Perhaps the last thing fans thought they'd hear when Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley dumped Jedd Fisch and started picking through potential offensive coordinator candidates was a familiar name.
Then the Jaguars hired Greg Olson as offensive coordinator.
After Bradley self-titled, autographed, and sold his narrative about himself and former OC Jedd Fisch not seeing eye to eye on the development of their franchise QB, it isn't surprising that Gus would shy away from statistics and focus on finding someone who shares his same mindset.
Olson told the media that he looks forward to developing the Jags young offensive players and playing to their strengths. In fact, it's something that Olson has tried to do his whole career.
Olson isn't as much of a grounded schemer as he is an adaptor. In the past, he has changed the outfit of his offense on the fly to tailor to the needs of a specific group of players, or in some cases, one player.
On film, you can really grasp the lengths that Olson went to just to conform his system to the many mediocre QBs he was gifted with. He used Josh Freeman for his arm, Terrelle Pryor for his mobility, and brought Derek Carr along very slowly. Olson's offenses transformed between vertical and horizontal season to season, all depending on who was behind center.
This raises a very important topic - how will Greg Olson appraise Blake Bortles?
Jedd Fisch tried his best to play to Bortles strengths. This was most obvious with Fisch's application of the simple read-option. Here's the typical set that Fisch used, seen below.
An 11 personnel grouping set up in shotgun gives off a passing appearance, especially backed up towards the Jaguars' own goal line. The formation above is the quintessential read-option set because it moves the defensive secondary to one side and allows the QB to make a decision usually based on only one player - the DE.
The read-option was used almost as a bridge to the offense for Blake Bortles last season - something to get the team going and get Blake into a rhythm. Overall, the option had good results. It usually took a few drives to get the defense biting on the RB before Bortles had the opportunity to keep the ball himself.
With Terrelle Pryor in command of Olson's offense in 2013, the Raiders' playbook was saturated with read-option. However, Olson's setup differed from Fisch's in a couple of ways.
In the play below, the personnel set is very similar to Fisch's main read-option set. The main difference is Marcel Reece, a fullback, lined up in the slot and then set in motion. He cuts across the formation and joins the action in the backfield.
Keep in mind - this is the Raiders' first play from scrimmage. Here's another angle.
Using a fullback as a lead blocker in the read-option is something Fisch strayed away from in favor of spreading the offense out to thin the defense. Olson utilizes a fullback in his set, although, it's probably not in the fashion most people would anticipate.
When the ball is snapped, Reece doesn't dive into the hole to lead the RB. Instead, he gets out to the weak side of the line to become a lead blocker for the QB keeper. The Steelers bite on the run anyway, and Pryor pulls the ball and takes off.
Here, Reece finds no one to block in the second level, so he windmills his arms instead. Pryor, having never had any intention of handing the ball off, has an open lane to the endzone. In case you wanted to see the ridiculous amount of open field from the other angle, here you go.
Recall that this is the first play of the game for the Raiders offense. Olson took no time to set up and mature his read-option, instead opting for a more explosive play call right out of the gate. No bullshit - just playing to the strengths of your offense and scheming the easiest way to beat the defense.
Terrelle Pryor gets the easiest 93-yard touchdown of his career, and a piss-poor Raiders offense actually looks somewhat competent thanks to a great play call.
Blake Bortles doesn't enjoy the leg-talent of a Terrelle Pryor, but Olson will find ways to employ Bortles' mobility. The point I'm trying to make here is that Olson has a track record of acclimating his system to his players, and not the other way around. This is one of the reasons he has been falling ass-backwards into OC opportunities around the league for 14 years.
The simplest way to use a QB's agility is to roll them out. Olson relied heavily on rollouts to get Pryor away from pressure in 2013, and that's a concept Blake Bortles practiced religiously last season.
Below is a formation Olson carried with him from his days of coordinating in Tampa Bay. Making use of the size and arm talent of 6'5, 240 pound Josh Freeman was something Olson learned and applied to squeezing the most amount of production from 6'4, 233 pound Terrelle Pryor. It's safe to assume Olson will also lean his offense on a scrambling Blake Bortles as well.
Here's a formation that showed up many times throughout Pryor's 2013 reign. This one features the Jags on defense.
It's an adaptable 21 personnel look - two backs, one tight end, and two receivers. The basic 21 personnel grouping basically gives off the threat of a run play without relinquishing the threat of a pass. But when the grouping is utilized with the pistol formation and a QB who can run and gun, the offensive options are amplified. Pryor collects the snap and rolls out right, as seen below.
The Raiders' O-line shoves the Jags' D-line out of the picture. If you couldn't tell, Olson enclosed a play action element into this play, so the D-line got pulled into the non-existent run. Pryor keeps his eyes downfield as he rolls to the right, pulling Posluszney towards him like some giant Polish magnet.
Pryor passes the ball to McFadden, who is sneaking out to the right side, when Poz inevitably leaves his coverage zone to chase the QB.
Olson likes these sets and has used them extensively throughout his years in Tampa and Oakland, probably because it frees up receivers who have a hard time making space on their own. It wouldn't be surprising to see personnel groupings like this in Jax, allowing Bortles to escape the pocket and force the defense to run with him.
Paired with Derek Carr in 2014, however, Olson's scheme notoriously flattened out to a more horizontal passing game. One of the biggest knocks on Olson as he left Oakland was his vanilla play calling and lack of offensive success in general. Derek Carr finished his 2014 rookie season with 5.46 yards per passing attempt - the worst in the league.
The best way to justify this is also the most obvious - Olson was trying his best to slow the game down for Carr, saturating the offense with screen plays and dump offs that got the ball out of Carr's hands and usually to his first read on the play. The criticism isn't unwarranted, however, as Olson went overboard with the simplification in 2014. I found a play that illustrates this below.
It's 3rd and 6 against the Seahawks. Carr empties his backfield by sending Reece to the strong side. Reece is going to run a hitch route just above the 25-yard line. Now, I'll point out that this exact play was ran not long before this play. It worked once, so Olson decided to run it again. One problem - the Seahawks immediately recognize the movement in the formation and the linebacker takes off towards the area he knows the ball is going to. The play is ruined already.
Carr performs a three-step drop and delivers the ball to his first and only read on the play. Reece isn't the only one there to meet the pass - the Seahawks had the play pegged from the start.
While this isn't so much of a scheme issue, it demonstrates Olson's oversimplifying mentality of bringing his rookie QB along too slowly. Finding plays that work are key to building your QB's confidence, but overusing the plays to a fault will minimize the QB's self-reliance.
There were a few good plays that Olson dialed up for his young QB last season; there just weren't enough of them. Here's an example of one that served to create a little disruption in the defense.
Without using a fullback in the jumbo package, Olson brings everyone in together and allows the defense to load the box. With Oakland up 14 to 3, the Chiefs were probably thinking run on 2nd and long. The Raiders actually fake the toss and bring Vincent Brown across the formation.
The Chiefs' linebackers both have their feet facing McFadden in the backfield. Brown gets into the open and Carr turns and hits him in stride.
The open real estate in front of Brown is impressive when you consider how loaded the box was before the play started. This is a great play call by Greg Olson, and Brown picks up 12 yards.
Here's another great play call by Olson. It's 3rd and goal on the 1-yard line. The formation looks a lot like the play above, but this time, it's almost definitely going to be a run play.
Carr sends the tight end, Scott Simonson, in motion.
Simonson is going to help load the left side. It looks even more like the Raiders are going to try to punch it in.
Play-action. It's a pass play, and the defense reacts accordingly.
Look below how the receivers break to the left. Most goal line play-action pass plays unfold much like this one. Carr is focused on the left side of the endzone, and the defense is focused on what Carr is focusing on.
But Carr was never going to throw to the left side. The Raiders' Jamize Olawale sneaks into the middle, unseen by the defense.
Easy touchdown on a gorgeous Greg Olson play call.
Olson has the ability to create his own offensive opportunities, and I think that is the biggest skill he carries with him to Jacksonville. He has never been in charge of a powerhouse offense. Olson has, however, been able to make something out of nothing on more than one occasion. He's an adaptor who can conform to an offense's strengths, or in some cases, lack of strengths.
Greg Olson's lack of success is concerning to most fans. Through breaking down three entire seasons of his game film, I have come to the simple conclusion that Olson has the football-brains to do some really smart things with his offense, but not nearly on a basis that is consistent enough.
The plays I have hand-picked for this article paint the picture of a coordinator that should be able to create production with a big, versatile QB like Blake Bortles and a decent amount of speed in the offense surrounding him. The question is - what exactly will that offense look like?
Gus Bradley said he based the OC hire on mindset rather than statistics. The application of Olson's adaptable mindset with a young Jaguars team will be, at the very least, something to watch.