The Las Vegas Raiders Report continues to grow as we introduce our newest staff writer Hayden Nadolny. Nadolny is our first international staff writer who currently resides in Australia. Nadolny is a knowledgeable credentialed NFL writer having contributed to various Raiders websites over the years. He is now exclusively writing for us here in addition to co-hosting his own podcast – Any Given Monday. Nadolny will not only contribute to the website, but also to the Las Vegas Raiders Report Podcast, and other soon-to-be announced projects.
When Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis set out to hire a new head coach for his team, he wasn’t just hiring a new coach in Jon Gruden. Ask any respected NFL executive, and they’ll tell you that one of, if not the top question asked during head coaching interviews, is “whom will you bring onto the staff if we hire you?” After all, you can have the next Vince Lombardi as the head honcho, but without a competent staff to delegate and rely upon, it’s near impossible to compete in the NFL.
The coordinators are the most important hirings after the head coach, as they are more involved on a global scale than the positional coaches. As seen in Oakland the past 12 months with the firing of Bill Musgrave and promotion of Todd Downing, the wrong coordinator fit can bring about unnecessary headaches and cause disruption of a well-oiled machine. Raiders head coach Jon Gruden emphasised putting together a “great staff” during his press conference. To date, while some of the signings might not be considered sexy hires on paper, the staff being assembled is an upgrade (on paper at least) compared to the predecessors in Oakland.
Let’s take a look at some of these staff additions:
Greg Olson – Offensive Coordinator
Upon Olson’s hiring as offensive coordinator, Raider Nation lost their collective minds on social media. As an offensive coordinator, Olson hasn’t had much success in the league. Olson has also previously spent 2013 and 2014 in Oakland. Those seasons didn’t exactly bring about the best offenses seen at the Coliseum, with the 2014 Raiders scoring the least amount of points in the NFL that season. That being said, Olson was handcuffed those two years in Oakland with extremely poor personnel, given that the Raiders were still rebuilding under Reggie McKenzie. In Olson’s first year in Oakland, he was handcuffed with 3 poor QBs (Matt Flynn, Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin), Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden at running back, Marcel Reece at fullback, Jeron Mastrud and Mychal Rivera at tight end, and Andre Holmes, Denarius Moore, Rod Streater and Jacoby Ford at wide receiver. Not exactly a who’s-who of offensive personnel, and yet, that offense scored more points than the 2017 offense under Todd Downing.
Even though Olson’s title is offensive coordinator, it realistically is by title only. Gruden is an offensive genius, and he made it clear in his opening press conference that he will have his hands all over the offense, including being the primary play caller on game day. Gruden’s involvement more or less puts Olson’s unofficial title as a glorified QB coach. As a QB coach, few are better than Olson. Under Olson’s tutelage, Josh Freeman had a career year in Tampa Bay and Jared Goff has gone from looking like a bust in 2016 to being the starting QB of the highest scoring offense in the league in 2017. Having spent time in Los Angeles under Sean McVay, it’s likely Olson will assist Gruden in incorporating more spread option play designs which were a staple of McVay’s offense, and is fast becoming a staple of successful offenses around the league. Olson also spent considerable time with Derek Carr as a rookie in 2014, which will help ensure Carr has some much needed continuity moving forward.
Paul Guenther – Defensive Coordinator
New defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is an exciting hiring by Gruden. In fact, it’s hard to fin anyone not overly joyed at the addition of Guenther to run a defense that still needs a swift kick in the rear. Guenther worked for the Bengals from 2005 through 2017, including the past four seasons as their defensive coordinator. His defense’s are predicated on a bend but don’t break system, giving up yards but being stingy in the red zone. Guenther runs a single gap scheme allowing the front 7 to aggressive penetrate the LOS. Pressure with the front 4 is a must, as the Bengals’ D rarely blitzes.. A disciple of Mike Zimmer, Guenther show blitzes his linebackers in the double-A gaps frequently, before backpedalling them into coverage after the snap). This causes confusion for the opposing offense and creates more one-on-one matchups for the pass rushers. As the Bengals’ defensive coordinator, Cincinnati’s defense ranked 12, 2, 8 and 16 in points allowed over the four years of his tenure. This is a significant upgrade on the defensive leaders of the past three years.
Rich Bisaccia – Special Teams
Rich Bisaccia has had a long career as a special teams coordinator in the NFL, including having worked with Gruden from 2002 through 2008 in Tampa Bay. He has been a beacon of consistency in the league, with his units regularly rating in the upper third of the league based on Football Outsiders’ special teams DVOA.
Bisaccia should be well known to Raider Nation, given he dialled up the fake punt on fourth-and-long on Sunday Night Football for the Cowboys in December of this season. The fake punt was executed perfectly, completely changing both field position and momentum of the game as a whole. Major plays on special teams were few and far between last year in Oakland, so Bisaccia is sure to have his hands full going forward. Of note, Bisaccia will need to reduce the fumbles on punt returns, as well as determining whether Giorgio Tavecchio is the long term kicker in Oakland. Long snapper Jon Condo is a free agent, so there may be quite a shakeup in personnel of this unit.
NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles from Nadolny on the Raiders new coaching staff. Look for more in the coming days here on Las Vegas Raiders Report.