April 9, 2011; San Francisco, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton (left) and quarterback Andrew Luck (12) talk during the Cardinal & White spring game at Kezar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
New Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton’s press conference yesterday began in a decidedly straightforward manner: “Well, I’m Pep Hamilton. I’m the new offensive coordinator, of course, for the Indianapolis Colts. I’m excited to be here.” Hamilton eased the some people’s worries that the Colts might altogether abandon the deep passing game, discussed some of the offensive looks – ruling out few if any – we might see this year, and talked some about his experience so far coming back to the NFL.
The Colts’ New-Look Offense
The hiring of Pep Hamilton, who’s job title at Stanford was the “Andrew Luck Director of Offense,” signaled a change in philosophy that could translate into fewer sacks and a higher completion percentage, but also brought concerns that the deep passing game could all but disappear from the offense. Hamilton, who has virtually lived at the Colts complex in recent weeks, alleviated some of those worries and sounded like a coach who wants to work toward the strengths of the players on the roster – something Tom Moore excelled at as the OC in Indy.
“I think it’s important that we all understand that we’re a sum of all our parts offensively,” he said. “We’ve got to do whatever it is that our players do well. It’s obvious just based on production that we had in the passing game this past season, that we’re a team that can push the ball downfield. That should create paranoia for our opponents. Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Donnie Avery, our tight ends, guys that can really run and get downfield and make the big play in the passing game, and of course Andrew (Luck).”
Hamilton went on to praise Andrew Luck’s ability to avoid pressure and throw accurately on the run, saying, “That’s a talent and a gift that we can continue to use to our advantage.” In all, he sounds as though he has a very good feel for the type of offensive players he has inherited and is ready to utilize them in a way that maximizes their strengths.
So, how will the 2013 Colts offense look? It will be a West Coast Offense, but Hamilton was clear that there is more to it than that. His philosophy is very much about causing problems for the opposing defense, or creating conflicts, as he likes to say.
After emphasizing the obvious need to protect the quarterback better, Pep went into detail about some of what he wants to do. “I think it’s important that we have balance in our offense,” he said. “We’re not just a one-dimensional football team. We want to create conflicts for our opponents. We want to have the ability to not only push the ball downfield and hit the big play in the passing game but we’ve got to be able to run the football and hammer the nail saw.
“We’re going to work hard to do that, work hard to establish balance in the offense. We want to control the clock. We want to be really good on third down and really good in the red zone. We have to play great situational football. On first and second down, there’s no can’t do’s. We’ll do a great job of mixing in some power runs, mixing in the downfield passing game, maybe even mixing in some wildcat plays, mix in some read-option, pistol-type schemes. Just really try and present once again a lot of conflicts for our opponents.” Yes, you DID just read the word “wildcat.”
The offense will still have some deep routes and big play capability to compliment the short passing game. They will try to establish better balance. There could also be some college-style read-option plays. But wildcat? Your eyes did not deceive you. Do not dismay, however. They’re highly unlikely to be planning to reincarnate the 2008 Miami Dolphins offense or anything like that. However, Hamilton did use the formation successfully with Luck in 2011 at Stanford. You can click here for a video.
No Room for Old-School Fullbacks
The West Coast Offenses of the 1980s and 90s used the fullback position extensively, and almost exclusively out of the backfield, of course. Hamilton was asked if he would utilize a fullback in the same manner.
As far as he was concerned, he’d rather have TE Dwayne Allen than a true fullback. “I think if you just look at the versatility of Dwayne Allen and his ability to line up in the backfield and lead block, or line up and detach and line up in the slot, and win the one-on-one matchup, that’s a tremendous weapon that you want to have in any offense,” Hamilton said. “I think that if we can keep the one-trick ponies off the field, it just puts a lot more pressure on our opponents defensively to try and anticipate what it is that we want to do.
“The art of deception is a big part of offensive football, as you well know. They are big enough, tough enough, strong enough on defense that if they know that you are going to run to the right and they know that you are going to follow your fullback and always run behind your fullback, that downhill, old school, Sam Gash, neck roll wearing fullback, they are going to make the appropriate adjustments and create problems for you offensively. We like the versatile guy, the guy that can present the conflicts. (Allen) can do a lot of different things and do them well.”
Quick Quotes: We’re Not in College Anymore
Pep on his typical workday: “Well, it’s a lot different than the typical college coach’s working today. I’m not taking breaks to make recruiting calls, going to compliance meetings or going to check and seeing if guys are attending study hall which we didn’t have that issue at Stanford. It’s been all football, all day, sun up to sun down. I can honestly say that in the two-and-a-half, three weeks that I’ve been here at this facility, I’ve only seen sunlight maybe twice. It’s not because it hasn’t been sunny here. Uncharacteristically, I’m hearing that you’ve had more sun than you typically have in the winter. But it’s just because I close the chute, went into the bunker.”
Pep on picking a coordinator job with the Colts over a college head coaching job: “The opportunity to win the championship of all championships and ultimately have a chance to work for a storied franchise like the Colts franchise and work for Mr. Irsay and Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano, I felt like it was an amazing opportunity. The NFL is all about the haves and the have-nots. Either you have a franchise quarterback or you don’t (laughs). I think we all feel good about the potential of the young quarterback that we have here with this franchise.”
– Hamilton has spent a great deal of time studying his new personnel. He can’t work directly with any of them or give instructions until April because of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but he appears to know exactly what he will have at his disposal.
– He mentioned Donnie Avery twice, sounding as though the inconsistent speedster could figure into the Colts’ plans for the future.
– He kept mentioning his Norv Turner’s influence along with all the obvious West Coast connections and philosophies, partly to remind people that he knows how to call vertical plays.
– Phrases from Pep that stuck out to me: “create paranoia for our opponents,” and, “The art of deception is a big part of offensive football.”
– Finally, this guy is bright, and he knows football. He’s also fairly young and could be a head-coaching candidate somewhere in a few short years. Our hope as fans should be that he is successful here but still manages to stick around long enough to establish some continuity and develop the young Colts offense.
As usual, all quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR Department.
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