Andrew Luck has played for Pep Hamilton for nearly five seasons of his football career. In 2010, midway through Luck's time at Stanford, Hamilton was hired as the wide receivers coach after having served as the Chicago Bears' quarterbacks coach in the previous three seasons. In 2011, Luck's senior season, Hamilton was promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, so he worked even more extensively with the quarterback who would be drafted first overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2012 Draft.
After a year with the Colts, Luck's offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, was hired as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, and the Colts hired Pep Hamilton as his replacement. Hamilton was the Colts' offensive coordinator from 2013-2015, before he was fired midway through this season.
Luck found out on Tuesday before the report leaked or the press release was sent out, as head coach Chuck Pagano called the quarterback into his office and told him the news. Luck was close to Hamilton, having played for him for five years, and it wasn't easy on the struggling fourth-year quarterback.
"It's tough," Luck said on Wednesday. "It's the worst part of professional sports. Friends get cut, players and coaches aren't around that you respect. I played under Pep for a long time except one year I guess, my rookie year being it. Through college, through a majority of my professional career, I've got so much respect for him. I've learned so much from him as a player, so it's tough."
Luck, who said that he has spoken with Hamilton since the coordinator was fired, was clear in his praise of and appreciation for Hamilton while on a conference call with Denver media. "I love Pep," Luck said. "I've been with Pep for a long time, since back in college. I feel like I've grown a lot under him as a player. He's a heck of a coach. He's a heck of a guy with a great family, so it's tough."
To his credit, Luck never second-guessed Chuck Pagano's decision to fire Hamilton, though it clearly had an impact on Luck and was something he didn't love. That's normal, as you hate to see guys you know and have known for a while get fired, and Luck noted that the timing of it was surprising ("everything about it was surprising," he said) but added that it was Pagano's decision to make and that the players need to go out and play.
One of the most practical questions with the change in coordinators is how much the offensive system will change with Rob Chudzinski now in charge. Pagano noted on Wednesday that it won't be a huge difference because of the difficulty of an in-season move, and Luck echoed those same thoughts when asked about it.
"That's a good question," he noted. "It's only Wednesday so probably have a better answer for you at the end of the week or after the game, but we'll see. Chud has his own style, and I'm sure from today there's not going to be a wholesale change. We know this offense in a sense. We'll see."
The bottom line is that the firing of Pep Hamilton was tough on Luck, but he respects Chuck Pagano's decision, knows Rob Chudzinski, and knows that he needs to be better. One of the things he was most clear on was that he needs to be better.
"I don't think the turnovers have anything to do with who the coordinator was," Luck said. "That falls on my shoulders and my shoulders only, the mistakes. Obviously I've got to clean that up if we're going to have a chance to succeed as an offense."
When the Indianapolis Star's Gregg Doyel caught up with Luck on Wednesday, he asked him point blank: do you think you got Hamilton fired? Luck responded that, "part of me does, yeah." Basically, Luck knows what we all do as well: despite the struggles and shortcomings of Pep Hamilton, he wouldn't have been fired if Luck and the offense was executing. That will be the biggest task for Rob Chudzinski now taking over, as he needs to do whatever he can to get Luck going. Luck may not have liked the move to fire Hamilton, but then again, why would anyone expect him to? Luck is a professional, he'll get back to work, and hopefully he'll improve and turn things around. Otherwise, the coordinator change probably won't mean much at all.