Greg Olson was hired by the Oakland Raiders in January to clean up the unit that former offensive coordinator Greg Knapp left in shambles.
Knapp’s tenure in Oakland was hampered by his own stubbornness: time after time throughout the 2012 season his offensive system frustrated fans and media alike; yet he refused to make changes, no matter how inferior the product he put on the field may be.
Olson was praised, more or less, as the Anti-Knapp. He utilized a power-blocking scheme that was supposed to fit running back Darren McFadden like a glove, and boasted a flexibility to tailor his offense around his playmakers and allow them to do what they do best.
It feels like a political level of contrast between what was promised, and what was delivered after election day.
Darren McFadden has not performed, and the majority of any Raiders offensive success has been created by the improvisation of Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor, who did a great job early in the season covering up the unit’s deficiencies.
The Oakland Raiders’ playoff hopes are all but gone for 2013, but 2014 will be a new year; and I’ve got a few reasons why Greg Olson should have nothing to do with it unless he turns some things around.
Failure to Utilize Personnel:
I’ll just cut to the chase, here: Raiders fullback Marcel Reece is one of the most intriguing weapons in the entire National Football League. He is a mismatch waiting to happen.
Yep, still waiting.
Greg Olson is content to say that defenses are now aware of Reece, and they prepare accordingly, so opportunities to get him the ball are fewer and farther between.
While this is a legitimate claim– Even Terrelle Pryor has said that defenses are devoting cornerbacks to cover Reece– all it takes is a run-heavy formation to get the defense in a base personnel grouping, motion Reece into the slot, and all of a sudden a linebacker or safety will be forced to try and cover him.
Defenses don’t just give up mismatches, you have to force them into those situations. And Olson has failed to do so.
Failure to Adapt:
You know it's bad when I start calling the plays.
— Christopher Hansen (@ChrisHansenNFL) November 10, 2013
Well, that sums it up.
When beat-writers and bloggers can predict your playcalling, you can imagine what actual NFL defensive coordinators and players can do.
Giants CB Terrell Thomas on his interception:
It was a big play for us. We needed it. It was a route that they run a lot and I was waiting on it all game.
Yeah, that sounds about right.
The idea is to keep a small playbook and limit the amount of decisions Terrelle Pryor has to make in order to put him in position to succeed– but by taking that notion too far, the result has been quite the opposite. No quarterback can have consistent success throwing the ball when defense knows that his receivers only run a small handful of different routes.
It would be wise to incorporate some plays that can exploit this type of aggressiveness in defenses.
For example, If defensive backs are smothering your slant routes to Denarius Moore (hypothetically…), wait for them to bite on the slant then turn upfield and burn them over the top. Dart back to the sideline for a quick 3rd and short conversion. Have a back (Marcel Reece, perhaps?) go sit in the area vacated by the overly-aggressive DB. The options are, quite literally, endless.
At some point we need to find out if Terrelle Pryor can operate an offense with NFL-level complexity; and with the Oakland Raiders’ postseason hopes dimmed, there is no better time than now to find out.
2014 Salary Cap Relief
This one is not Olson’s fault, clearly, but it could absolutely play a factor in whether or not he remains with the Raiders.
With somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 million in impending cap space, the Oakland Raiders will be able to essentially take their pick when free agency rolls around, and will therefore become a highly attractive landing spot for many larger-name coordinator candidates.
2014 will be the first time Reggie McKenzie gets to put a 53-man roster together with a full deck of cards, and Greg Olson has some work to do over the next 7 weeks to prove that he is the right man for the job.