When Colts’ offensive coordinator Bruce Arians began getting a ton of head coaching buzz as the 2012 season began drawing to a close, Colts fans began wondering who the next offensive coordinator.
When Arians accepted the Arizona Cardinals’ job Thursday night, the speculation of who would replace him escalated. Many (including myself) were worried about what effect this would have on Andrew Luck, entering his second year in the league – having to learn a new offense and adjust to a new coach.
No need to worry anymore. The “Andrew Luck Director of Offense” quieted those concerns.
Colts’ general manager Ryan Grigson worked quickly and made yet another extraordinary move in bringing Andrew Luck’s offensive coordinator at Stanford to the Colts to run the offense. And yes, his official job title with Luck at Stanford was indeed the “Andrew Luck Director of Offense” (no word yet on whether the Colts will let him keep it).
And for the Colts, there wasn’t a better option out there for offensive coordinator. Hamilton, 38, spent seven years in the NFL before going to Stanford in 2010 as their wide receivers coach. Ironically, he got the Stanford job when their wide receivers coach, Ron Turner, left for the NFL, taking a job with the Indianapolis Colts. In 2011, when David Shaw was promoted to head coach after Jim Harbaugh left for the NFL to be the head coach of the 49ers, Hamilton was promoted to offensive coordinator (or “Andrew Luck Director of Offense”). Under the leadership of Hamilton and the play of Luck, Stanford set school records for points scored and total offense, averaging 43.2 points per game and 489.3 yards of offense per game, both ranked in the top 10 nationally. In 2011, Stanford dealt with the loss of multiple players to the NFL (including the Colts’ Luck and Coby Fleener) and won their first Rose Bowl in 40 years, in large part due to Hamilton’s guidance of the offense after the departure of Luck. Also serving as Stanford’s quarterbacks coach, Hamilton worked with Luck quite a bit in the quarterback’s senior season.
Prior to coaching at Stanford, Hamilton spent 7 years in the NFL. From 2003-2005 he was with the New York Jets, serving as their Offensive Quality Control coach, Offensive Assistant, and then quarterbacks coach. He was an offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach for the 49ers in 2006 before becoming the Bears’ quarterbacks coach from 2007-2009. He played collegiate football at Howard University as a quarterback (1993-1996) and then later served as the quarterback coach and offensive coordinator for the school until 2001.
For the Colts, this hire was indeed a “home run”, as many are calling it, and should not affect Luck as much as a normal coordinator change would, since the two have worked together before. Stanford head coach David Shaw said last night that “[Luck] is excited. He and Pep have a good relationship. They know each other so well that there’s not going to be that feeling-out period. They’re both going to want to hit the ground running when the offseason begins and just get back at it.”
For the Colts, there weren’t many guys that have worked with Luck before, as he has only been in the NFL for one year. That led me to suggest promoting Clyde Christensen to maintain consistency. Sure, maybe he isn’t the best offensive coordinator but at least it would have provided some continuity for the second year quarterback. Guess what? The Colts hired both a guy that is a great offensive coach and a guy that is familiar with their franchise quarterback. They couldn’t have done much better.
Hamilton’s ran a West Coast offense at Stanford based around a power running game, but with Luck and the Colts’ pass weapons he will certainly incorporate a good passing game as well. He is not limited to his run-based offense but that is what he ran at Stanford. And even then, in 2011 Luck still threw 404 times (33.7 times per game) and averaged 293.1 yards per game passing, 20 yards more than he averaged in his first year with the Colts. He threw for 37 touchdowns and only 10 picks at Stanford; his touchdown percentage at an incredible 9.2%. Luck also rushed 47 times for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns, as well as catching one pass for 13 yards (don’t expect that in Indy, however). Stanford’s number one receiver in 2011 was Griff Whalen, catching 56 passes for 749 yards and 4 touchdowns, while their number two receiver was tight end Coby Fleener, who caught 34 balls for 667 yards and 10 scores. Both players are currently on the Colts.
With Luck and Fleener, and even possibly Whalen, the Colts already have players in place to fit Hamilton’s offense, and the move should provide a great boost especially for Fleener, who struggled a bit in his first year with the Colts but excelled at Stanford.
The Colts’ offense in 2012 will certainly look different, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They will incorporate a short passing game (but that doesn’t mean everything is “dink and dunk”) and also hope to establish a power run game (which Vick Ballard fits nicely – the offensive line is an even bigger priority now, however). They will likely incorporate more play action (which comes with a better run game), use a fullback, and, of course, some Spider 3 Y Banana.
Bottom line is that the Colts avoided a potential hindrance to Andrew Luck by bringing in his former offensive coordinator. Pep Hamilton had interviewed for the Jets offensive coordinator position earlier in the week and was even interviewing for the Oregon head coaching vacancy on Friday, but he choose the Colts, and understandably so – he gets to work with his former quarterback, currently one of the brightest young players in the league.
While the offense will look much different than that which the Colts ran in 2011, that doesn’t mean it was worse. The Colts replaced a great coach with one of the brightest young offensive minds in football – Pep Hamilton, a.k.a the “Andrew Luck Director of Offense”.
Ryan Grigson continued to prove himself by making this move quickly and brilliantly. There weren’t many guys the Colts could have brought in that would have left me feeling great about where they stood. They found one of those guys. This was absolutely the right move and one that figures to greatly help the Colts’ offense and their young superstar quarterback, Andrew Luck.