New offensive coordinator Greg Olson is taking the Raiders back to the future.
In his first meeting with Bay Area media Wednesday, Oakland’s new offensive leader confirmed what almost everyone suspected, that the Raiders are scrapping a zone-blocking scheme that last season turned Darren McFadden from one of the best running backs in the NFL into Joe Average.
In 2013, the Raiders under Olson will employ the more traditional power-blocking scheme used in 2010 and 2011 when McFadden had his only 1,000-yard season and was on the way to another when he suffered an injury in the seventh game.
Olson said that after studying last year’s system and McFadden, it was apparent that the two didn’t mix, and he hopes to play to McFadden’s strengths in 2013 to bring back Oakland’s dynamic running game.
“Maybe a year ago, they weren’t sure about that zone scheme,” Olson told reporters of the scheme instituted by offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. “Now, after a year of having to look at it, maybe he (McFadden) is a downhill runner. So we’ll get back to some of those gap schemes and things he does well.”
Olson added that. “I’m not naïve enough to believe it’s all Greg Knapp’s fault,” but he believes he can bring some things to the offense to revive it. Olson, who comes from the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was quarterback coach in 2012, will run an offense more similar to the one run by head coach Hue Jackson in 2011.
In 2011, the Raiders finished 8-8; last season, under first-year coach Dennis Allen, the team slumped to 4-12. After the season, Knapp and three assistants were fired. Now, Olson and new offensive line coach Tony Sparano will work together to pump some life back into a running game that was stuck in neutral in 2012, when McFadden’s yards-per-carry average plummeted almost 2 yards, to 3.3, a career low.
After the season, it was obvious Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie had been frustrated with the team’s running game and still believed in McFadden, who has one year remaining on his deal in Oakland.
Some have speculated the Raiders might trade McFadden this offseason for more draft picks and to relieve salary cap space, but McKenzie has said he doesn’t want to to do that.
“We have no decision to do anything with Darren,” he told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group in January.
But McKenzie saw how McFadden’s production dropped significantly in 2012 and knew the zone-blocking scheme didn’t fit.
“It’s obvious Darren is much better on certain types of plays,” he said after Allen let Knapp go. “That goes without saying. That’s how you’ve got to do it.”
And it’s how Olson will operate in 2013.
“What we’ve decided to do, as a staff, is see what Darren McFadden is comfortable doing,” Olson said. “Let’s try and make it more comfortable for Darren, because he’s one of our premier players.”