Ryan excited that Koetter staying with Falcons


Ryan excited that Koetter staying with Falcons

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Quarterback Matt Ryan is enjoying his best season in five years with the Atlanta Falcons.

So it's no wonder Ryan was delighted to hear that offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter won't be leaving to take a head coaching job with another NFL team.

``The thing I think everybody respects and likes the most is that he trusts our guys to go out there and make the plays,'' Ryan said on Wednesday. ``He's not afraid to be aggressive. It's been fun.''

Ryan has worked just one season with Koetter, who has signed a contract extension to stay with the team through 2014, and the results have been impressive for the NFC's No. 1 playoff seed.

Roddy White and Julio Jones each have over 1,000 yards receiving. Tight end Tony Gonzalez leads the team in catches, and Ryan is having his best season as a professional.

The only drawback has been the substantial decline in production from running back Michael Turner, but Ryan credits the coach's game plans and play-calling in helping the Falcons (13-3) enjoy a bye week before they host a divisional round game Jan. 13.

``I think he does a great job of putting all of our guys in position to succeed,'' Ryan said. ``He changes it up and puts different guys out there at different times.''

Koetter's name surfaced this week as a head coaching candidate in Cleveland, Kansas City and Philadelphia. The Falcons moved to re-sign Koetter after his interview with Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt on Tuesday.

Atlanta coach Mike Smith declined to give details of the developments involving Koetter and other job offers.

``I don't want to really get into any of the details,'' Smith said. ``Dirk is going to be here with us. He informed me of that last night. We talked at length. That's where we're at right now.''

Koetter, who spent the previous five years as coordinator in Jacksonville, oversees an offense that ranks second in third-down efficiency, seventh in scoring and fewest sacks allowed and eighth in total yards.

Much of the Falcons' success offensively has been credited to the numbers produced by Ryan, White, Gonzalez and Jones, but Koetter doesn't rely solely on his stars.

Everyone seems to get some action because Koetter has five potential receiving targets on the field for nearly every snap.

Relatively anonymous players like receiver Drew Davis, tight end Michael Palmer and offensive tackle Mike Johnson have caught touchdown passes.

Some personnel groupings include reserve running backs Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling on the field for the same play. And opponents don't know if White, Jones or even Gonzalez will line up wide, in the slot or in the backfield.

``Using all your guys keeps everybody motivated, gives everybody something to prepare for each week,'' Koetter said last week. ``I think our high this year was 32 personnel groups. We usually average in the low 20s with many different combinations of guys. It's fun for the guys and lets the coaches who have different parts of the game plan be creative in how we use our guys.''

Koetter's hiring last January got a mixed reaction.

He had overseen a balanced attack during his first four years with Jacksonville as the Jaguars ranked 13th in total offense, seventh in rushing, fifth in third-down conversions and first in fewest interceptions.

But Jacksonville all but collapsed in 2011 as rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert struggled and the Jaguars finished last in total offense and in yards passing. Their 15.2 scoring average ranked 29th.

When he arrived in Atlanta, Koetter wanted to earn the trust of his new players quickly so he went out of his way to keep his playbook simple.

``I think one of the biggest things that helped throughout the situation was him adapting to the terminology and a lot of the concepts that we had used and kind of the one guy changing for the mass as opposed to the mass changing for one guy,'' Ryan said. ``I think guys respected that and really appreciated that.''


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Wizards host students from Stoneman Douglas High School ahead of 'March For Our Lives'

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Wizards host students from Stoneman Douglas High School ahead of 'March For Our Lives'

With a march on Washington planned for this weekend following the mass shooting in Parkland, FL, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were invited by the Wizards to attend their Friday morning practice at Capital One Arena.

About 20 of the kids showed up to watch the Wizards practice, took pictures with players, got a tour of the facilities and walked away with Wizards hats and gear. It was a small break away from what has been a tumultous time ever since the massacre at their school on Feb. 14.

Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis was on hand to speak with the students, who are set to lead the 'March For Our Lives' through downtown Washington on Saturday.


Wizards guard Bradley Beal met with the media after taking photos with the students.

"For us to be able to take their mind off of it for just a few minutes is always a great feeling," Beal said. "At the end of the day, we're all human beings regardless of our careers are and what our jobs are. A lot of us have families, kids, brothers and sisters. The last thing that you want to happen is what happened to several of those families. You can never imagine."

Beal went to college in Florida and has participated in his own forms of activism. He has found inspiration in the efforts by Stoneman Douglas students. They have taken what happened to their school as a catalyst for what they hope produces change in the ability to protect similar attacks from happening again.


Beal, 24, finds that admirable.

"It's amazing sometimes to learn from the youth on how to do things," Beal said. "It's a testament to where our world needs to lead to, to where we need to get to and to come together as a society. It starts with us as the younger generation. We've gotta come together with love and do things like this. I think what they're doing is awesome. It's spreading positive vibes and it's true humanitarian work that they're doing."

The Stoneman Douglas students are expected to attend Friday night's Wizards-Nuggets game as well.

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Bradley Beal sees Phil Chenier's jersey retirement as something to strive for

Bradley Beal sees Phil Chenier's jersey retirement as something to strive for

The relationship between Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal and Bullets legend Phil Chenier goes beyond your average friendship between a current and former player, or a current player and team broadcaster.

Beal and Chenier are close to the point Chenier often offers advice as a fellow shooting guard who helped lead the organization to some of their most important accomplishments.

Beal is always open ears when Chenier is talking and took great honor in being the one to tell Chenier personally that his jersey would be retired by the Wizards.

The day has come for Chenier's No. 45 to be raised to the rafters and Beal feels a unique sense of pride in seeing a man he reveres to the highest degree finally have his day in the sun.

"It's unbelievable. It's more than deserving," Beal said. "I was happy to be the one who told him about it. It's a special night for him. He's been a mentor to a lot of us for many years."


Chenier was a three-time All-Star for the Washington Bullets back in the 1970s. Following his playing career, he became a legendary broadcaster calling Bullets and then Wizards games for over 30 years.

Beal is now an NBA All-Star himself, having earned the honor for the first time this season. He is a shooting guard, just like Chenier.

Chenier was the color analyst for Wizards games for the first five years of Beal's career and Beal has always seen Chenier as a model to follow both on and off the court.

"It's always motivation for me to get better and I feel like this is the final touch of it, having your jersey retired by the franchise that you played a part in their success," Beal said.


The honor Chenier is about to receive is another goal to strive for. Beal wants to achieve a lot of what Chenier has accomplished in his life from winning a championship to making All-NBA to now having his jersey hang in the rafters at Capital One Arena.

"It definitely motivates me for that to be a goal of mine. Especially with the fact we both play the same position," Beal said.


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For more on Chenier's jersey retirement, check out our in-depth interview with him on the Wizards Tipoff podcast: