though Jameis came from a pro system at Florida State, we just probably have more variations of drop back footwork than he was used to. So we had three full seasons of cutups of the time I was in Atlanta and a pretty darn good quarterback showing him how to do it."
It didn't take long for Winston to figure out the scheme. He developed significantly throughout 2015 and, thanks to a strong second half, earned a Pro Bowl nomination. The Florida State product is on track to become a star, and as Ryan knows from personal experience, working with Koetter should only help Winston improve.
"Jameis has done a great job, played really well last year, has picked it up," Ryan said. "I think they've tweaked (Koetter's offense) and kind of tailored it to his strengths, too. And they've done some things different. So I have a lot of respect for him, for Dirk — I know Dirk's a great coach. He does a great job with quarterbacks, so Jameis is in good hands."