The 2013 Indianapolis Colts will be running a West Coast Offense.
Is it the same offense that Bill Walsh made famous in the 1980s in San Francisco? No.
But, it's a West Coast scheme, no matter what new Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton wants to call it.
As a guest on The Midday 180 in Nashville with ESPN's Paul Kuharsky, Colts backup quarterback (and one-time starter for the Titans) Matt Hasselbeck discussed how Hamilton views his offense during offseason workouts [emphasis mine]:
"He said, ‘People are saying we’re running the West Coast offense," backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said on The Midday 180 in Nashville Tuesday afternoon, a show of which I am a part. "He said, ‘We’re running the No Coast Offense. I don’t care what people have done in the past, we’re going to do whatever it takes.’
"So, ironically, you can feel the footprint of Peyton Manning and that offense still in this playbook, stuff that they’ve done. Stuff that was good with Reggie Wayne. Stuff that was just good for the guys here, that’s worked with Clyde Christensen, the quarterbacks coach. Then there is a good element of the stuff that Bruce Arians had success with last year that worked with Andrew (Luck). Then there is the stuff that Pep did at Stanford with Jim Harbaugh and kind of what the 49ers are doing.
"For me, someone who’s played in kind of the West Coast verbage a good part of my career, the plays, I am swimming learning this playbook right now. It’s not just cookie cutter West Coast like people would say at all. They are putting a lot on every player."
Hasselbeck said they’ve already looked at about a dozen personnel groupings.
This is great insight by Hasselbeck, and from what I am hearing coming out of these offseason meeting and workouts, Hamilton is coming across as energetic, bright, and inventive.
However, he can call his offense "Daisy Duck" for all I care, but he's running a West Coast scheme as his core foundation of plays. That's what he was hired to do.
If the Colts were just going to continue doing the same plays they ran under Peyton Manning, they wouldn't have hired Hamilton to replace Bruce Arians. They'd have just re-promoted one-time offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, and moved on.
They didn't do that, though. They hired Hamilton, and we've heard head coach Chuck Pagano state again and again how the offense is a "West Coast style" offense that is going to implement more "West Coast principles."
If you want yet another short description of what a West Coast Offense is, I offer up Paul Kuharsky's excellent summation:
While Arians really pushed the ball downfield, Hamilton’s philosophy has traditionally included West Coast elements, with a run game setting up play-action and more short, high-percentage throws for the quarterback.
What Paul also correctly notes is that any good coordinator would not come into this job and try to force a system on this group of players. Guys like T.Y. Hilton are not suited for a Walshonian West Coast scheme. Thus, like the great Tom Moore did in 1998 with a rookie Peyton Manning, Hamilton seems to be tailoring his offense to fit his personnel.
But, make no mistake, this is a West Coast scheme at its core... with a lot of wrinkles scattered throughout the playbook.
When I saw Hasselbeck mention "a dozen personnel groupings," that sounded very similar to the Stanford offenses I watched in 2011 under the direction of senior quarterback Andrew Luck and his coordinator, Pep Hamilton.
When asked about how different this new offense is from the one the Colts ran last year, left tackle Anthony Castonzo said that the biggest challenge is re-learning a new terminology. For Castonzo, that must be tricky. This is the third new offense he's had to learn in three years.