Tampa Bay may not know who will be leading its defense in 2010 with the demotion of coordinator Jim Bates, but the team has already taken steps to solidify the offensive side of the ball.
PewterReport.com is reporting that the Bucs have signed offensive coordinator Greg Olson to a contract extension to remain in his current position for at least the 2010 season.
Olson, who was in the final year of his contract prior to signing the extension, was hired to be the team’s quarterbacks coach before the 2008 season, and was promoted to coordinator prior to the ‘09 preseason finale when Tampa Bay fired offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski on September 3. Olson signed a multi-year extension several weeks ago, but there is a stipulation for 2011 in case there is a league-wide lockout and a cancellation of that year's regular season. The exact terms of the contract were not disclosed to PewterReport.com.
Retaining Olson allows the Bucs to have system and coaching continuity for quarterback Josh Freeman, which was a big factor in the Tampa Bay’s decision to retain Olson. The 21-year old Freeman was the Bucs’ first-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and is the team’s franchise quarterback. The Glazer family, along with general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Raheem Morris wanted to have Freeman grow within the same system from his first year to his second year, which is when NFL players traditionally have been known to show the most improvement. Changing coordinators and offenses on an annual basis has been known to stunt the development of many young quarterbacks.
“Continuity within the coaching staff and within the system is key,” Olson said. “Whether you talk to a Peyton Manning or a Drew Brees or a Tom Brady that have been able to stay in the same system, it has been positive for the development of the quarterback. I believe we have the right system here and we’ll grow from the right system. There will be some changes [in the offseason], but I think what we’ll bring as an offensive staff and what I will bring as a coordinator will be moving forward. We’re not where we need to be by any means. Certainly I’m not happy at this point and we’re going to get better. We’ve got to get better.”
Freeman is 1-2 in his first three NFL starts this year, and has thrown for 543 yards while completing 51 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and five interceptions. The Bucs have the 29th-ranked offense through 10 games with the 23rd-ranked rushing game and the 27th-ranked passing attack in the NFL.
The production of Olson’s system, which is a combination of Jagodzinski’s offense, Jon Gruden’s successful plays and his own plays from his days as St. Louis’ play-caller, has been stymied due to his late start taking over the play-calling duties and the fact that he has had to start three quarterbacks this year, including two with zero NFL experience in Freeman and second-year player Josh Johnson.
The Bucs expect better results with Olson having a full offseason to implement his own offense and more time to develop Freeman’s skills.
“I’ve learned under some of the better offensive minds in the league in Jon Gruden, Steve Mariucci and Scott Linehan, and some of the college guys in Joe Tiller and Dennis Erickson, throughout my career. I’ve taken a little bit from everybody,” Olson said. “I want to be a stretch-the-field guy. I think it’s important in today’s game to have a solid vertical passing game. I think I learned the value of personnel and formation from Coach Gruden – the value of getting people in the right places and constantly changing the on-field personnel [during games] to cause confusion on the defense with different formations. I think we have a quarterback in Josh Freeman that can allow us to go vertical. To me, if you look at teams that are throwing, they have solid rushing numbers. We still feel like we can run the ball effectively, but with the continued development of Josh Freeman we can push the ball down the field more.”
Olson said that while he is heavily involved in the passing game due to the fact that he also serves as the team’s quarterbacks coach, he is not necessarily a pass-first play-caller.
“Every game is different. Every week is different,” Olson said. “I would never like to come out and say we’re going to be a pass, pass, pass, pass team. We’re going to study our opponent each week and decide where their weaknesses are scheme-wise and personnel-wise and see where the match-ups are in our favor. If the match-up is in our favor with our offensive line versus their defensive line, you might see a more run-oriented game plan. If the match-ups are better outside, you might see more passing involved in our game plan. In today’s game, you have to be able to throw the football and generate explosive plays to score points in this league. It’s about scoring points. That’s our job. You’ve got to have a quarterback, and we feel like we have that guy.”
Olson admitted that carrying both the offensive coordinator title and the quarterbacks coaching title has been time-consuming this season, and he has spoken with management in order to get some help in certain areas in 2010.
“I think we’ll be looking for some help, although I’m not sure what that specific position will be,” Olson said. “I need some help with the organizational part of the meetings. I need some help that way. I will always stay involved with the quarterbacks, so whether we hire a quarterbacks coach or an offensive assistant position – I don’t know if they have made that decision yet. I’m certainly comfortable doing both, but it would obviously be favorable to all of us to get some help in that area with all of the organizational aspects of it.”
During this past offseason, Olson was disappointed that he was not allowed to interview for the offensive coordinator position last January. Originally, he was told he was going to have the opportunity to interview, but the interview never took place. Morris wanted to hire to Olson as the offensive coordinator, but the Glazers and general manager Mark Dominik favored a coordinator like Jagodzinski that had NFL experience in addition to head coaching experience that Morris could lean on in his first year as a head coach.
Olson was restricted from leaving the organization despite the fact that Kansas City was interested in having him serve as the Chiefs’ quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. Olson is good friends with new Chiefs head coach Todd Haley, but Dominik and the Glazers would not let Olson out of his contract.
After taking over as offensive coordinator, Olson started to expand the playbook that Jagodzinski had installed. The Bucs organization felt that Jagodzinski’s playbook was too small, and was not advanced enough in terms of pass protection. Olson worked on those issues, and brought back some of the plays that the offense executed well in the 2008 season under Gruden.
Olson served as the offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams for the 2006 and 2007 seasons. The ’06 Rams were sixth in the NFL in total offense with the third ranked passing offense. The offense had a quarterback (Marc Bulger), running back (Steven Jackson), and wide receiver (Torry Holt) selected to the Pro Bowl. After the 2007 season, Olson was fired by the Rams and was hired by Gruden to replace Paul Hackett as Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks coach.
In his career, Olson has also coached former Buccaneers quarterback Jeff Garcia to the Pro Bowl when they were together with the San Francisco 49ers. Olson developed and recruited quarterback Drew Brees to Purdue in the late 1990s. In 2003, Olson was the quarterbacks coach for the Chicago Bears, and served in that capacity for the Detroit Lions in 2004. In 2005, Olson was the Lions quarterback coach and became the offensive coordinator midway through the season.
While the Bucs will be looking to stabilize the defensive side of the coaching staff, the system and the coordinator are already in place next year on the offensive side of the ball with Olson’s contract extension.
“I look forward to finishing on a high note, but also having an entire offseason to implement what we want to do systematically,” Olson said. “Right now we’re focused on one game at a time and trying to get our next win.”
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