A Favor Turns Into a Find

Making the Most of His Chance, Assistant Olivadotti Climbs Another Rung on Redskins' Ladder

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 14, 2007; Page D12

It only was a courtesy interview, like so many others Gregg Williams had done at the request of colleagues in the coaching fraternity. Williams, the Washington Redskins' assistant head coach-defense, wasn't interested in hiring Kirk Olivadotti, a young assistant on former Redskins staffs, but agreed to meet with him as a favor to Olivadotti's father, Tom, a longtime NFL defensive coach.

Williams said he openly displayed his lack of interest at the beginning of the interview, performing other tasks at his office desk while Olivadotti spoke. Quickly, however, Olivadotti got Williams's attention, impressing Williams with his preparedness and commitment to detail, prompting Williams and Coach Joe Gibbs to change course.

"I try to find details in everything," said linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti, whose easygoing style has helped make him popular with players. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

"Within 10 minutes, I'm sitting straight up in my chair, listening to him talk," Williams recalled the other day. "And after 10 more minutes, I'm leaning over the desk, trying to see all the different things he brought in for me to see. About 25 minutes into the interview, I walked out of the office, grabbed a hold of Coach Gibbs and said: 'I don't need to interview anybody else. I'm done. This guy is special. I really believe that.' And you know what, I was right."

Four seasons later, Olivadotti, 33, is a position coach for the first time in his career, having been promoted before this season to oversee Washington's linebackers. Olivadotti has validated Williams's belief in him, coaches said, performing well in every assignment since he was retained as a quality control coach when Gibbs replaced Steve Spurrier before the 2004 season. And despite his relative inexperience, Olivadotti's ability to identify opponents' tendencies and provide useful tips for players has helped make him a key contributor on a coaching staff that is among the NFL's most experienced.

The Redskins, who play the Green Bay Packers today at Lambeau Field, have denied other teams' requests to interview Olivadotti for assistant positions, Williams said, because Olivadotti is too important to them and on track for bigger things.

"Coach K.O., man, he's awesome," cornerback Shawn Springs said. "He's unbelievably smart, and the way he handles his players is great. If I started a team, he'd be a real strong candidate for head coach. Whatever 'it' is, he's got it."

Olivadotti's easygoing demeanor ("He's not a holler-scream guy," Williams said) has been an asset in an intense line of work.

Former Redskins linebackers coach Dale Lindsay, who was let go after last season, was an unabashed drill sergeant who occasionally clashed with players. Players accustomed to Lindsay's gruff style have welcomed Olivadotti's evenhanded approach, and Olivadotti's communication skills set him apart from coaches with similar experience, players said.

"He's a very cool guy," middle linebacker London Fletcher said. "He makes the meeting rooms real relaxed. He coaches us in a manner where you enjoy coming to work, and it's not always like that in our business. His approach to getting guys better is the right approach. He's smart, you can tell he knows a whole lot, but he only gives us what we need to know."

It's all about the little things for Olivadotti, Redskins players said.

"He's a real detail-oriented guy," said defensive lineman Demetric Evans, who worked with Olivadotti often last season. "He does a great job at breaking down protections [from game tapes] and giving guys tools that they can use against each opponent. He has an eye for certain things that most people don't see when they watch film. Then he gives you all these little notes that helps you make plays in games."

Olivadotti's reports often are the highlight of defensive meetings. Players say they are eager to learn about what Olivadotti gleans from watching countless hours of tapes.

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