Mularkey vs Koetter


I was recently reading the Schein 9 over at FOX Sports when I stumbled over a sentence that read, “Dirk Koetter is an upgrade over Mike Mularkey as offensive coordinator.”

I had to stop and reread the sentence.

For those of you that may not know, Dirk Koetter went to Atlanta after we stole their offensive coordinator to become our head coach.  Mularkey (rightly) hired a new offensive coordinator and shooed Koetter far away.

I’ve never been a Dirk Koetter fan.  I’ve never enjoyed his scheming, his approach, or his play calling.  I was more than happy to read that he was gone from Jacksonville, and I was even more happy knowing that Bob Bratkowski was replacing him.

But, rather than let my personal feelings and preferences toward football make me think rashly, I decided to take a look at the numbers just in case.

Dirk Koetter has been an offensive coordinator for only one team, the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2007-2011.  Mike Mularkey has been the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers (’01-’03), the Miami Dolphins (’06), and the Atlanta Falcons (’08-’11).  While I could argue that Mularkey is better as an offensive coordinator merely because of his experience as a coordinator in numerous different systems, I’ll instead focus on statistics.

Dirk Koetter has had one season (’07) in which the offense he was directing finished in the top 10 in yards and points.  This was a largely a result of a very strong running game behind Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew (1970 yards, 14 TDs, 2nd in the NFL).  David Garrard played safe (one interception all year), and the Jaguars relied on half-field reads and the play action pass.  Some argue that this wasn’t of Dirk Koetter’s design as he was brought in to elongate the field.

Koetter got the chance to do so in his subsequent seasons.  Yet the Jaguars regressed under his tutelage.  Never again did the Jaguars even sniff the top 10 in overall offense.  Only once did the Jaguars again breach the top ten in an offensive category (2010’s 3rd in rushing yards and attempts, 9th in TDs).  The passing offense that was supposed to become more explosive and elongated under Koetter?  It’s best rank was 15th in 2008 for yards, 4th in interceptions in ’09, 11th in touchdowns in 2010.  The team continued to rely on its workhorse running backs and failed to make the jump to an effective elongated passing attack.  Say what you want about the weapons on offense, but sometimes it just comes down to poor coaching and poor understanding of the scheming.  Both of those things come from the communication of the offensive coordinator.

Taking a look at Mike Mularkey shows a different story.  Mularkey has always favored a more balanced offense, and tailored his offense to best interact with his personnel rather than trying to force a scheme down the throats of players unsuited for it.  On four seasons his offense has finished in the top 10 in yards (’01 & ’02 in Pittsburgh; ’08 & ’11 in Atlanta) and six times (once as head coach) his offense has finished in the top 10 in points (’08, ’10, ’11 in Atlanta; ’01 & ’02 in Pittsburgh; and ’04 as HC of Buffalo).  Not to mention the three top 10 rushing yards (’01, ’02, ’08), his four seasons in the top 10 in rushing TDs (’01, ’04, ’08, ’10), his two seasons (’02, ’11) in the top ten of passing yards, and his three seasons in the top 10 of passing TDs (’02, ’10, ’11).

Mularkey did all of this with multiple different teams, bring the Pittsburgh Steelers to the playoffs, almost making the Bills respectable, and ensuring almost a decade of respectable Atlanta Falcons teams to come.

Somehow, however, Dirk Koetter is still considered a better offensive coordinator.  In fact, he’s widely regarded as successful in his coaching duties.  I sure as hell can’t understand it.  His intellect and ability to talk his way out of situations must be amazing.  If my team continually wasted away in the lower end of the offensive scale, I’d move past the coordinator in a hurry.

– Luke N. Sims