Olson seeks revival of Al Davis football in Oakland

Olson seeks revival of Al Davis football in Oakland
January 22, 2013, 11:00 am
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Greg Olson describes himself as a "gap-scheme" offensive coordinator. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Anybody that thought of the Raiders thought about a physical, intimidating, fast football team. And I still see those things.
—Greg Olson

MOBILE, Ala. -- While the Raiders were talking with the likes of "name guys" Norv Turner, Mike Martz and Marc Trestman about potentially taking over as offensive coordinator, Greg Olson bided his time.

Olson seemingly came out of nowhere to formally get the gig on Saturday and has been playing catch-up and nice-to-meet-you ever since. In fact, the former offensive coordinator in St. Louis and Tampa Bay, as well as Jacksonville's assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach in 2012 is using Senior Bowl week to observe, rather than teach as Raiders senior offensive assistant Al Saunders will call plays in the game.

[RELATED: Saunders to call offensive plays at Senior Bowl]

So who is Olson, and how did he become the guy tabbed to seemingly jumpstart Darren McFadden's career while figuring out how to make the most out of Terrelle Pryor's unique skill set?

Olson talked with CSNCalifornia.com following the North squad's practice Tuesday morning here at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Following, then, a Q&A with the Raiders' new offensive coordinator...

Question: Busy last 72 hours, not calling plays this week so what is your role here?
Answer: One is to, obviously, observe the seniors coming out, but also just to watch the staff and see how the staff works together and that was kind of the goal coming in, was to kind of get to know the staff and see how they work and how they prepare the players and work with the players on the field.

Q: What appealed to you about this job?
A: There's only 32 offensive coordinator jobs in the league, so it was a chance for me, again, to get into a role of responsibility as a playcaller. So, I'm excited to get back in. I enjoyed my time in Tampa as an offensive coordinator, and in St. Louis, so it's just another opportunity for me to take on the role as an offensive coordinator.

Q: What is your offensive philosophy, or can guys get pigeonholed by a description?
A: Yeah, I think you really have to build your offense around the personnel you have on your football team. So that can change, certainly, depending upon the players that you have. You know, I think we're going to be a -- you can throw out all the cliches -- we're going to be smart, disciplined, a mentally and physically tough football team but really, we're going to build it around the playmakers that we have on the team and the things that they do well.

Q: When you look at the Raiders' personnel, what jumps out at you?
A: I see a very good quarterback in Carson Palmer that still has years left. So I'm excited about him and the way that he's played, and the history that he's had in this league. I see a very explosive running back in Darren McFadden. A matchup problem -- Marcel Reece. I see a tight end (Brandon Myers) that had a very good year last year. And a solid offensive line. So, I haven't had a chance to study them as much as I will when I get back, but I see a good football team.

Q: What do you see with Terrelle Pryor, or too soon to tell yet?
A: Still down the road a bit. I haven't had a chance to watch a lot of tape, but I will when I get back. But certainly, with as athletic as he is, there should be some things that he'll be able to help us (with) down the road as well.

Q: From afar, what was the impression of the Raiders offense, when you were in St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville?
A: Explosive athletes. And again, they have been explosive in the (recent) past. The whole vertical passing game that Mr. (Al) Davis, for years, anybody that thought of the Oakland Raiders always thought about a physical, intimidating, fast football team. And I still see some of those things.

Q: Is that how you consider yourself as a playcaller, or does it simply go back to fitting your personnel?
A: Yeah, but we're going to have to create explosive plays. You've got to be great in scoring touchdowns inside the red zone. You've got to be able to convert third down. And those are the things we're focused on with this football team and then you've got to find, who are the playmakers on our team that can help us do those things, and can we get the ball in their hands?

Q: Obviously, the zone-blocking scheme last year did not work for McFadden, so you're saying you apply the offense to your personnel?
A: Yeah, no question. And what do they do well? What type of runners do we have? What type of blockers do we have up front? And I think you have to base your scheme…upon that, as opposed to coming in and saying, This is what I do and this is what I've done. You've got to take a look at your personnel and find out what they do best and try to build upon those strengths.

Q: Then if you did have to category yourself as an O.C., are you more a power guy, a zone guy?
A: I'm a gap-scheme guy. I think I'm multiple in what we're doing schematically. But I'm more of a downhill run-type guy, because I think it sets up the play-action pass. But you know, again, wait until we get back in the office and see what we got.

Q: Reggie McKenzie even said McFadden was a north-south runner, not a lateral runner.
A: Yeah, I agree with that. And what I've seen from Darren McFadden, he possesses that breakout speed that you're looking for.