Linehan, Olson will put their theories to work
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Feb. 19 2006
Scott Linehan and Greg Olson were born six months apart in 1963 and grew up
about 20 miles apart in the state of Washington.
"We actually didn't meet until 1987, through a mutual friend," Olson said.
"Since that time, we both kind of grew up learning the same philosophy
Linehan and Olson worked for Dennis Erickson and John L. Smith at the college
level, although never at the same time. Under Erickson and Smith, they became
immersed in an aggressive, spread-the-field offensive philosophy.
"We've always shared that philosophy throughout the 15 years that I coached
college football," Olson said. "And we'd often talk that it'd be interesting to
see if we were ever able to get to the NFL, and maybe share some of that
philosophy and be able to work on a staff together."
And here they are. Linehan was named head coach of the Rams on Jan. 19. Less
than a week later, Olson was named Linehan's offensive coordinator.
Linehan will call plays in St. Louis, as did his predecessor, Mike Martz. But
at face value, it appears that Olson will be on more equal footing with Linehan
than his St. Louis predecessor, Steve Fairchild, was with Martz.
"That's a big reason why Scott was hired here - his ability as a play caller
and an offensive coordinator," Olson, 42, said. "So we're not going to take
that away from Scott Linehan. I think my role is one of support. If it gets
overwhelming for him, then I'd like to believe that I've got the experience
necessary to step in and do the job."
Olson comes to St. Louis after two seasons in Detroit as quarterbacks coach,
but he does have some NFL play-calling experience. He called plays for three
games with the Lions in 2004. And after Steve Mariucci was dismissed this past
season as head coach, Olson took over play-calling duties for the final five
"This past season, it was a very difficult situation because of my relationship
with Steve," Olson said. "All of a sudden, your head coach gets fired. They
also had fired our offensive line coach, our tight ends coach. ... You had to
pick up the workload for two other guys on your staff. So it was a real
difficult situation. The team was somewhat in disarray."
Mariucci brought Olson into the NFL in 2001 in San Francisco. Olson had spent
the previous four seasons coaching quarterbacks at Purdue. As *****
quarterbacks coach, Olson helped Jeff Garcia earn a Pro Bowl berth. But Olson
has been on the move ever since, juggling career goals with family needs.
Olson spent that 2001 season away from his wife, Lissa, who had just been named
head track and field coach for the men's and women's programs at Purdue. He
didn't like the separation.
"So I made a family decision at the time to go back to Purdue, which wasn't the
best career decision for me," Olson said.
After spending the 2002 season as an assistant at Purdue, Olson got the itch -
and the opportunity - to return to the NFL. He worked for Dick Jauron and the
Chicago Bears as quarterbacks coach in 2003 - only a 90-minute commute from the
Purdue campus in West Lafayette, Ind.
But Jauron was fired after the 2003 season, sending Olson to Detroit and
Mariucci. Mariucci's ouster this past season made Olson a coaching "free agent"
once again. At least he no longer has to leave his wife behind. With
22-month-old twins to keep her busy, she's out of coaching at the moment.
The three years spent with Mariucci in Detroit and San Francisco exposed Olson
to the West Coast offense, which relies more on timing passes and shorter
routes than the "Air Martz" system. Some of those West Coast elements will be
incorporated into the spread offense that Linehan and Olson know best.
Like Linehan, Olson says he's a proponent of having a balance between the run
and the passing game. "I definitely think it's important," Olson said.
Even though Linehan will call plays in St. Louis, Olson will be active in
game-planning. He'll also work closely with the quarterbacks, in conjunction
with QB coach Doug Nussmeier.
"Doug and I and the quarterbacks will meet together," Olson said. "I don't plan
on giving up that part of the coaching end of it."
As offensive coordinator at Central Washington in the early 1990s, Olson worked
with current NFL quarterback Jon Kitna. At Purdue, he worked with current San
Diego Chargers star Drew Brees. He recruited Kyle Orton to Purdue, but was off
to the NFL by the time Orton started playing.