ALAMEDA — In the 18 years since the Raiders returned to Oakland, no coach has been more criticized than the 2012 version of Greg Knapp, who was the offensive coordinator for all of one season before he was fired last month.
His replacement, veteran assistant Greg Olson, not only is the anti-Knapp but cites his greatest influence as none other than Jon Gruden, the most popular Raiders coach since John Madden.
Admiration of Gruden is one sure way for Olson to ingratiate himself with many Raiders fans, certainly those who detested Knapp's ineffective schemes. Moreover, Olson's schemes will endear him to Darren McFadden. A happy, productive McFadden seems to ignite the offense and excite the fan base.
Three weeks on the job and nearly seven months before he'll draw up a significant game plan, Olson is winning friends.
``What we've decided to do, as a staff, is see what Darren McFadden is comfortable doing,'' Olson said Wednesday at the team facility. ``Let's try and make it more comfortable for Darren, because he's one of our premier players.''
That means emphasizing much more of the power scheme within which McFadden flourished in 2011. It means more north and south running, fewer angles and horizontal attacks. And much less need to read blocks.
Yet it was Olson's roll call of influential coaches that warmed the room. He cited numerous coaches, including former 49ers head coaches Steve Mariucci and Dennis Erickson, but reserved a special place for Gruden, under whom he served in Tampa Bay as quarterbacks coach in 2008.
``He always got guys ready for Sundays,'' Olson said. ``He was always about presentation and preparation, those two key words. You have to prepare, but then you have to stimulate and motivate the players. He could do that.
``He had those natural social skills that when you went into a meeting, you came out feeling motivated — to practice or to coach. The quarterbacks in the room would always say there's something about the way he prepares the team, something about the way he makes guys feel they will be an important part of winning the game.
``For me to sit back and listen and watch, to see his mannerisms and, more important, the preparation and organization and scheduling, that was the biggest thing. His preparations are somewhat legendary.''
Olson, 49, has a big job ahead — as did Gruden when he arrived in 1998, after Joe Bugel led the Raiders to a 4-12 season, then the worst of the Al Davis era.
Listening to Olson, feeling his zeal and understanding his logical concepts, it appears general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen made a sensible hire.
If Olson can get the offense back to where it was in 2011, he'll be hailed as a savior — in the locker room and in the stands.
Furthermore, the chances he'll be traded, as Gruden was, are nonexistent.