Take a good look at the photo above. Those are the coaches that brought the Atlanta Falcons within 10 yards of the Super Bowl during the 2012 season.
Save for the guy on the left (then-Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan), those are the new leaders of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dirk Koetter, the guy on the right, was the offensive coordinator of the Falcons in 2012. On Friday morning, he was named the new head coach of the Bucs. And he’s bringing a friend along.
After he was announced as the new Tampa Bay head coach, Koetter disclosed former Falcons head coach Mike Smith, that guy in the middle of the photo above, will be his defensive coordinator.
Yes, the guy who won Sporting News Coach of the Year three times in the seven seasons he led the Falcons, coaching against Atlanta. The former head coach who likely knows every tendency of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman, leading a rival defense against Atlanta twice a year.
Koetter already proved himself against the Falcons in 2015. With a poor offensive line and a rookie quarterback, Koetter’s offense scored 23 points in each of their two games against Atlanta, both victories. They’ll only get better from here as Koetter’s offense gets rolling and he’s able to bring in better offensive linemen to protect Jameis Winston.
Here’s another aspect of the Koetter hire that could really backfire for the Falcons: wide receiver Roddy White has a close bond with the Bucs’ new head coach, according to ESPN.com. If there’s anything left in the tank with this playmaker – I suspect there is – Tampa Bay could give him a shot, and you better believe he’d want to stick it to Atlanta’s new coaching staff, especially if things are as bad as rumors have suggested between him and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
It’s never good news when a team’s former coaches leave to start something new in the same division, but when it’s a young bunch with tons of potential, which they’re inheriting in Tampa, it’s especially daunting for the floundering Falcons. With the Carolina Panthers playing for a spot in the NFC Championship game Sunday afternoon, it’s about to get mighty crowded in the NFC South.
Photo: Jay Adams/AtlantaFalcons.comFollow @Sean_Breslin