Why Isn’t Greg Olsen Still a Bear?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune writes a nice, balanced retrospective on the trade of tight end Greg Olsen to the Panthers. The trade doesn’t look too good in 2016 as Olsen has been a Pro Bowler and is playing today in the NFC Championship game.

“The trade goes on [Jerry] Angelo‘s record as he was the GM, but Olsen doesn’t fault him for how things went down with plenty of distance between the emotions fueling him at the time.

“‘I just think I was pigeonholed,’ Olsen said. ‘They gave one person in the organization ([then offensive coordinator Mike] Martz) a lot of power and control over the direction and unfortunately it wasn’t the head coach.'”

That’s not at all correct and I can’t believe that even after all of these years Olsen doesn’t realize it.

It’s true that it was Martz’s system that put Angelo in a bind. There are two kinds of coaches in the league: those who adapt their system to the players that they have and those who demand players to fit their system. Former offensive coordinator Adam Gase was in the former category. Martz was in the latter. Martz couldn’t understand why you’d want a tight end that couldn’t block and would have rather had a big wide receiver on the field, something that’s not totally unreasonable.

But saying that Olsen got traded because Martz had the power and not former head coach Lovie Smith is way off base. Indeed, though it was never stated explicitly, it was believed at the time that Angelo had wanted Smith to hire another coordinator and it was Smith who insisted that the team bring in yet another coach with whom he has worked in the past rather than (arguably) the best qualified candidate. Smith and Angelo both knew who Martz was and how he would want to run the offense.  There was no place in it for a tight end of Olsen’s talents and with that hire, for better or worse, Smith essentially decided Olsen’s fate with the team.

Ultimately, the head coach hires the coaches and ultimately the buck stops with him. That was particularly true of Smith who demanded and got total control over his coaching staff. Could you argue that Angelo ultimately hired Smith?  You sure could.  But regardless the fact is that in this case Angelo was simply dealing with the consequences of Smith’s decisions.  And that’s why Greg Olsen isn’t a Bear.

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