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Greg Olson in right place at right time — rare for a Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator

Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson, right, oversees a unit that was 21st in total yards and 20th 
in scoring entering Monday but has improved as the season has progressed with a very young core.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson, right, oversees a unit that was 21st in total yards and 20th in scoring entering Monday but has improved as the season has progressed with a very young core.

TAMPA — The job has never inspired much envy. And if you know anything about Bucs offensive coordinators, you know this is true.

I can't imagine little boys, or even little offensive coordinators, lying in bed and dreaming of one day getting the big call from Tampa Bay.

For this is the place where Jeff Jagodzinski was fired before making it to his first regular-season game. The place where Hank Kuhlmann was told he wasn't allowed to call plays. The place where Les Steckel set a franchise record for scoring and was dumped a week later.

The place where Joe Gibbs, who would go on to win three Super Bowls and reach the Hall of Fame as a head coach, finished dead last in total offense in his only year as offensive coordinator.

And so why should anybody today be surprised at the bizarre rise of Greg Olson?

Olson wanted the offensive coordinator job in January 2009 and couldn't get an interview. Nine months later he wasn't even thinking about the job and had it pretty much shoved in his face.

And now you could argue there has never been a better time to be offensive coordinator in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And you might also argue no one has ever been so impressive so quickly.

It is not where the Bucs offense resides today but where it has come from. And where it is potentially going.

On a team with a 22-year-old quarterback, a rookie tailback, a rookie defensive end playing fullback, two rookie receivers and a rookie left guard, Olson has the Bucs heading toward one of the most high-scoring seasons the franchise has known.

"It has," Olson says without a hint of facetiousness, "been gratifying to see it all come together."

To be sure, this is still a work in progress. It's hard to imagine anyone on this offense earning All-Pro honors, and it's conceivable these guys could be handcuffed by Baltimore, Atlanta, Washington or New Orleans in weeks to come.

Still, when is the last time the Bucs had enough offensive players to make you contemplate divvying up touches? The Keyshawn Johnson-Keenan McCardell-Michael Pittman offense? The Doug Williams-Ricky Bell-Jimmie Giles offense?

Their numbers are not close to be overwhelming, but the growth and potential of Josh Freeman, LeGarrette Blount, Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn make this one of the most intriguing Bucs offenses in memory.

Particularly for an offensive coordinator who was thrown into the job the week before last season's opener after Jagodzinski was fired.

"It's encouraging to see it unfold the way you were hoping to see it unfold," Olson said. "We're not just having to, boy, find 17 different ways to get the ball to Kellen Winslow. We've got some guys to spread it out, and that obviously makes it tougher to defend.

"You want to double Kellen, then we'll go off to Mike Williams. You want to double on Mike, then we'll go out to Rejus Benn or we'll hit Cadillac (Williams) on a screen or hand the ball to LeGarrette Blount. Obviously it makes it easier knowing that you've got enough weapons going in that it'll make it difficult for them to double anybody."

For Olson, it has been almost like a kid opening gifts at a birthday party with no end. He knew he had a talent in Freeman but was blown away by the quarterback's devotion to learning in the offseason. Then Mike Williams was stolen in the fourth round of the draft. Then Benn began to catch on after a rough training camp. Then Blount arrived on waivers from Tennessee.

The result is an offense that is difficult to define. The Bucs call more pass plays — roughly 57 percent — than runs, but Olson says the philosophy is to establish the run first. Tampa Bay can go from a two-tight end set to a five-receiver formation to a power-I in consecutive plays. They broke out a wildcat set with Josh Johnson on Sunday and used a flea-flicker against Atlanta.

"The one thing we said is we are going to be diverse. We are going to show multiple formations and have multiple shifts and multiple personnel groupings," Olson said. "It's coming together. We've installed a lot of different things, and when we're game planning now our players have the belief that, 'Hey, this is going to be a great week for this package.' Or, 'This is going to be a great week for the two-tight package.' We feel good about where we're at, but we can certainly be better. There's still a lot of growth ahead for us."

The new weapons obviously are a factor, but Olson says having an offseason to get everyone on the same page was just as critical. Last season's offense was a mash-up of Jagodzinski's playbook with Olson trying to sprinkle in his own identity when possible.

This season, the Bucs started with a solid formation and have been adding bits and pieces as they go along. When Jerramy Stevens was released, the two-tight end formation became more of a running set. When Earnest Graham was hurt and Erik Lorig came in at fullback, the I-formation evolved into more of a power running game. And as Olson learns more about his young receivers, it becomes easier to identify which routes fit which player's skills.

"It is fun," he said. "It's fun each week to see players respond, to see players develop and realize, 'Hey, we just discovered another little weapon here that we maybe didn't think we had when we started this.' "

For a change, in Tampa Bay, that includes the offensive coordinator, too.

John Romano can be reached at romano@sptimes.com.

.Fast facts

Revolving roll call

The history of Bucs offensive coordinators is hardly distinguished. The only time Tampa Bay finished in the top 10 in the NFL in scoring offense was in 2000.

1976: John Rauch

1977: John McKay (a)

1978: Joe Gibbs

1979-84: John McKay (a)

1985-86: Jimmy Raye

1987-90: Ray Perkins (a)

1991: Hank Kuhlmann

1992-95: Sam Wyche (a)

1996-99: Mike Shula

2000: Les Steckel

2001: Clyde Christensen

2002-08: Bill Muir (b)

2009: Jeff Jagodzinski (c)

2009-10: Greg Olson

a: Head coach acted as coordinator.

b: Head coach Jon Gruden called plays.

c: Fired before the start of the regular season.

Greg Olson in right place at right time — rare for a Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator 11/15/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 15, 2010 10:56pm]

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