THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Greg Olson ran the Oakland Raiders' offense while Jared Goff navigated through his freshman and sophomore seasons at Cal, their stadiums only 12 miles apart. Olson studied Goff closely then, from 2013 to '14. He saw talent and promise.
"Nothing that I’ve watched so far has deterred me from that same evaluation," Olson said. "I'm just real excited to get a chance to get with him and have a chance to work with him."
Olson is the Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach, so it isn't a reach to call him the franchise's most important assistant. His job is to work with Goff; to correct the issues that plagued his rookie season and to tap into the raw ability that made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2016. Olson believes the ceiling is "really high" for Goff, four months removed from his 22nd birthday. He sees "tremendous arm talent," a phrase Olson used often.
"That's the start, in my opinion," Olson said during a meet-and-greet with assistant coaches from the Rams' facility on Friday. "When you look at evaluating the position, it's, 'What kind of arm talent does that player have?' Certainly a very intelligent player when you look at his test scores and what he was able to do as a student. I just think there’s a lot of intangibles that we’ve all heard about him growing up, from high school through college and the NFL. Tremendous work ethic. So, there’s a lot of things there."
Olson has spent 15 years in the NFL as either an offensive coordinator or a quarterbacks coach or both. He will work under offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, the former Redskins and Falcons quarterbacks coach. Both will answer to 31-year-old head coach Sean McVay, who spent the past three years as the Redskins' offensive coordinator.
The three bring a wealth of experience working with NFL quarterbacks, which runs in stark contrast to the Rams' coaching staff under Jeff Fisher. But the message to Goff must be consistent, and McVay expects that to happen organically. He worked with LaFleur with the Redskins from 2010 to '13, where they were influenced by Kyle Shanahan. And he worked alongside Olson with the Buccaneers in 2008, where they were groomed by Jon Gruden.
LaFleur, who was expected to join the rest of the Rams' coaches on Monday, helped make Robert Griffin III the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 and Matt Ryan the MVP in 2016. McVay said that "a lot of the things that we do philosophically will be very similar." He called Olson "a great communicator."
"I don’t think you can have enough good coaches in the building," McVay said. "We’re going to create an environment where it’s about all of us working together."
Olson worked with Rex Grossman (22nd overall) and Derek Carr (36th) as rookies. He helped Blake Bortles (third overall), Blaine Gabbert (10th) and Josh Freeman (17th) make strides as second-year players, and he guided Joey Harrington (third overall) through two of his best seasons as a third- and fourth-year starter.
"With these young players," Olson said, "the quicker they get in and get assimilated to an offensive scheme, and have a chance to get with their coordinator and get with their head coach, and really learn the offense, the better chance they'll have for success. It certainly wasn’t an ideal situation, the fact that he’s going on his second coordinator and his second head coach in his second year in the league. But the potential is very high."
Goff came from an Air Raid offense in which he never took a snap from under center and never really communicated a play from the huddle. He struggled through training camp, hardly challenging Case Keenum for the starting job, and he didn't become the starter until Week 11. Over the last seven games, all losses, Goff had the NFL's fewest yards per attempt (5.31), second-worst Total QBR (22.2), fourth-worst completion percentage (54.6) and fourth-lowest touchdown-to-interception ratio (0.71).
Goff threw to an underwhelming group of receivers, took snaps behind an inferior offensive line and ran a scheme that didn't function properly, regardless of the quarterback. But Goff himself didn't make sound decisions and didn't complete routine throws. Olson also believes Goff was at a disadvantage because he spent a significant portion of the season receiving limited snaps as a backup.
The key to his development, Olson said, is "being comfortable within a system."
"That’s the big part. With Sean’s system, and with Matt coming in, I just think it’s going to be really critical that he has a chance to learn the system and get comfortable within that system. The more comfortable he gets with it, then certainly the more confidence he’ll be able to play with, and then you’ll be able to reach that potential."