By the time Greg Olson was swept out of Oakland after the 2014 season, along with most every other coach, he had been credited with the rapid development of rookie quarterback Derek Carr and criticized for the Raiders poor offensive performance overall.
New head coach Jon Gruden cited Olson’s work with Carr that season as part of the reason he hired Olson to be his offensive coordinator next season, if not for years to come. Gruden also liked what he saw from Olson when he was the quarterbacks coach in Tampa Bay for the 2008 season, Gruden’s last.
Olson most recently worked with the Los Angeles Rams as their quarterbacks coach. He received widespread praise for helping transform quarterback Jared Goff from a dazed-and-confused rookie last season into one of the game’s rising stars this season.
Gruden is confident that Olson can weave the same kind of magic with Carr next season. Carr regressed from a league MVP candidate last season to an unsteady performer for most of this season, even before he broke three bones in his back in Oakland’s fourth game.
Given Carr was a rookie in 2014 and the Raiders still were in full-on rebuild mode, not much was expected of them, especially on offense when Carr was thrust into a starting role from the outset. Hence, it wasn’t surprising that the Raiders struggled offensively.
In fact, the Raiders struggled as much as any team in the league. They were 32nd in yards per game at an average of 282.2 and 31st in scoring at 15.8. By comparison, in 2013 the Raiders were 23rd in yards per game at 333.8 and 24th in scoring at 20.1 in Olson’s first year. Terrelle Pryor, Matt McGloin and Matt Flynn started at quarterback that season.
Not much can be gleaned from Olson’s three years as the Buccaneers offensive coordinator, from 2009-11. He learned of his promotion to that role the day before the Buccaneers final exhibition game. To boot, he was tasked with turning rookie quarterback Josh Freeman into the starter right away.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that the Buccaneers offense went from 14th in yards in Gruden’s final season to 28th the next season and slid from 18th in scoring to 29th.
It is clear that Olson isn’t afraid to employ a pass-heavy attack, though part of that can be attributed to his teams playing from behind so often in 2009, 2013 and ’14. The Buccaneers passed on 56.4 percent of their offensive plays in ’09, while the Raiders did so 54.3 percent of the time in ’13 and 65.1 in ’14.
However, Olson is going to earn his money this time for how well he succeeds in helping Carr rebound from a disappointing season. Gruden made it clear that he intends to do the play-calling on offense. That will free up Olson to concentrate on getting Carr back on track.
From afar, it appears as if Carr became a tad gun shy as the season progressed. He was quick to get rid of the ball well before defenders had a chance to get near him and also had a penchant for throwing the ball up for grabs.
The good news is, those are things that will be addressed by Olson and they are issues that can be fixed with little difficulty, as long as Carr isn’t afraid of taking more hits than he did this season.
There is a belief that Carr is hesitant to stand in the face of pressure on the heels of the broken leg he suffered late last season, that he would just as soon hit the deck, dump off the ball or throw it up for grabs. If that’s the case, Olson’s job will be more difficult than he imagines.