I've defended Greg Olson in the past. I think it's very hard to separate player execution from playcalling. I also think that the Bucs have been hurt by a lot of things that aren't coached by Greg Olson: penalties and drops, specifically. But at some point the offensive coordinator has to take responsibility for the offensive production, and there are plenty of specific things to complain about with Greg Olson.
The most obvious complaint focuses on the running game. Or rather, the absence of one. The Bucs have had a very productive running game, but they have consistently gotten away from it. The Bucs running game was ranked 12th by Football Outsiders numbers before this game, but was at some point ranked as a high top ten unit. Despite that, the Bucs have run the ball just 204 times, or 23 times per game. Last season, that would have ranked 30th in the league.
Part of that has been caused by the fact that the Bucs have been behind a lot, forcing the Bucs to abandon the run game to an extent. In fact, the Bucs have been behind in games more than all but three teams in the league. That was before this week. Given the fact that they spent about 5 seconds trailing the opponent this week, they're probably ranked even lower after this week.
But the issue runs deeper than just the game situation. The Bucs have abandoned the run when games have been close, and Greg Olson seems to be unwilling to commit to Legarrette Blount as the basis of the offense. And all that despite the fact that the Bucs are built to live off Power O and play-action passes. Instead, Olson tries to put the game on Freeman's shoulders, and he has repeatedly shown this year that he's not playing well.
It's also a question of identity. I know how a lot of different offenses in the NFL are going to try to win games. The Panthers run a spread offense, very similar to a college spread. The Broncos are trying the triple-option with Tim Tebow. The Jets try to ground-and-pound their way to victory. The Texans are a run-first, play-action offense. The Lions have a quarterback driven, quick passing offense. The 49ers play a run-based West Coast Offense.
But I can't tell you what kind of offense the Bucs run. They say they want to run the ball and go deep on play-action, but they're not actually doing it. Instead, they occasionally run the ball and have Freeman direct a semi-West Coast Offense without a real deep element to it. The disconnect between the rhetoric and the result is striking.
But there are other complaints too. Josh Freeman is struggling this year, but the team is doing very little to help him out. Last year he made some of his best plays outside the pocket, but the Bucs have made very little effort to get him outside the pocket on designed plays. Instead, they've watched as defenses consciously try to keep him inside the pocket.
The lack of a deep element to the passing game is frustrating as well. The Bucs lack some speed at positions, which limits them - but they do have Arrelious Benn. The second-year receiver has real speed and showed that today, when he caught a 33-yard sideline pass after outrunning the cornerback guarding him. Yet Benn until the bye week was off the field for most passing plays and is rarely involved in the gameplan. His time on the field is increasing, but his role on offense remains limited.
Another issue: the Bucs don't seem prepared to play these games. Time and again they fail to come out of the gate firing. The Bucs haven't scored a first-quarter touchdown on offense in nine straight games now. The last time they scored one was against the Atlanta Falcons in week 13 of last year. It feels like the team simply isn't prepared to play a game once they step onto the field.
But worst of all, the players don't seem to be progressing under Olson's watch. This is a young team that needs quality coaching to progress, but almost to a man the team's young skill players have regressed. Mike Williams hasn't been able to win a single jump-ball battle this year, while he's dropped far too many footballs. Kellen Winslow has struggled to get open. Dezmon Briscoe and Arrelious Benn look essentially like the same players. The only player to have really improved has been Preston Parker - the lone bright spot on offense.
All of that should be reason enough to get rid of Greg Olson, and at this point I'm convinced that he won't return. Someone will be held accountable publicly for the team's lack of production. I don't think Olson will survive this offseason. Raheem Morris might even be on the hot seat himself - but Olson is more likely to be offered up.