Tom Krasovic: Chris Olave hopes a version of 49ers offense lifts Saints in receiver's third NFL season

Tom Krasovic, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Football

SAN DIEGO — It may bode well for San Diego County's Chris Olave that an expert of the "Shanahan-West Coast offense" has joined him in New Orleans.

New Saints coordinator Klint Kubiak was born into a great opportunity to learn NFL football's inner details.

Gary Kubiak, Klint's dad, was an NFL quarterback and coach whose mentors included Hall of Fame QB John Elway and Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls as a head coach and another as an offensive coordinator. Klint Kubiak spent the 2023 season under head coach/offensive guru Kyle Shanahan as the passing-game coordinator of the Super Bowl-bound San Francisco 49ers.

"They're bringing that 'San Fran' offense here," Olave told Saints reporters this month. "It's built around having yards after the catch. So, I'm definitely proud to be in the system. I'm excited."

The Saints' top receiver at age 23, Olave will go from one of the NFL's more static attacks to one that runs a lot of motion.

In theory, it'll become tougher for opponents to confine and redirect the 6-foot, 187-pound speedster.

Kyle Shanahan's designs have often freed up pass-catchers at a high rate. The quarterbacks directing those offenses ranged from Kirk Cousins with Washington to Matt Ryan in his league-MVP season with Atlanta to Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard, Jimmy Garoppolo and now Brock Purdy with San Francisco. Most of those QBs weren't drafted in a first round.

Sounds good for Olave and Saints QB Derek Carr, huh?

On the other hand, Shanahan's playcalling expertise will be tough to replicate, nor will Kubiak have the luxury of scheming plays for a star-laden offense or one whose quarterback spent multiple years in the system.

It's Klint Kubiak's second run as an NFL coordinator.

In his one year overseeing a Vikings offense piloted by Cousins, Minnesota finished 12th in points and went 9-8.

Olave said Kubiak's play calls are shorter than those of Pete Carmichael, a former San Diego Chargers assistant who coordinated the offense in each of Olave's first two seasons.

As a result, Olave will be required to develop a greater understanding of teammates' responsibilities.

On balance, the new system should benefit Olave, a San Ysidro native who attended high school in Chula Vista and San Marcos.


Kubiak will have to account for the smooth receiver being somewhat slender and more of a long-strider. Profiling as a yards-after-catch monster is Saints slot receiver Rashid Shaheed, a Mt. Carmel High School alum and one of the NFL's better returners.

As you'd expct, Olave praised Kubiak's plans, calling the offense more explosive.

"My mindset's to take everything to the house — every touch," said Olave, who as Mission Hills senior returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown in the section quarterfinals.

Benefiting the San Diego speedsters, they're in their second season with Carr after working as rookies with three different quarterbacks — Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill.

This, too: the Saints may have improved a key position not far from Olave by investing their top draft pick in right tackle Taliese Fuaga. An Oregon State product graded highly by former NFL scouts Daniel Jeremiah and Randy Mueller of the NFL Network and The Athletic, respectively, Fuaga could facilitate a versatile, effective ground game that's often a hallmark of the Shanahan-West Coast offense.

Olave, who will work as well with quarterback Spencer Rattler, a South Carolina alum taken in this year's fifth round, has led the Saints in catches and reception yardage in both of his seasons.

He's in the third year of a four-year contract, but because he was drafted in the first round, the Saints hold an option on him for the 2026 season.

With friend and mentor Michael Thomas no longer on the team, Olave will lead a low-experience positional group that also includes a second-year player in 6-foot-3 1/2 A.T. Perry and a rookie in powerful Bub Means, in addition to Olave's backup, the veteran Equanimeous St. Brown.

In contrast to his teams at Ohio State and his lone Mission Hills squad, the Saints have produced lukewarm seasons — falling short of both postseasons via win-loss records of 7-10 and 9-8.

"It's about winning, really," Olave said.

The Saints still resemble a mid-tier team. I wish I could be more optimistic about Olave and Shaheed playing for a Super Bowl contender anytime soon.

At least the offense should be more interesting to watch, refreshing a franchise that has struggled to reinvent itself since the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era ended.

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