This is the time of year when there are a lot of coaching changes in the NFL. Just today, the Detroit Lions hired former Colts offensive coordinator and head coach Jim Caldwell as their head coach. According to a report tonight from ESPN's Adam Schefter, another Colts offensive coordinator might be garnering interest as a head coach.
According to Schefter, citing multiple league sources, Pep Hamilton is a candidate for the Vanderbuilt University head coaching opening.
Colts OC Pep Hamilton is a candidate for the Vanderbilt HC job, according to multiple league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 15, 2014
Hamilton just completed his first season as the Colts offensive coordinator after spending the previous two seasons in the same position at Stanford University. In other words, he had experience working with Andrew Luck at Stanford, which made him a no-brainer hire last offseason when offensive coordinator and interim head coach Bruce Arians was hired as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals after just one year back with the Colts.
Hamilton had a bit of a rough first season in Indianapolis, as he dealt with numerous injuries and a mandate to run the football that came down from the top. His play calling wasn't great at times, but Hamilton stuck with it and towards the end of the season he really began to improve and impress as an offensive coordinator and play caller, adjusting and adapting his system to both the injuries and to his superstar quarterback, using the no-huddle offense and the shotgun more often and utilizing the pass to set up the run instead of vice versa. I am very excited to see what Hamilton can do next season with the offense - given he's still around next season, that is.
Vanderbilt isn't a top-tier job, but it is an SEC school - meaning it's in the top conference in college football and the closest to the NFL that the college game gets. Their previous head coach, James Franklin, went 24-15 (2-1 in bowl games) in three seasons at Vandy and finished each of the last two seasons ranked in the top 25 of the country. He just recently became the next head coach of Penn State, replacing Bill O'Brien, who left Penn State to become the head coach of the Houston Texans - who are in the AFC South, just like the Colts.
Regardless of what you thought of Pep Hamilton this season as the Colts offensive coordinator, there is no doubt that having three offensive coordinators in three years for Andrew Luck is not a good thing for his development. I personally like Hamilton and think he would be a big loss for the Colts just purely based on the football side of things, but additionally it would be a huge loss for Luck.
Again, this is all just speculation, but here are a few thoughts on the report that Pep Hamilton is a head coaching candidate at Vanderbilt University:
- This shouldn't surprise anyone. In fact, what surprises me is that there haven't been more teams considering Hamilton. He's young (39 years old) and a brilliant offensive mind who is good with the media and a good guy to be around and to lead a team. I've gotten to speak with Hamilton some and I absolutely agree with all those saying he is a very impressive head coaching candidate. I said last offseason even that I thought he would be an NFL head coach in a few years.
- That's the big question for me: does Hamilton want to coach at the college level or is his primary goal to be an NFL head coach? I think it's the latter, but I really don't know. If so, going to Vanderbilt wouldn't be a step forward for him, as being the Colts coordinator gives him a better launching point to an NFL head coaching spot than the Vanderbilt job. But if he wants to go back to the college game, then perhaps this really is a legitimate option.
- Get used to Anderew Luck offensive coordinators getting head coaching interest, folks. Bruce Arians was hired after last season. Now Pep Hamilton is getting interest this season. With a great quarterback like Luck and a successful offense, this is something to get used to.
- IF (big if) Pep Hamilton does leave, I have to imagine that current quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen would be the clear-cut favorite to replace him. He has been with the Colts since 2002, serving in various capacities - wide receivers coach, assistant head coach, offensive coordinator, and now quarterbacks coach. His time with the Colts has spanned three head coaches, coming with Tony Dungy from Tampa Bay in 2002, staying around when Jim Caldwell took over, and then being one of the few assistants retained when Chuck Pagano was hired. The players like and respect Christensen and at this point, the best thing for Andrew Luck would be to have consistency in the coaching staff, and at least Christensen would provide some stability for Luck. Christensen has also been reported to be a candidate for both the Detroit Lions offensive coordinator spot (with Jim Caldwell) and the Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator position (with Ken Whisenhunt). His name has also been tossed around a few times by media in the past few years as a guy who might get head coaching consideration at some point, although that has yet to really happen.
Side Note - it's a good time to be a Colts coach or former Colts coach right now. Last year, Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was hired as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and had a very successful first season. Former Colts defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was hired as the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this month. Today, former Colts head coach Jim Caldwell was hired as the head coach of the Detroit Lions. Former Colts quarterback and wide receivers coach Frank Reich was promoted to the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers. Current offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is reportedly a candidate for the Vanderbilt University head coach position. Current Colts quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen is reportedly a candidate for the offensive coordinator positions in both Detroit and Tennessee, and that list would extend to Indianapolis if Hamilton left.