Seahawks new QBs coach has long past with young QBs, including Drew Brees, Jon Kitna
The history of Greg Olson and what it says for Seattle's QB plans: Seaside Joe 1449
This has been 40 years coming for Greg Olson.
A graduate of Richland High School, Olson was once the starting quarterback at Central Washington, a career marred by a broken leg in 1983 and subpar play in 1984. But it was there, probably including some time spent in rehab, that Olson decided he wanted to become a football coach.
“My goals changed during my playing career at Central,” said Olson in a 2006 interview with the Daily Record. “I thought to myself, coaching seems like a good way to make some money.”
Shortly after graduating, Olson started his career as a grad assistant at Washington State under new Cougs head coach Dennis Erickson. The Cougs got a glimpse of success in 1988 (9-3) and Erickson left for Miami, giving Olson one year under the belt of Mike Price before departing in 1990 to become the offensive coordinator at Central Washington.
Even if the stakes at Central are not as high, that’s quite a jump from playing to being a grad assistant (working with defensive positions) to running your own offense. It also happened to be that Olson’s spread offense was one of the greatest at the NAIA level: CWU ranked first in total offense in both 1991 and 1993.
That’s also when he met future Seattle Seahawks quarterback Jon Kitna, one of the most unlikely NFL quarterback stories of all-time.
“Our success as coaches is a tribute to those players,” said Olson in 2006. “They made us a heck of a lot better as coaches.”
Kitna went undrafted but debuted for the Seahawks in 1997 under none other than Erickson. His best season would come in 1999 for Mike Holmgren and just like Geno Smith 20 years later, would win the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award in 2003 with the Cincinnati Bengals.
That was also the year that he held off former Pete Carroll protege and 2003’s number one overall pick, Carson Palmer.
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In 1994, Olson succeeded future/former Rams head coach Scott Linehan as the QBs coach at Idaho, and the Vandals became the number two total offense in the nation. His success at Central and Idaho then led Olson to becoming the QBs coach at Purdue in 1997 where he would start his work with a true freshman quarterback who had only two offers coming out of high school:
Brees was a record-setting passer at Purdue, nearly throwing for 4,000 yards in each of his three seasons as a starter and adding 39 touchdowns in 1998 alone.
It was when Brees left for the NFL in 2001 that Olson also took a promotion to the pro ranks: He was hired as the QBs coach for the San Francisco 49ers under Steve Mariucci and that year he helped third-year quarterback Jeff Garcia, another unlikely NFL player, go 12-4 and make the Pro Bowl with 32 touchdown passes.
Olson then went back to Purdue for one year before returning to the NFL ranks in Chicago under Dick Jauron, the year that the Bears drafted quarterback Rex Grossman with the 22nd overall pick. In 2004, Olson reunited with Mariucci, then the head coach of the Lions, in Detroit; Joey Harrington was entering his third NFL season after two disappointing campaigns and he went from a league-worst 22 interceptions to 19 TD/12 INT in 2004.
The next year, Mariucci was fired midseason and replaced with Jauron, who demoted OC Ted Tollner and promoted Olson to his position for the final five games. As if this story thinks I’m running out of names or something, the quarterback he promoted back to starter was Jeff Garcia.
In 2006, Olson was given another OC job now being hired by—are you serious???—Scott Linehan, the new head coach of the Rams. St. Louis still had some belief in themselves as the Greatest Show on Turf and quarterback Marc Bulger had the best season of his career in ‘06: 4,301 yards, 24 TD/8 INT, 59.4 QBR, Pro Bowl.
But in 2007, Orlando Pace missed 15 games, Isaac Bruce was old, and the offense fell apart. Olson was a free agent again in 2008, this time linking up with Jon Gruden, a staff at the time that included Sean McVay, Gus Bradley, Raheem Morris, Jay Gruden, Ejiro Evero, Rich Bisaccia, Todd Wash, and Olson.
Most of them still tend to stick together. The QB that year: Garcia.