(Photo by Bob Carr / sbreport.net, @BobCarrNFL )
How does a rookie quarterback with a 76.5 QB rating get to the Pro Bowl? By being awesome, of course (and winning 11 games on a “rebuilding” team). Now, without further ado, The Notebook (sorry, not the one with Ryan Gosling, just a nice quarterback with a neck beard). All quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR Department, unless otherwise noted.
Never Been to Hawaii
When Andrew Luck was named an alternate for the 2013 Pro Bowl, it seemed likely he would be called upon to play in the NFL’s all-star game because of the three names ahead of him; one would surely be a Super Bowl participant. As Matt Schaub, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady each lost in the playoffs, Luck’s chances diminished somewhat. That is, until Brady bowed out of the Pro Bowl with an undisclosed injury.
Thus, Andrew Luck, a young man whose skill and value go well beyond his raw numbers (numbers that are only expected to improve), boarded a flight to Hawaii. “I figured that it was a good possibility so I didn’t want to fly all the way from Indianapolis if it happened,” Luck said. “I flew off to the West Coast and hung out there at Stanford until I got the call.”
Though he knew it would be a possibility and was prepared, it was still exciting to be added to the Pro Bowl roster. “I was very excited,” Luck said about getting the call. “Again, it’s an honor to be here and to play in this game. I’ve never been to Hawaii before so it’s a chance to go to Hawaii and have a great time. So yeah, I was very excited.”
Robert Mathis and Reggie Wayne are also in Hawaii for their fifth and sixth Pro Bowls, respectively, and they won’t be alone. Reggie Wayne, as he has done before, brought the other Colts receivers along, and Luck invited his fellow quarterbacks as well. “Chandler Harnish made it out,” he said. “Drew Stanton couldn’t make it. He has a fairly newborn son so he didn’t want to leave him with his wife.”
Hanging with Mr. Manning
Along with the first of what we hope will be many Pro Bowl selections, Luck will also be teaming up with the man he replaced in Indy, Peyton Manning. Awkward situation? In actuality, no. Neither Manning nor Luck had any control over their situations, with regard to Indianapolis. Luck, a former Manning Passing Academy attendee, did not choose his NFL destination any more than Manning had any say in leaving.
Had Luck somehow actively sought to supplant Manning, things could be very different. However, the strange situation many expected turned out to be just a couple professional football players enjoying the Pro Bowl experience, going to quarterback meetings, and having a few laughs. Manning even sprung an impromptu joke on Luck, when he learned that Luck was mic’d up at practice this week, telling him to get a “rash” checked out. (You can watch the NFL.com video here).
They also had a moment to share experiences from Indianapolis. “Talked about where we lived and people you know,” Luck said of his conversation with Manning. “Every time I’ve talked to him, he’s spoken very highly of Indianapolis and I see why now.”
Pep and the West Coast Offense
When the Colts hired Pep Hamilton, Stanford’s “Andrew Luck Director of Offense” (yes, Luck is kind of a big deal there), to replace newly hired Arizona HC Bruce Arians as their offensive coordinator, it became clear that the west coast offense (WCO), or at least its influence, was coming to Indianapolis.
Andrew Luck, of course, is quite familiar with the system from his days at Stanford. He, like many fans, sounded both excited about the hire and hopeful that a few elements of Arians’ offense might remain. “I got to be on the offense for four years, so obviously the comfort level is fairly high,” Luck said of Stanford’s west coast scheme. “There’s a lot of great things that (Bruce Arians) did that hopefully we’ll keep around and continue to do and then to add what Pep (Hamilton) knows how to teach, what he can coach. So it will be a great offense.”
“I think it will be a hybrid,” Luck added about next year’s offense. “There’s so many great things that coach (Bruce) Arians taught us, coached us up on. I think Pep (Hamilton) has some really great stuff that he knows and he coached. I think we’re going to do whatever gives us the best chance to win, whether it is chunk the ball, or the short stuff, we’ll figure it out. I think it’ll be important this offseason to create strong dialogue between the players and coaches about what we think works and what we think doesn’t.”
The WCO was hugely prevalent in the NFL through the 1980s and 90s, destroying corners in man coverage and neutralizing pass rushes with short timing routes that found horizontal lanes in the defense. Defenses eventually countered by using more cover 2, re-routing receivers and keeping the defenders back in zone coverage to minimize or even eliminate yards gained after the catch.
With defenses utilizing more man coverage and aggressive 3-4 schemes, Hamilton’s west coast concepts could be very helpful for the development of the young Colts’ offense. Adding more quick-developing pass plays to the offense should help against opposing pass rushers as well. Last season, Luck took countless hits and was sacked 41 times, tying the franchise high set by the line protecting former Colts quarterback, and Luck’s former coach, Jim Harbaugh in 1997. Reducing those sacks will be a priority in 2013, and the new system could play an integral part in that.
Luck on his plans for the offseason: “I think one, you have to make sure you take a little time off to relax and get away from football. I think that’s almost as important as the work you are going to put in. I think we are still working on a plan for the offseason and how to approach everything. I’m sure we will go back and look at nearly all the passes, see what went well, see what went wrong, see if there’s any mechanical issues per se that you can work on in the offseason. Then obviously, re-integrate myself with Pep’s (Hamilton) offense and create a strong dialogue which is going to be very important.”
Luck on what he wants to improve: “I think accuracy in all the levels of passing; whether it’s deep, short, intermediate. Just giving guys accurate balls that they can catch and run with, that’ll be very important. I think just building up a rapport with receivers and making sure that maybe what we couldn’t complete last year, we are completing this year.”
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