The hire of former Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton to replace Bruce Arians as the offensive coordinator in Indianapolis seemed like a perfect move back in January. I called it a "tremendous hire." And I wasn't the only one to love the hire or the coach - in fact, many, many other people did as well.
It didn't take long for those warm feelings to go away. In the offseason and training camp, people were saying he was an up-and-coming head coaching candidate. Shortly after the season began, fans were feeling frustrated with his offense and it has escalated to the point that some fans (and not a small contingency, either) are ready to give up on him.
Lost in NFL Network's Mike Silver's report of the Colts benching Trent Richardson and Mike McGlynn Sunday comes his report that Hamilton is feeling some pressure from within the Colts organization as well:
"Silver added that offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is under pressure within the Colts' facility to "step up his game" after the offense got off to slow starts in the past several weeks. According to two sources, there a feeling that Hamilton might be having a tough time adjusting in his first season as an NFL play-caller.
"According to Silver, there is a belief that the team has struggled to free up receivers in the wake of Reggie Wayne's injury. The play-calling might get more imaginative and aggressive this week to combat the bracket coverage T.Y. Hilton is facing."
Normally, the offensive failures that the Colts have had and their slow starts would put a coach on the hot seat, but some wondered whether the Colts would be more patient with Hamilton since he is in his first season as a play caller at the NFL level and since he was considered such a brilliant young offensive mind before the season began. While the latter might very well be true, the first point isn't - the Colts, according to Silver's report - aren't satisfied with Hamilton.
And honestly, they shouldn't be either. The Colts have started incredibly slow since their bye week and even before that weren't overly impressive. Hamilton has constantly been criticized by fans and media alike for his play calling and his run first emphasis, among other things.
Hamilton hasn't adjusted the offense and is still trying to run the offense that he ran at Stanford behind a dominant offensive line, but the Colts offensive line is anything but dominant. Some even go so far as saying that Hamilton is wasting Andrew Luck's second season, and that has more truth to it than many would like to believe. Hamilton's playcalling has both limited Luck and resulted in a poor running game.
The Colts tried to tailor their offense to what Hamilton wanted to do, but so far he has done nothing to adjust when those things haven't worked. The team brought in fullback Stanley Havili (who actually has played very well this year), running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson, and tight ends Justice Cunningham and Jack Doyle. All of those moves were to improve the running game. But the area that Ryan Grigson failed at was in not improving the offensive line, and that has ended up killing the Colts running game. Pep Hamilton can't be blamed for the bad players along the line, but he has done nothing to adjust his play calling or his offense because of that. If Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano were willing to go from Bruce Arians' style to Pep Hamilton's style of offense in just one offseason (which are quite different styles) and were willing to adjust their team to tailor to Pep's offense, the least he could do is tailor his offense based on the team he has.
And that is really what I think his biggest weakness has been this year. Sure, his play calling hasn't been that great, but far worse than that, in my opinion, is the fact that he hasn't adjusted his offensive system after injuries happened (in particular the injury to Reggie Wayne) or after he saw what talent he really had. There are no excuses for that, and there are no excuses for continuing to run an offense that both limits your best player and can't run.
Ultimately, Pep Hamilton's job might be saved due to the fact that the 39-year old is in just his first season as an offensive coordinator in the NFL and because his offense was going to very heavily feature Dwayne Allen and relied heavily on Reggie Wayne, both of whom are out with injuries. But make no mistake - the Colts have noticed Hamilton's failures as well and they reportedly aren't happy about it either. Things don't sound great for Pep Hamilton right now, and the truth is that he is very likely coaching for his job in the final month of the season.