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Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson is coming under fire

There's a saying that the backup quarterback is always the most popular person on the team. I have a new theory: the offensive coordinator is always the least popular person the team. Whenever an offense struggles, scorn is immediately heaped upon the offensive coordinator. And that's entirely justifiable. The coordinator is the one responsible for the offense, after all. Jets fans hate Brian Schottenheimer, 

So with the Buccaneers really struggling to score points, it's easy to point to the offensive coordinator as the problem here. He's the one responsible, after all. The need to hold one person accountable (and fire him) among fans leads to that sort of thing. But I don't think that's justified. Let me explain why. 

For one, Greg Olson really is very respected throughout the league. When people talk about rising assistant coach his name always comes up. Writers don't pull these names randomly out of a hat. When they write these things, especially when it happens consistently, they usually have sources around the league telling them these coordinators are highly thought of. 

A second reason why I think the criticism doesn't make much sense is that a lot of the criticism is unfocused and inconsistent. Some people complain he doesn't run the ball enough. Then others (or sometimes the same people again) complain he's too predictable. What's more predictable than having a run-heavy offense? 

For that matter, any complaints about a predictable passing game can't be sustained by arguments, because it is often impossible to see which plays are actually being called. Without access to coaches tape you can't see which routes are being run and which looks the defense is giving the offense.

And when Greg Olson does get a little more creative, the complaint is usually that he's getting too gimmicky. Unless, of course, a play works. Then it's all good. And that's really all you can judge a coordinator by: results. None of us really have the knowledge to critique an offense in-depth, because we simply don't have access to the tape that is required to do so. 

When people point to predictability with arguments, they point to something like that screen to Arrelious Benn that got stopped for a loss by Carlos Rogers. But that play wasn't actually called by Greg Olson. Olson called a run, but Freeman checked to the pass at the line, and that's what Rogers saw. 

Which is my next point: it is extremely hard to separate what the offensive coordinator is doing from what the players on the field are doing. When you see two wide receivers in the same area, it's a lot more likely that one of them messed up rather than that the coordinator called a badly designed play, for instance. And when Josh Freeman throws into double coverage, you can be sure that Olson didn't want him to do that. 

For that matter, I would put most of the struggles on offense squarely on the shoulders of Josh Freeman and the receivers. The running game has actually been excellent this year, while the offensive line has overall performed well in pass protection as well as in the running game. But receivers have been dropping the ball, while Josh Freeman has looked uncomfortable all season long. 

That's not to say that Olson is beyond reproach or a perfect offensive coordinator. He has plenty of flaws. It took him ages to implement the quarterback sneak in short yardage, even though the Bucs almost never fail to convert when they do use a quarterback sneak. And the Bucs have surely struggled on offense this season, getting away from the run a little too often for an offense built on running the ball. Gerg Olson has to bear part of the blame there as well.

But a lot of the criticism I see heaped on him isn't really grounded in reality, and people conflate player decisions and execution with offensive schemes. 

Finally, before you call for someone to be fired, think of the alternative. If the Bucs fire Olson, who would replace him, and why would that be any better?