For pro coaches, who work 12-hour-plus days, seven days a week during the season, now is the time they can enjoy some R&R and vacation. This break allowed Pleasanton resident Greg Olson to speak with the Pleasanton Men’s Club. He’s the neighbor of one of the club founders, Frank Capilla.
Olson and his wife, Lisa, settled in Pleasanton when their twin children were in the 3rd grade and he was working for Steve Maruicci at the 49ers. After leaving the 49ers he became the commuter to wherever his career took him. His talented kids graduated from Foothill in June—his daughter, Grayce (6-4 tall) is off to UCLA on a volleyball scholarship, while his son, Kenny, is headed for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to play football. Like Greg, Lisa was a college athlete.
The 49er opportunity opened up after he coached quarterback Drew Brees at Purdue, concluding 15 years at the collegiate level. He’s finished 21 seasons in the NFL at the age of 59.
Since joining the 49ers, he’s been the offensive coordinator for six National Football League teams, including the Oakland Raiders on Jon Gruden’s staff. He also worked for Gruden in Tampa Bay when they won the Super Bowl over the Raiders. Ironically, Gruden was fired and Olson along with him after winning seasons in both Tampa and Las Vegas. Three times he’s been fired after winning seasons, tough considering that he’s only been part of five in his 21 years. Having landed as an offensive assistant with Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, he's likely to add a sixth winning season come January.
When asked if he thought Gruden was set up for the mid-season firing for inappropriate emails to friends, he flatly said yes. The league had that material for a while and then it leaked to the New York Times. He also said that Gruden routinely talked with language that would not have been appropriate in mixed company and now is considered inappropriate period. In retrospect, he said Gruden needed someone to stand up to him and call him out on the language instead of chuckling and going along.
During his remarks, he said how fortunate he was to have the father he did. His dad coached at the high school level and set clear expectations each of his six children. He said he freely shares what he’s learned over the years with both fellow coaches and the players. He said that he asked himself if he could have done anything that would have prevented Las Vegas Raider wide receiver Henry Riggs from driving at 156 mph while intoxicated. Rugg’s crashed into the back of another vehicle and the driver died. He’s facing up to 50 years in prison.
“It’s a horrible tragedy, but for me, there was a lot of guilt involved in that because I really, really liked Henry Riggs and thought he was a strong kid,” he told the club.
Asked how he coaches young men who have money and fame, he responded, “that's the biggest question I probably get all the time. And the unfortunate part is that it's really it's a small handful of players that give the rest of the league a bad reputation. Obviously in the that I coached quarterbacks, I'm like, Wow, what a great group. I’ve been spending a lot of time with the wide receivers (in Los Angeles) and I am so impressed with how they are as people, not just competitive athletes, but as the character that they shown… they're just great, great people.”
Turning to football and his role with the Rams, he responded to a question about the defense he was most concerned with. He said that always starts in the division and that Arizona because of its talent.
Training camps are opening now so he’s back at the daily grind that he hopes ends in another Super Bowl appearance. We 49er fans are not rooting for Olson in that regard.