Pep Hamilton had his first press conference a few days ago. By now, most of us have had time to watch it, and many of us have mixed feelings on where exactly this offense is going. Pep Hamilton proved he has real smarts and a broad football knowledge. However, the result is, it caused a lot of confusion about where exactly our offense is going. This confusion has been reinforced by how we associate terminology (Example: pistol = read-option). So, let us go into a bit more of a simpler breakdown.
Let us start with the basics:
Pep Hamilton is very familiar with some of our roster already. He has rejoined Luck, Fleener, and Whalen. He has been keeping an eye on the Colts and has had brief contact with Luck throughout last season. He has had two weeks to evaluate our roster before his press conference. And finally, Hamilton has a vast assortment of knowledge about offensive schemes.
This assortment of knowledge is where the questions start. He mentions – to name a few – West Coast Offense, Wildcat, Pistol, the digit system, etc. This is further supported through his resume of working with each type. Nevertheless, this list is meant to be elusive. He simply does not want to show his hand earlier then he has too. However, to do this, he lists a bunch of concepts that are strange to Colt fans. So, what can we take from this list and more-so, his press conference?
Hamilton wants to base his offense off the concept of creating mismatches. He will use the philosophies that he has learned throughout his career in order to capitalize on an opponent’s weakness. He does not want to commit to a style, because a style is an offensive coordinators Achilles’ heel. We saw this with Bruce Arians. There were games where he called an amazing game; and then there was those he was stuck in his ways and would not adjust. Hamilton will not fall into the same trap. His style of the concept of creating mismatches allows for OCs to evolve and adept. But, what does that mean we can look for?
Well, right now the Colts offensive skill positions are built for this style. Each core player has a different quality that allows for us to have such range of weapons on the field; thus making it difficult to defend against (Step 1 to the mismatch concept). Let’s break down core:
QB: Luck – we all know his qualities
WR: Reggie – possession receiver
WR: T.Y. Hilton – Speed receiver, spreads the field
TE: Allen – Versatile TE/FB , good hands, great blocking, good speed, big
TE: Fleener - Versatile TE/WR, can be flexed out into the slot, good hands, good blocking, great speed, big
RB: Ballard – Determined, work-horse, needs better hands and pass protection – but so do most rookie RBs
These 6 guys have a mind blowing potential, which Hamilton might have a key to unleashing. However, at this point we have to make some assumptions of what he is going to do. So, let us assume he plans to use a no-huddle offense. This allows for our offense to keep a defense on their toes by the speed at which the offense can execute plays. This also prevents defenses from subbing in different personnel packages (Step 2 to the mismatch concept). Next, let us assume our base formation will be a double tight set. What this means is we will line up with two TEs (Fleener and Allen). Why will we do this? Because of how versatile our TE combo is. Luck will be able to shift us into different formations at the line– for example by flexing Fleener out into the slot or shifting Allen back as a FB. What exactly does that mean? From a double tight base we have the following personnel packages on the field 2WR, 2TE, 1 RB ; 3WR 1TE 1 RB ; 2 WR, 1TE, 2RB; and even 4WR, 1RB (probably won’t be used). We can use these packages into a multitude of formations (Step 3 to the mismatch concept). We ultimately will always have personnel – on the field - for power running, down the field passing, screen and short yardage, etc.
This range of shifting that we can do into different formations is very rare without substitution. The Colts would be playing “Iron Man” football at such a speed that would decimate defenses. “Iron Man” football in NFL terms (different for HS and College) is 11 offenders vs. 11 defenders without substitution to see who is stronger, tougher, and has more endurance. How fast and long do you think a 300+ pound DT can last? Not very long is the normal answer… How long do you think the CB trying to keep up with Hilton’s speed is going to last? Or, the CB on Reggie who has maybe ½ second reaction time when Reggie makes his move? The answer is simple.. Andrew Luck will have a field day against exhausted defenders.
Now let us clear up a bit more confusion. The Wildcat, read-option, and other random philosophies are nothing more than exotic plays. Every OC has them. They are rarely used. Mainly they are used to for fun or desperation. By no means are we going to see Andrew Luck become a receiver in the NFL. Franchise QBs health is too important to risk like that. Hamilton won’t do it, and Pagano won’t let him. The most we might see is Harnish doing some exotic plays like the wildcat if we are ahead by a blow out amount.
Next, the pistol is a formation. That is all it is. You can execute pass plays, run plays, read-option plays, -hell - you can even spike or kneel the ball down in it. If we run the pistol, and we will, it does not mean Andrew Luck is going to run a read-option nor become the next RG3 with both knees shot in 1 season. Once again, we Colt fans are lucky enough to have intelligent people that know how important a franchise QBs health is. The chance of Luck running read option at all is slim, on a regular basis is even slimmer.
And finally, a true FB would be nice. But, the use would purely be goal line. Allen has proven he can shift back as a FB. He would then be the hot read for the glorified Spider Y 2/3 Banana. He has already proven on a few TE Screens last year that he can break plays for yardage. I don’t see us using a true FB much, especially if we go no-huddle. It would just create an unnecessary drag by having to sub players in. Our versatile TE combo fixes a lot of those problems. I would not be upset if we got a true FB, but I wouldn’t hold my breath of him becoming a key piece in our offense due to Allen. The roster spot could easily be more valuable.
Overall, our offense isn’t going west coast, traditional, spread, or any other notable style. Hamilton’s style is to find the mismatch and exploit it. He will do this by TY’s speed, Wayne’s catch everything manner, Fleeners size and speed at both TE and slot WR, Allens size and ability at TE and FB, and of course Andrew Lucks ridiculousness as a QB. Ballard has a way to go still, but he is always determined to move the ball forward. The Colts offense is going to be a fast and furious “Iron Man” monster. The likes of which has rarely been seen in the NFL. Hamilton has the keys to the cage, and I think he will unleash it. The offense still needs an OLine, but the 2013 season should be another one for the memory books.