TAMPA — Greg Olson stood in a parking lot in January as NFL scouts and coaches emptied Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., after a Senior Bowl workout.
A cold wind deteriorated weather conditions, but what concerned Olson most was about being frozen out of interviewing for the Bucs offensive coordinator's position.
Olson was under contract as the team's quarterbacks coach and had called the plays in Detroit and St. Louis. But Bucs coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik hired former Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski.
So when those two men approached Olson 10 days before the regular season, asking him to pick up the pieces of the offense after Jagodzinski had been fired, it was a little like being asked to take the wheel of a moving vehicle from the passenger's seat.
"I think there were a lot of reasons for (Raheem) making the switch," Olson said. "A lot of it was their recognition that this (offense) wasn't good right now. But if you think I was going to have a magic wand, I knew that wasn't going to be the situation.
"But I expected more, certainly."
Under Olson, the Bucs are 29th in scoring with 14.6 points and 28th overall at 278.2 yards per game. But those numbers don't tell the whole story.
The Bucs had wasted most of the offseason and training camp immersed in a meaningless quarterback battle between Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich. McCown eventually was traded to Jacksonville, and Leftwich got the hook after an 0-3 start. Meanwhile, franchise quarterback Josh Freeman and backup Josh Johnson took few reps with the starters.
"There are a whole lot of things we wish we would've done differently," Olson said.
After being named offensive coordinator, Olson had a choice to make: scrap everything Jagodzinski and his coaches had installed since March or try to salvage as much as possible while slowly evolving the team to his system.
"Hindsight is 20-20, but you look at it, and if you knew it was going to be this way, you would've said, 'We're scrapping it, and we're going to do things this way,' " Olson said. "But at the time, I didn't think it was the right thing to do. Just because I felt like if we did that, our players would say, 'Gosh, we did all this work and now we're throwing it away?' That would give them no hope. Like everything we had done was a complete waste.
"The coaches who were brought in, that's what they coached. That's what they knew; that's what they were brought in to do. I just didn't feel like there was time to (change everything). And I didn't want at the time for the team to feel desperate."
So Olson kept much of the terminology, and perhaps more damning, stuck to the zone blocking scheme that Jagodzinski and offensive line coach Pete Mangurian had spent months installing.
Regardless of who played quarterback, Olson thought the Bucs could run the football. But he was wrong about that, too. Heading into today's game at Seattle, the Bucs rank 25th in the league in rushing with 98.2 yards per game and have not had a 100-yard rusher in a game this season.
"Having a chance to be here last season and seeing (Jeremy) Trueblood, (Davin) Joseph, (Jeff) Faine, Donald Penn, it was like, 'All right, guys. You're the guys. Let's ride you. We've got this quarterback carousel going on. We've got Cadillac (Williams) back and Derrick Ward. Let's get this thing going.'
"Again, when I look back, (the poor running game) will be my biggest source of frustration. There's a lot of things that play into it."
Three weeks ago, Olson started to install more of a power running game that the Bucs had used under Jon Gruden, with more success. The Bucs rushed for 154 yards two weeks ago at Carolina.
After Jagodzinski was fired, Olson was signed to a one-year extension and given a pay increase to match his offensive coordinator duties. Assuming Morris returns next season, the most important job in the offseason is the continued development of Freeman. Continuity with Olson would certainly help.
"Somewhere in management, they've got to decide if this is the system that we want to go forward with," Olson said. "Is this the person we want teaching that system to go forward with? Do we feel comfortable with that? Because continuity is so important for all the quarterbacks who have success. They've been in the right system."
Morris says he wants Olson to return as offensive coordinator next year.
"Greg Olson has done a great job, especially with the situation he was handed," Morris said. "It didn't work out as well for him. The thing is, you've got to get better. You've got to learn from that.
"I hope he has."