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The team on Thursday announced that former Falcons play-caller Dirk Koetter has been hired to lead Lovie Smith's offense. Koetter agreed to a two-year deal with a team option for a third. A source informed of the situation told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport that Koetter was Tampa's top choice.
From a fantasy football perspective, it's an intriguing hire for the Bucs, who land Koetter after he spent the past two seasons in Atlanta following five years as a play-caller for the Jaguars.
Koetter was successful running a Falcons' offense that leaned on Matt Ryan throwing to Julio Jones, Roddy White, Harry Douglas and the retired Tony Gonzalez. Despite the lack of a reliable ground game, Koetter's downfield passing attack helped Atlanta finish eighth in offense this season.
Koetter's offense produced 284.6 passing yards, 378.2 total yards and 23.8 points per game. Ryan threw for 4,694 yards, 28 touchdowns and a 93.9 passer rating. In 2012, Ryan had his best season as a pro, with career highs in yards (4,719 yards, touchdown passes (32), completion percentage (68.6 percent) and passer rating (99.1).
While the Falcons did not have an efficient rushing attack, Koetter has experience making the most out of that strength as well.
His Jaguars teams made good use of Maurice Jones-Drew, in particular, while ranking in the top 12 in rushing in four of his five seasons, including a second-place finish in 2007 and a third-place ranking in 2010. In 2007, with David Garrard and Quinn Gray as his starting quarterbacks, Koetter helped the Falcons finish sixth in the league in points scored, seventh in total yards, second in rushing yards and first in interception percentage. The Jaguars compiled an 11-5 record and made the playoffs that season.
In addition, in six of his eight seasons as an NFL coordinator, Koetter has seen his offense rank among the league's top 13 in fewest turnovers committed, including three top-10 finishes. Those are numbers that are likely to make his new boss, Smith, smile.
“I’m very excited to welcome Dirk to our staff,” Smith said in a statement. “With over three decades of experience at both the college and the NFL level, Dirk has a proven track record as a top offensive coordinator. During his time in Atlanta, he led one of the most productive offenses in the league and I believe he will enjoy similar success here with the exciting young players we have on offense.
"It became very apparent early in our conversations that we share some of the same philosophies regarding the offensive side of the ball and I look forward to working with Dirk as we begin preparing for the 2015 season.”
As NFL.com's Marc Sessler suggested, Koetter faces immediate challenges in Tampa, where the quarterback position -- with Josh McCown and Mike Glennon -- is full of questions. The great hope lies in young wideout Mike Evans, who enjoyed a marvelous rookie campaign in 2014 and gives the Bucs a tall, reliable target to lean on for years to come.
Still, the Bucs desperately needed to find a leader on offense after losing former coordinator Jeff Tedford, who took an indefinite leave from the Bucs in September following a heart procedure prior to the season. In his absence, quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo served as Tampa's interim play-caller.
Now they have that.