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View from the O-Zone: Reputation, fit made Olson the choice


MOBILE, Ala. – You heard the names. We all did. Many were new names.

You got excited about the names, and that's OK.

That's expected.

New names are exciting this time of year, in the NFL's silly season. New is fun, and to scan Twitter is to know that NFL fans don't get excited about coaches their teams already had on staff.

That's why the reaction Wednesday to the announcement that Greg Olson – a darned good coach with a good reputation among players and in league circles – had been hired as the Jaguars' offensive coordinator was … well, lukewarm at best and angry at worst.

And here's the thing about that reaction:

It was to be expected, because what most fans know about Olson – the Oakland Raiders' offensive coordinator the past two seasons and the Jaguars' quarterbacks coach the year before that – is what they have seen and what they know from statistics.

What they saw first-hand was Olson was with the Jaguars for one difficult, disastrous season. That was 2012, when little went right and a lot went wrong, when Head Coach Mike Mularkey and General Manager Gene Smith were fired following the season. Finishing 2-14 will do that.

If that wasn't rock bottom in Jaguars history it was close.

Here's what happens at NFL rock bottom. There is a mad rush to wash everything away. When that happens, good people get washed away and in a very real sense that's what happened with Olson following that season.

There's another reason, of course, fans struggle with the Olson hire. They see the Raiders finished 32nd in offense last season. They see the Raiders were the only team to finish behind the Jaguars in offense and they wonder why you go from 31st to 32nd in OCs.

That's a fair question – and one Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley addressed Wednesday following the Senior Bowl South practice.

"We don't get caught up in traditional numbers like that," Bradley said. "We're looking at does the team get better and does the talent he has progress?"

Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell echoed that sentiment, and admitted that hiring a coach in the NFL can be "arbitrary thing at times."

"You have to do your research and find out who the good coaches are and hopefully put the coaches in good position to succeed," Caldwell said. "The important thing for us is not where you rank offensively, not where you rank defensively—it's where you come out at the end and what you need to do to win a game."

This topic we're on right now? Numbers, and how they relate to NFL coaching?

That's the great unknown in the NFL, and what makes this a maddening process for owners, general managers, fans. It's what makes this whole process seem so slippery … so …

Well, Caldwell said it best. Abitrary. Yes, it does seem arbitrary sometimes. A coach can coach an offense ranked at the bottom of the league and be considered good in NFL circles. A coach from a Top 10 offense can get passed over. It's not statistical. It's not scientific. It's a process. You make calls. You talk to people. You interview. You get a feel. You make a decision.

Bradley made his decision on because he liked the fit. He liked how he believes Olson will work with quarterback Blake Bortles. And with assistant head coach-offense/offensive line coach Doug Marrone. He believes Olson is a good developmental coach, and that he will be flexible enough to build an offense around the Jaguars' young, developing players.

"You want to make sure he can easily adjust based on who we have as far as personnel," Bradley said.

There it is. That's Bradley's thinking in a few paragraphs. If you liked the hire, you'll like the explanation. If you don't like the hire, it's unlikely anything Bradley or anyone else says will change that. Not now; not until next season.

We talked at the start of this story about what fans have seen in Olson. Here's what many haven't seen. They haven't seen that players respected Olson a great deal when he was here, that of the coaches on Mularkey's staff he was as respected as any others and more than most. They don't remember there were times Chad Henne played really well that season, and that while Blaine Gabbert was never great in Jacksonville, he played better with Olson than with anyone else.

They also don't see that Olson has yet to be blessed with a good NFL situation, or with elite-level talent with which to work.

Olson is a good coach. That's his reputation. That's what players believe. That's the belief here. Was he the right hire? Was he the best hire? If Bortles gets better and the offense improves, sure. If not, then no. That's how the NFL works.

Was Olson the most popular hire? Who cares? You don't make a hire for January conversation and you don't make it to appease on a short-term basis.

You make it because you think it's the best hire. You make it because something tells you, "This is the guy … this is the choice." Bradley did that this week. How fans or anyone else – Bradley included – feel about it isn't all that important, and names aren't, either.

What happens in the next year is.

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