Raiders running back Darren McFadden is happier with offensive coordinator Greg Olson's schemes. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Raiders coach Dennis Allen last week said he liked “the mentality” of his football team after the conclusion of mandatory minicamp.
Raiders fans can probably say the same thing about the team’s coaching staff right about now.
After a season of watching the Raiders trying to jam square pegs into round holes, the mentality of the team’s coaching staff now appears to be much more flexible and adaptable.
Last year, the Raiders took an offensive line and running game that had previously been successful in a power-blocking system and installed a zone-blocking scheme that proved a failure.
Now, the Raiders -- after an offseason of roster and coaching turnovers -- appear to be focused on trying to use the best available talent in the best available way.
“I think you’ve got to try and adapt your system based upon the players you have available and the players that have been drafted by the particular team that you’re on, then try and play to those players’ strengths,” new offensive coordinator Greg Olson told reporters. Olson said the fact he’s coached under a number of different head coaches in a variety of systems gives him the ability to be flexible.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, you’d better adapt to the players you have on your team,” Olson said. “You’d better not pigeon-hole yourself as in, ‘This is my system and this is what we’re going to do,’ because that personnel may not match that system.”
So, Olson -- in conjunction with new offensive line coach Tony Sparano -- expects to lean on more of a power running scheme this season with Darren McFadden and offensive linemen that had been more comfortable with it.
“We feel good about the system we’ve put together based upon the players we have right now,” Olson said.
McFadden has liked what he’s seen so far.
“It’s a downhill offense,” McFadden said. “That’s one of the things I like about it. I’m the type of guy I like to get going downhill, so I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a great fit for our team.”
In fact, several Raiders offensive players say they love not only Olson’s adaptability, but his communication skills and creativity.
NFL observers may not have much hope for the Raiders this coming season, but the players themselves seem to be excited.
Fullback Marcel Reece told reporters recently that Olson has an “aura” of creativity.
“He’s always thinking about football, he’s always thinking about matchups,” Reece told Raiders.com. “I feel great about that, I love that, and he knows that I love that. So we have fun talking football. It’s a great feeling around the building right now.
“He’s like a mad scientist. I don’t think I’ve even seen half of what he has in store for this team. … We’re all looking forward to unleashing this playbook and to see what he has in store.”
Of course, the Raiders still don’t know who their starting quarterback will be, what wide receivers will emerge, who will win the tight end job or how the offensive line will come together. There is still much to be determined.
At least in 2013, it seems as if the offense will be more flexible. And calls to fire the offensive coordinator – last season fans were upset with Greg Knapp from Game 1 – perhaps may not be as frequent or as loud.