(Editor’s note: This story was written on Friday before news of Olson’s firing by the Jaguars came out. I stand by him still having a shot at the Purdue job but obviously being fired mid-season doesn’t help his case.)
A week back Kyle was asking the staff here for suggestions on coaching candidates for the now vacant Purdue Football job. I suggested Greg Olson and got ignored. Kyle was nice enough to throw it in his article, call him a dark horse, and mention that I was the only one who thought this was possible. I have to admit it is a long shot but he’s someone who has stuck out in my mind as someone I think Purdue should take a good long look at it. Hear me out before you judge too harshly.
If you’re looking for a coach with Purdue ties, certainly not one of my requirements but I know some people care about this sort of thing, Olson has them in spades. He coached at Purdue from 1997-2000 and was recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach in 2002. During that 1997-2000 run at Purdue he was the QBs coach. Some of you might know the name of a guy he coached. I think it’s (checks internet) Drew Brees. That’s right, the former QB coach of Drew Brees! Brees really loves the guy. You would think that would mean something since I think most of us regard Brees as the mighty conquering hero of Purdue football’s past 20 years.
Taking a look at his work as recruiting coordinator is a bit tricky. He was only in the role for one season. Taking a look at the 2003 class they had 26 commits and ranked 32 according to Rivals. That’s much better than the mid 60s we have seen lately. There were some names you would recognize in that class including Dustin Keller, Robbie Powell, Eugene Bright, Stanford Keglar, Bernard Pollard, Ryan Noblet (of broken jaw fame), Ray Edwards, Kyle Ingraham, and Garret Bushong (of locker number 3 fame). Four star Doug Van Dyke is also on the list but he never qualified academically. So that’s Van Dyke and Bushong as 4 stars with some surprise hits in there such as the 2 star Dustin Keller. What does this all mean? How much credit does he get for this since he was only there for one year? Those aren’t easy questions to answer but it surely can’t hurt him.
One of the major knocks on Olson is that he’s a mover. He is always looking for the next big thing. He always wants the next job and to move on as fast as he can. It’s true that just since his time at Purdue beginning in 1997 he’s had 10 different jobs. That’s an average stay of about 2 years. My argument here would be that at none of these places was he a head coach and so he’s merely looking out for number one. Plus, as a coordinator/coach if your head coach gets fired it often means you’re fired as well. It can be a scary business I’m sure.
Another knock is one I just mentioned, he’s never been a head coach. I don’t see this as a big problem. I don’t necessarily care if someone has head coaching experience as long as they know what they are doing and can recognize where they need help. Olson is an offensive side of the ball type of guy so he would need to find himself a very good defensive coordinator. I’m sure if given the resources he would easily be able to find someone given his vast experience and length of time in the coaching game.
Olson was the offensive coordinator for my beloved Tampa Bay Bucs for a short time and at that time he took undrafted and question mark temperamentally LeGarrette Blount and turned him into a 1,000 yard rookie. Pretty impressive. When you look at his career in the NFL you don’t see eye popping numbers and that’s a bit concerning but you also have to remember who he was working with at QB. Jeff Garcia was probably the best example of what Olson can do as Garcia had his end of career resurgence under Olson including his final year in the league with 90.2 QB rating and a 6-1 start. Other QBs Olson has been saddled with include Brian Griese, Joey Harrington, Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich (end of his career), Josh Freeman, and Josh Johnson. Even with those names Olson was able to craft a Pro Bowl QB out of Freeman before Freeman went off the deep end and just disappeared out of the league. In 2010 Olson helped Freeman finish the season strong with a 70% completion percentage to go along with 9 TD and 0 INT in the final four games of the season.
So we are looking at a guy with NFL coordinator experience, recruiting experience, Purdue experience, Drew Brees experience and blessing, and he’s a high energy in your face kind of guy. He’s got connections all throughout the industry and the country which should help with hiring coordinators and nabbing recruits. He’s currently the offensive coordinator for the Jaguars which I would take to mean he wants to get the heck out of there ASAP. I’m all in on Olson here. I think he would be a great hire. He checks all the boxes for me and I think would jump at the chance to come to Purdue as the head coach.