Buccaneers quarterback coach Greg Olson spoke publically for the first time since January. Much has changed for the Bucs quarterback situation in the past six months. The Bucs re-signed quarterback Luke McCown to compete to be the starter, signed veteran quarterback Byron Leftwich to compete for the starting spot, drafted quarterback Josh Freeman with their first-round pick, and have 2008 fifth-round pick Josh Johnson entering his second season.
Olson has been teaching the new offense under offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski to the quarterbacks. He is charged with developing Freeman, and helping to determine the starting quarterback. Freeman was not going to figure into seeing the field in 2009, but Pewter Report believes that the rookie's play has been strong enough for the team to be re-thinking the view that he would have sit and watch for all of the 2009 season. Freeman still does not figure into the competition to be the starting quarterback in Week 1 when the Bucs host the Dallas Cowboys.
Olson weighs in on all of his quarterbacks, and the Bucs new offense. The transcript from Olson's interview reads from top to bottom with questions appearing in bold.
(Has it been a rough change for you with the coaching staff, new offense, and new quarterbacks?) Olson: "It hasn't been bad to be honest with you. I've been fortunate. Obviously I lost some good guys. I haven't seen [Brian] Griese and we lost Jeff [Garcia]. They are professional guys that I really enjoy working with. The addition of Leftwich and Josh Freeman are both a pleasure to be around they're great guys. I'm fortunate I got a great room, and I had a great room a year ago, but at this point I can't complain about the guys in my room. They are all intelligent and very coachable."
(Is it uncomfortable not having a clear cut number one quarterback?) Olson: "Not at all really, that is the nature of the business. They've all been through it. Luke has been through it when he was in a quarterback competition before not just in Tampa but in Cleveland as well. Byron [Leftwich] has been through it before, so they understand the situation. The new guy Josh Freeman he is really the guy because we are finding a number one between Luke and Byron, I wouldn't say that it is stunting his growth but he's not getting the repetitions like he would if we had a clear cut starter like we did a year ago, and he would be getting all the number two reps. Now he's the guy that is why we try to do the extra practice or extra period at the end of practice to make sure he gets the reps that he would've normally gotten if we had a number one quarterback." (How has McCown responded to the challenge?) Olson: "Luke has been good, I think you guys know him. He's never one to complain or bitch about a situation. He just puts his hat on and goes to work every day. His personality hasn't changed. His work ethic hasn't changed. He doesn't have a problem with coming in and competing with Byron Leftwich. He's been great throughout the process. I don't think Luke is the type of guy that would want something handed to him to begin with. I think he has worked hard to get where he is at in his career, and certainly he'd like to see himself be rewarded for it. It will all play out in the fall, and if he's the best guy and gets through training camp and the preseason he'll be the guy. If he doesn't play very well than I'm sure he'll understand it." (What kind of progress has McCown made since you came here a year ago to now competing for the starting quarterback spot?) Olson: "The difficult thing for Luke is that he spent the years in the previous system. He was very comfortable in that system. Now he has had to learn an entirely new terminology. Really there is no difference between him and Josh Freeman, Josh Johnson, or Byron Leftwich. They all started at ground zero. None of them had a background in this offense and this terminology. They are all kind of learning it day-by-day. For him it is unfortunate that he has had to take some steps backwards in his development. That was the unfortunate part for both he and Josh Johnson, and Luke especially after spending those years in the West Coast, and I think he had a great feel for it. That is part of professional football, very rarely do guys get stay with the same coordinator and system their entire career, so that is the important part of being intelligent." (Johnson has had the same lack of rep issues as Freeman, how he is developing in year two?) Olson: "Same thing it is difficult with him when you draft a quarterback in the first round, and I think that Josh saw that. He knew that with his chance, when we signed Byron and draft Josh [Freeman], he was very disappointed to begin with, but he hasn't been a guy out here that has drooped or mopped around either. He's handling like it a professional. He takes the reps that he gets in the extra periods of practice. We go back seven-on-seven so that gives him extra repetitions, but he has been working hard. Again he was down initially when they signed Byron he was down for a couple of days and certainly when they drafted Freeman you kind of see the writing on the wall somewhat. It is difficult. I've told him we did keep four a year ago, so you keep working that way to impress not only us, but other teams in the preseason. That is what you are working for right now." (Do you see the quarterback competition going to the end of the preseason or does the staff have a time frame of when you would like to name a starter?) Olson: "That is probably something you need to ask Raheem [Morris] and Jeff [Jagodzinski]. I don't know what the timetable is. Certainly we are out here in shorts, so it is difficult to get a great feel for a quarterback when there is not a live rush coming at them, everyone's hands off on a quarterback. It is hard to go out today and say this guy is our definite guy. You couldn't do that right now." (What are your early impressions of Freeman?) Olson: "He has a great arm. He has great feet for a big 260-pound quarterback. He is intelligent. When we put him in with Byron being hurt this week, he's been the backup in seven-on-seven we put him in today, with not the starters but with the veterans, and he has responded well in live situations. You hate to say he is a gamer, but he has made some big plays when he has been up with the veterans. That is very encouraging. Great attitude, and a really good kid."
(McCown has been cognizant of his role in the past as a backup and undermining the starting quarterback. Now he seems to be emerging as a leader, do you see him taking on a captain like role?) Olson: "Yeah he's trying, but again the team sees that he is in the competition with Byron too, and Byron has some leadership qualities. The two of those guys, it is the nature of the position. Certainly you'd like your starting quarterback whoever that is, you'd love for him to take over that leadership role. They both are exerting themselves as leaders. I don't know if it is anymore or any less than last year because of Luke's position as the number two and three quarterback and some other strong leaders that we had on the team. He really probably didn't hear himself, but his year because of some of the veterans that we lost I think that it is important that guys like Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown, those guys that are veterans are guys that we are counting on being good players for us need to extend themselves as leaders." (What strikes you about Leftwich?) Olson: "Very experienced, he throws a great deep ball. He sees the field very well. Those are the two things that probably jumped out at me, but he's an awful athlete. You like at him, and he claims he scored 59 points in a basketball game I want to see the box score on that. He's sluggish. That's why I call him the slug. He's got slow feet and delivery, and all those things you beat him up on, and then he goes out and makes big plays. He has a great attitude and has some real natural leadership qualities. He sees the field extremely well and he has been a real pleasure to be around. It has been great to be around him." (Describe the new offense.) Olson: "Well a lot of it is depending on the development of the tight end position. At fullback we lost Byron Storer a couple of weeks ago, now you are sitting there with B.J. Askew at fullback and we have to decide if we are better off with a two tight end package or are we better off with a fullback and tail back and one tight end. Players will dictate somewhat too, like with the quarterback position and how that develops. If it doesn't develop like we think it needs to than we will run the football, but I think we'll do whatever it takes to win. It is somewhat of a West Coast with zone-blocking schemes."